By Monica Woodall, DO, FACOFP, FAAFP

Discharged: Alive.

That is the best thing I have read all week. My entire office celebrated.

Our first COVID-19 patient fell ill quickly, became hospitalized, was transferred to intensive care and then intubated. I suppose in the bigger picture this may not seem like a huge victory against the pandemic, but it was for our clinic.

Shortly after the pandemic began in our area, I remember staring at my computer one morning feeling overwhelmed. I was paralyzed with fear for 30 minutes. I knew this was just the beginning. I knew we would face new challenges every day, and we have.

It is impossible to manage a clinic and see patients efficiently and safely with that overwhelming fear inside. I found that my office staff sensed my fear, and there was a ripple effect. Everyone in the office was on edge.

So since that day, I look for small victories to keep me sane. Whether it be the intense feeling of love and gratefulness from receiving homemade cloth masks—that I’m pretty sure were made from a moo-moo—or the portal messages expressing love and concern for our safety. I count them.

As an osteopathic family physician, I recognize that our mental health effects every aspect of our lives and, therefore, we must not forget to take care of our mental health during these unpredictable times. It is so easy to see the negative in this pandemic, but I choose to make looking for the good just as easy. I choose it every day. In a situation where we have zero control and feel helpless, I choose to feel grateful and positive.

I encourage everyone to find one thing/person/situation daily that helps you feel grateful—whether it be a homemade mask, a text from a friend or the sunset on your way home from work. Spend a little time in appreciation. It has made a world of difference for me these past several weeks.

Other things I do to help during this time is plan time for myself, turn off certain notifications off on my phone, exercise, limit TV (especially the news), practice my new hobby (drumming), talk to my mentors and volunteer my time (even if it is virtually). These are just a few examples of ways to reduce stress. I encourage you to find time for activities that help you calm down and clear your mind.

This Saturday at 2:00 pm CT, the ACOFP Health and Wellness Committee will host the next Virtual Doctor’s Lounge on the topic of physician wellness. It will be a laid-back discussion where we can discuss how we are all coping with the pandemic, how to help others and resources for physicians. I hope that you can join us for a supportive discussion. Sign up here.

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