It has been amazing to watch how incredibly professional and caring MU Health Care, the MU School of Medicine, the University of Missouri and our community have been over the past week as mid-Missouri prepares and responds to COVID-19. We know you are working tirelessly to stay ahead of this pandemic.
Currently, the majority of our public health and individual efforts are being made to flatten the curve of new infections so that the impact on health care capacity (mainly intensive care beds, ventilators and our critical staff) is spread over time and is more manageable. So, cancelled or reduced outpatient appointments and increased use of video and other technologies, when possible, is good for all of us. While all of these changes may seem unsettling, they help slow the spread of infection and allow us to manage resources for patients who become critical.
All of this disruption and uncertainty surrounding the pandemic makes many of us anxious and afraid. This is a normal human response.
It is normal to become hypervigilant, especially with the nonstop media coverage. It is normal to be concerned when we feel out of control, and when we are hearing differing sets of information from multiple sources and countries. Not being anxious or afraid is actually the abnormal response to this situation.
What can we do to help better manage our anxiety and fears? Here are some straightforward tips I am using that I hope are helpful for you:
1. Try to make sure that you are getting accurate information about the situation. You can find reliable updates on our employee COVID-19 page and via the Centers for Disease Control. Because physical safety and wellbeing is important to all of us, we’ve formed an interdisciplinary workplace well-being group to help address these goals. Our website is: MyMUHealth.org/wellness.
2. Take action and practice social distancing so that you maintain as much control of the situation as possible. Social distancing will help you feel psychologically better and safer, as well as reduce the risk of disease transmission. Wash your hands. Do not shake hands. Clean shared items. Do not go to large public gatherings. And minimize large group travel as much as you can. If you need to see a doctor, consider a video visit.
3. Connect and re-connect with people you trust and love. Even during social distancing, it's important to see your family, your partner, your children and your friends — virtually if need be. Be grateful that they are in your lives and nourish those relationships. See how they feel and care for each other. They will probably be worried about you. Reassure them. Be in the moment and give yourself a chance to express any fears you might have. When on the job, nurture your work family.
4. Look after your physical, mental and emotional health. Given the unknown duration of the pandemic, self-care is important to keep us at our best over the long haul. When at home, ensure that you are truly taking time off from work to rest and recover. Physical fitness is wonderful for your mental health and helps boosts the immune system. While avoiding the gym, you can still enjoy long walks, biking, and other outdoor activities as our spring Missouri weather allows. Develop an indoor workout routine. Take this opportunity to learn to cook and eat better as a family. Many faith communities are providing online offerings. Yoga or Tai Chi are great for relaxation, as are several apps. All MU employees have premium access to the Sanvello app, and the Headspace app is offering free access for all clinicians with an NPI.
5. Be careful when making large decisions that might affect the lives of yourself and your loved ones. Don’t panic or let panic excessively influence or take over. Think about your decisions and talk them over with your spouse, partner or a close friend. This is not a time to be making sudden, big decisions that might be driven — perhaps unconsciously — by fear and anxiety.
6. Realize that all of these societal disruptions are actually good for us in health care and help your family and friends understand the importance of slowing the spread of COVID-19. It's good for health care and good for everyone.
And finally, if you are really getting distressed, remember that there are resources available including:
We should all be proud of our work and the continued care we provide for our patients. During this time, we should look after ourselves and each other. If there is anyone that you are worried about, please pass this message on to them.
My best wishes to everyone, and thank you for all that you do.
Stephen T. Keithahn, MD FACP FAAP
Chief Wellness Officer