The coronavirus pandemic has put a heavy weight on everyone. From changes at home and work to increased anxiety and stress from the world around us, it is difficult for many of us to adjust—let alone help our patients.
At AACVPR’s 35th Annual Meeting, keynote speaker Wayne Sotile, PhD, spoke about leading through crisis and how health care professionals can take care of themselves both at work and at home. The keys to resilience are focusing on your energy, attitude and relationships, and reframing how you see the world.
“Resilience is not a given,” Sotile said. “It’s not the same as being strong or tough—it’s about a bunch of tactics and strategies that can be taught and learned. This is what we need to teach out patients and is what we need to preach in our families and teams.”
Resilience starts with energy. When we’re faced with situations that negatively affect us, we often stop taking care of ourselves. Most of us don’t recognize the triggers that lead us to “fall off the wagon.” And, as health care workers, we often don’t know how to help our patients cope correctly.
Part of managing energy is understanding how energy is spent. Sotile said he likes to think of energy as a tank. Every action we take is either a deposit or a withdrawal from our tank. If we’re constantly making withdrawals from our tank and not managing our energy to make deposits, we become depleated.
Sotile said it’s important to focus on reaffirming actions. He used a married couple as an example. Even the happiest married couples squabble. But the difference between those who stay together vs. those who break up is the fact that happily married couples build a positive emotional abundance that allows them to fight and not “break the bank.”
“Every sip you take, every bite you eat, every breath you relish or rush through—you’re either making a deposit or a withdrawal,” Sotile said. “Regularly ask yourself—did I just make a deposit or a withdrawal? Is the way I’m treating myself of the way I’m thinking negative or positive?”
The next important consideration of resilience is attitude. Once we are cognizant of how to manage our energy, the next is channeling that into how we interact with the world around us. Our attitudes toward the world set the tone for how we receive it (and how others receive us). He said people need to change their perspective to stay resilient.
“What you think affects the way you feel, and the way you behave affects the people around you,” he said. “Your emotions and your attitude are contagious.”
It’s not as simple as putting on rose colored glasses. He said it’s important for people to be “realistically optimistic” about their lives—in a place where they understand the challenges the face but have hope that they will get through it.
Relationships are also important to resilience. Sotile said we should always be working on our relationships in conjunction with our energy and attitude. But in the same vein, we need to create boundaries and drive accountability.
Sotile said healthy, happy relationships are partnerships and dialogues. All relationships have some form of chaos or conflict, it’s about bridging the gaps between what each person needs, focusing on reaffirming actions with the people you love and respect, and creating graceful ways to disconnect when you need some space.
This can be especially hard for people who feel burned out. If you go to work and deplete your energy tank, it can be hard to come home and give reaffirming actions to your family. This negative energy and attitude can be transferrable.
“Any burnout matters because as burnout goes up, everything we don’t want to happen, happens—and it happens in health care even more,” Sotile said. “In our research, the biggest risk is your family is going to come apart, whether you’re taking care of yourself or not. It’s not always about work, it’s about what happens when you get home from work.”
Sotile said all this boils down to the concepts of control and coping. When we’re faced with challenges, we have the ability within ourselves to determine our energy, our attitude and reset our relationships to weather any storm.
As a leader at work, we can adjust our approach to stress, crisis and frustration to lead positively and support people who need it. As a health care professional, we can maintain a positive energy and coping mechanisms to support our patients in their recovery. And as a member of an individual, we can have strong relationships that respect boundaries and result in reaffirming actions. That combined will help us see the world in a new light and push us forward toward resilience.
“Recognize the wonderment and see the familiar in unfamiliar ways,” he said. “Start with the work that you’re doing, the difference you’re making and the hero you see every day in the mirror.”