I suspect that I am like many of you these days: weathering a storm of stimulus overload in the wake of COVID-19 preparations. As a practicing family physician, I am being barraged with the need to stay updated on the latest guidelines on testing, treatment and prevention while trying to implement new ways of operating in the office. There are urgent conference calls from our employers, trying to get organized and learn the nuances of telemedicine. I find myself urgently trying to disseminate accurate information to my patients, friends and family. This is on top of the daily operations of refilling prescriptions and tending to my patients’ baseline needs.
As a mother, like many of you, I find myself opening and filing emails from school administrators, detailing plans for their virtual school experience. I battle unhelpful thoughts in my mind, like, “Am I letting them have too much screen time?” Or “Am I paying enough attention to them? Am I doing enough to engage them in stimulating activities while they’re home on furlough?” The time spent on extra Coronavirus planning/thinking/acting is taking up so much of my free time, that I find it stealing from the areas that I covet and value.
I will proudly admit that by the end of 2019, I felt like I had a struck a very good balance of productivity and self care. I had identified the parts of my life that I valued most and dedicated my time to them. I was pouring time into being a great mom, wife, daughter, sister and friend. I was exercising, meditating and doing yoga. I was volunteering and managing my time well. I was going to work and being a compassionate leader and connecting with my patients in a meaningful way. As a health and life coach, I was running my own business, teaching and speaking to groups about mindfulness and I was feeling all-around unstoppable.
And then, COVID-19 hits our world. I feel my attention begin to shift. My pulse starts to quicken. My balance and priorities seem different. Has it knocked me off my game? No, not completely. But I will admit that it feels like I am sitting on a bucking bronco at a rodeo and I am using all my tools in my bucket to stay on. With the information rolling in, it is very easy as a doctor to let my thoughts stray down the darkest of pathways. Fear can set in. The “what if” thoughts begin to creep into my mind. Time management can feel more difficult. Connecting with my spouse can feel harder. My previously sunny, optimistic self feels like a dark cloud of pessimism and despair has threatened to take over. There is a survival mode instinct that wants to kick in and reprioritize all of the balance that I had put into place in 2019.
The good news is that I know where these thoughts come from and how to keep them in check. Fear is not my friend. Chaos and disorganization do not help me. Spinning in my social media accounts only sucks time away from those things that I hold dear. I know that in order to operate at my best and continue to manage stress and anxiety in any environment, I have to stay true to my values as a human being. To let them go at this time of COVID-19 would only make me feel more mixed up, confused and unstable.
As we walk through this life, we all have deeply ingrained personality traits, skills, and modes of operating that are uniquely our own. And although we all have the ability to slip into dysfunctional patterns during times of stress, we also have wonderful strengths that we can display during times of security. For example, when I am functioning well at the top of my game, I am good natured, funny and compassionate. I step forward as a leader. I give lots of hugs. I listen well. I connect and collaborate with friends and peers. I am creative. I express myself through writing and movement. I feed my body with healthy food and self care. I play with my kids. I go on dates with my husband. I feel adventurous and willing to try new things. That is the Jenny I know and love. That is the Jenny that thrives in this world. That is the Jenny that I want to be remembered for.
As easy as it is to slip into deep darkness and fear at times like these, I choose to walk a different path. Through coaching and mindset and connecting with my support system, I choose to operate at the top of my game. I want to look in the mirror and recognize the person that is looking back at me. I acknowledge the fear and choose to move through it, because that is what my higher self would do. I encourage you to do the same.
If you are struggling and want to connect with me, you can email me at: Hello@JennyLaBonteMD.com
Also, if you are a physician and struggling with COVID-19 concerns, please check out all of the FREE coaching resources being offered by the Physician Coaching Alliance here: http://www.physiciancoachingalliance.com/calendar