In a pandemic, choosing your thoughts is where your power and control lie


As health care providers, we are facing unprecedented challenges right now.  Thank you to every one of my medical colleagues for your valuable contributions at this moment.

Wellness and self-care have never been more important than they are at this moment. We must care for patients to the best of our abilities, but we must also care for ourselves.  If you sacrifice your own physical and emotional health, who will be left to care for those in need.

Please put on your own PPE and metaphoric oxygen mask first.  Sleep, eat healthy foods, breathe deeply in safe spaces, connect with colleagues, and do the internal work to actively work to manage your own stress, anxiety, and fear. Do it for you, do it for your colleagues, do it for your family, do it for your patients, do it for your friends and do it for your community.

Many physicians have been utilizing coaching tools as a way to support their mental and physical health during this unprecedented time.  When there is so much happening that is out of our control, thought-work and coaching are a tool that can give you back some control and make a difference in your experience of situations like this.  Choosing your thoughts is where your power and control lie. Choose and practice ones that serve you so that you can show up for this challenge as the best version of yourself.

Notice, allow, and accept the anxiety, fear, vulnerability, and panic.

Of course, you feel this way.  You are human.  As physicians, we often judge ourselves for having feelings such as these.  Try instead to cultivate nonjudgemental awareness of your feelings.   Pause and be present with whatever feelings you have. When you resist them, they grow stronger.  Consider bringing your anxiety, fear, and vulnerability along with you — by your side but not in control.

Notice and focus on where you have abundance -as opposed to scarcity.   You have an abundance of knowledge, training, caring, compassionate, and talented physician colleagues and medical teams, community family, love, compassion, and teamwork.

Notice and focus on what you can control.  Your preparedness, your sleep, your voice.  You also have full control of what is going on in your head.  You can choose to make it more or less difficult by changing how you look at it.

Decide how you would like to feel about the current circumstance of being a physician in a pandemic.  Many physicians want to feel calm, prepared, hopeful, deliberate, focused, purposeful, at peace, compassionate.

Below are some helpful thoughts/mantras gleaned through coaching your physician colleagues.  Feel free to borrow any of them.

I am human.
I am not alone.
Every physician is feeling anxious.
I am doing what I can at this point in time.
I can do today today.
What is most important will get done.
I can be scared and anxious and still lead by example.
I have the skills and knowledge to make a difference.
I have had years of training to prepare me for this.
I have done everything I can to prepare.
I am part of an amazing community of physicians working together.
Our physician voices have never been as powerful.
Physicians are coming together, like never before.

Each of you can harness the power of helpful thoughts as a source of strength in the weeks ahead. Take some time to find the ones that are helpful and truly believable to you.  And choose to think them often.

I am honored to be among you.   May you all be well.

Jessie Mahoney is a pediatrician and can be reached at Pause & Presence Coaching.

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