Building Healthcare Worker Resilience and Optimism in 2021. Last year was incredibly challenging for Healthcare Workers. COVID-19’s psychic toll left leaders and employees physically and emotionally exhausted and projections about the pandemic’s path. Despite the advent of successful vaccines, make it difficult to approach 2021 with a positive outlook.
Difficult, but not impossible.
We asked mental health experts how we can cultivate optimism and resilience for this new year and beyond.
Acknowledge Getting Through
“In times of struggle, we can get hyper-focused on what’s bringing us down, but even a little bit of time appreciating our successes can do a lot to lift up our spirits and give us the energy to persevere,” says Alexandria, Va.-based psychologist Fox Vernon, PhD. “I’d take it a step forward to say it’s not just acknowledging that we made it through but celebrating all the things we did well.”
Natalie Dattilo, PhD, director of Psychology, Department of Psychiatry, Brigham & Women’s Hospital, agrees.
“Acknowledging that we made it through affirms that we are capable of doing hard things and have the ability to persevere, which is important for strengthening resilience and resolve,” says Datillo, who helps run the Brigham & Women’s Physician Mental Health Program. “This will be critical to remember as we endure the length of this crisis. Appreciate how different things have been, what we have overcome, and what you are most looking forward to doing again. “Let yourself visualize. Whether it’s a vacation, a visit with loved ones, a return to normalcy or a sense of carefree living. It’s good to have things to look forward to, even while so many things still feel uncertain.”
Set Intentions and Goals
Something like “stay hydrated” may not feel meaningful, but when we’re under duress, even simple intentions and easily attainable goals give us a sense of control and achievement.
“Simple goals give us something we can do in the face of a daunting world,” Vernon notes. “Even the little bit we can do, whether it’s staying hydrated or getting a quick walk in, can go a long way to making us feel better.”
That’s not to say you can’t or shouldn’t set meatier goals. When doing so, Datillo, who is also an instructor at Harvard Medical School, recommends focusing on growth instead of change.
“We think of growth as a process with stops and starts, and as a mindset that’s more about the journey than the destination. This allows us to be more flexible and adjust our expectations over time. Having flexible expectations makes it easier for us to “go with the flow” and sets us up for success rather than disappointment.
Read up on the benefits for formal employee goal-setting.
Give Yourself and Other Healthcare Workers Grace
A positive attitude doesn’t mean overlooking the bad stuff. It means contextualizing it.
Make it a Team Activity
These positivity practices don’t have to be limited to the individual. Involving others amplifies the benefits.
“Sharing with others what we appreciate about them is a great way to practice gratitude,” Vernon explains, “Similarly, it feels good to hear from others what they appreciate about us. A gratitude practice in a community can be amazingly powerful.”
That’s because these activities “help to strengthen a sense of community and cohesion, as well as build trust, which has important implications for care delivery, teamwork, and may help mitigate the effects of burnout and moral injury,” Datillo adds. You can even engage in these practices with your family.
Crafting a hopeful outlook for the year ahead is possible for all of us.
Reach out to The Wherry Group if You’re Searching for Healthcare Workers