• Four principles for handling stress during a crisis

    In times of crisis, such as the COVID-19 public health emergency, stress can be heightened by a number of factors:1

    • Secondary trauma (i.e., compassion fatigue),
    • Lack of self-care and social support,
    • Lack of control of your surroundings,
    • Fatigue and other physical symptoms,
    • Worry about the safety and health of others and yourself,
    • An inability to meet unrealistic expectations.

    Kyle Bradford Jones, MD, FAAFP, advises physicians to address their stressors and support their own well-being in the midst of a pandemic by remembering the following.

    1. You cannot care for others unless you care for yourself. This means taking breaks, giving yourself some time and space to process what you’re feeling, getting some exercise, eating well (not stress eating), getting enough sleep, getting some sunshine, staying hydrated, and limiting your intake of caffeinated beverages and alcohol.

    2. Getting through a crisis isn’t a sprint but a marathon. Be realistic about the situation, pace yourself, and recognize and accept what you can and cannot control. Empower yourself by staying up to date, but not excessively so. When you feel overwhelmed, don’t ignore it. Slow down. Say no when you need to. Don’t think that because you’re a physician you’re immune to struggle.

    3. Even during physical distancing you need social connection. Check in regularly with staff, colleagues, and loved ones. Communicate clearly, ask how they’re doing, and be honest about how you’re doing. If you need help, don’t be too proud to ask for it, whether it’s professional counseling, financial assistance for your practice, or freebies from businesses.

    4. What you focus on affects how you feel. So, find the good. Instead of dwelling on the negative, take note of the rewarding aspects of your work and your personal life. Even the simple task of creating a gratitude list, writing down three things that went well each day and their causes, has been shown to increase happiness and reduce depressive symptoms.

    1. Jones KB. COVID-19: physician well-being in the time of the pandemic [audio presentation in Pandemic Self-Study Package: COVID-19]. AAFP. April 7, 2020.

    Posted on Apr 17, 2020 by FPM Editors

    Disclaimer: The opinions and views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the opinions and views of the American Academy of Family Physicians. This blog is not intended to provide medical, financial, or legal advice. All comments are moderated and will be removed if they violate our Terms of Use.