Whether you are a leader, team member, or just trying to get through another day during the middle of a pandemic, there are stresses all around. It's easy for the world and everything going on to feel overwhelming. Twenty-four seven news channels and social media often do not help. Stories on newsfeeds and events witnessed firsthand during everyday life outrage people.
"I cannot believe that person just cut me off!”
“Who the heck does that person think they are speaking to me like that?”
“Can you believe he said that?”
Experiences such as these can throw off people and cause them to be upset for the next few hours, the rest of the day, or even for several days afterwards. Moods and stress can be contagious, so what kind of mood are you spreading throughout the day?
I’ve found that it helps to place things into one of two categories: what I can control versus what I can’t control. This is a lesson passed down for many generations all over the world but certainly one that have difficulty with putting into action.
What we can’t control is a much bigger list than what we can. However, if we can’t control something, it is less of a reason to stress about it. Let’s take an example—one of your patients during a recent visit to your office voices their opinion that they disagree with your recommendations for what to do for their illness. If this has happened, how would you feel? Angry, sad, betrayed, happy? Thoughts may run through our heads when something like this happens. We don’t show our best self, or we stop focusing on the task at hand.
Let’s see what we can’t control:
- The patient’s emotions
- The patient’s actions
- How a treatment may affect the patient’s body
- Our initial reactions
Now let’s see what we can control:
- Our thoughts
- Our actions
How does we bounce back from this and not let it affect us for a longer period of time? Regardless, of what we feel about what happened, we can’t control that it happened. What about our thoughts? You have a reaction, but what do you think about it? What is the next right thing to do?
In any scenario we face, our thoughts and actions are the only two things we control. This is a philosophy that has existed for thousands of years but is something we can still use.
Remember to pause before you react and think about the next right action. Our actions are going to influence how the events turn out, but we can’t control the ultimate. If we allow our frustration with a person to seep through and say something to worsen the situation, we increase our own stress and that of everyone in the room.
We should seek opportunities to improve our soft skills and de-escalate situations or prevent them from getting out of hand in the first place. The ability to pause between stimulus and response helps with biases or jumping to conclusions. We all have the tendency to prejudge situations and people without knowing what is going on. Understanding the limits of what we know about the situation and people involved can do wonders for still having a good outcome when there are bumps in the road.
Next time you are treating a frustrated patient with a difficult condition or training a class and are faced with something unexpected, ask yourself some of these questions:
- What emotions am I experiencing right now and why?
- What are my options?
- What is the right thing to do?
We may still make mistakes but pausing to reflect will help to lead to better chances that the actions we take are quality ones. Healthcare providers take care of everyone else better than they do themselves. But we need to take actions that help us provide care for others while we take care of ourselves. We are no good to anyone else if we are tired and stressed. There are going to be emergencies that call for quick thinking and actions. Keeping yourself in good shape for those times by practicing self-care and pausing to determine the next best action will cut down on your stress.
In the long run, this will help you prepare for emergencies. You will be sharper and more focused. More importantly, you will be better able to enjoy time with friends and family and participate in activities that you love.