Sharing Optimism with Colleagues and Family
The pandemic has also changed my focus when it comes to my team, my colleagues, and my own family. Choosing optimism and self-care to achieve well-being might have been optional pre-pandemic, but now I see them as our own life- and career-saving “vaccination” against any and all pandemics.
Explore This IssueJanuary 2021
Being connected and sharing our journey is the antidote for isolation, fear, anxiety, and depression. With my colleagues and members of our division, I found myself always first asking how they were doing mentally, and how they were managing the challenges faced by us all—child and elder care, virtual school, testing positive for COVID-19—while still showing up to work every day. We can best be optimistic if we’re connected as a division, a department, as subspecialties in our societies, academy, a medical center campus, an offices team, and geographical and spiritual communities.
When opportunities come up, I openly discuss what we physicians believe in and practice above and beyond the CDC guidelines, and the critical importance of getting the vaccine once it’s available to minimize morbidity and mortality. I proudly participated in a Mandarin language version of our Nemours Children’s Health System public service announcement video on why everyone must get the flu shot—and get it early. I find myself sharing that plea in my neighborhood with everyone, including our 14-year-old daughter Claire’s classmates’ parents.
At home, while my family experienced the joy of more family time as we minimized socialization with others, we had plenty of tense conversations about my own exposure and risk, and conflicts on whether Claire was spending too much time socializing on electronic devices, with a mother who could often be judgmental and critical. (We’re lucky—my husband started a new job in August with the ability to work remotely, and so he juggled work and driving duties for Claire’s school and a truncated varsity golf season.)
So, despite a year that I’ve called the fastest and slowest of my life, I’ve realized that every patient encounter is an opportunity to change our culture to reduce burnout, increase well-being, and improve our relationships at home. We can do so by no longer representing ourselves as the “perfect” version of humans who have zero vulnerabilities. For those privileged to witness and listen to such vulnerability, conversations create a new culture of peer support that allows us to spread optimism and confidence. But we can’t do enough unless we care for ourselves first.
As I re-read that January 2020 article on individual self-care actions and micro-actions, they are still relevant today—perhaps more than ever. Be well, be optimistic, be grateful, be kind, and be compassionate to yourself first. If you do, you’ll become an endless source of optimism and healing for others.