Survival Strategies for Healthcare Heroes (and You Too)

greatness with Sarah McVanelHow long as it been now?  Living in this big COVID blur, it’s hard to fathom how long we’ve be on this rollercoaster of hope and hopelessness, gratitude and frustration, generosity and anger. Do you feel like you’re never quite sure which way is up and which way is down?

Imagine what it’s like for our healthcare folks on the frontline of the biggest healthcare crisis of our generation. (And for those of you reading this in healthcare, please know we’re trying to get it, but even someone like me who is from healthcare cannot truly imagine what it’s like for you right now. All we can do is tell you thank you. Thank you. THANK YOU.)

Survival on the Frontlines

I think it’s fitting that almost a year into COVID that I provide some strategies just for you. At the start of COVID many of you reached out looking for motivation. Now, I have a flurry of folks reaching out just to be able to cope. Tensions are running high. Supplies are running low. And you’re just so very tired of running, running, running.

greatness with Sarah McVanelOkay, let’s take a big collective breath and pause for just five minutes. Let me take care of you for just a few minutes by sharing seven tips that may help. And, because I want you to truly feel honoured and supported, I have a video you can watch that dives into these tips much deeper.

  1. Define what success looks like right now:

As we move through COVID and are learning more about it, protocols and systems are evolving, it can be incredibly frustrating, and even just downright exhausting trying to keep up with them.  Be patient with yourself and others. You are doing the best you can. Identify what small incremental success looks like right now, and it could be very different from before. What you measure matters. Pick something – personally, as a team, as an organization – that is a frequent, easily visible and meaningful measure with your wellbeing in mind.

  1. Look back and look forward:

Instead of focusing exclusively on what is happening now, take a look back to see what has worked in the past when you’ve had struggles. As well as what you have done to overcome them. Something you’re struggling with right now can be solved by a lesson from the past. Also, look forward. What do you want to be saying a year and acknowledging about yourself, your team, the organization? If you look forward and are clear about what you want, it’s easier to be in the messy middle of the present.

  1. Meaning and mission:

You have committed to a life of service and care for others. During these unprecedented times, you have had to make so many sacrifices, your family has had so many worries, you’re having to deal with people fed up with COVID. Please keep in mind why you choose this path and that even if we don’t say it enough, we’re so very glad you did. There is an undercurrent of an abundance of gratitude to you and your family that I hope you can feel is always present (even when it’s not being as explicitly stated as it was at the beginning of COVID.)

  1. Trigger identification:

Watch for and learn what is triggering you and when you are feeling the negative effects, remember to slow down and take a minute to process the feeling and move through it with kindness for yourself. Triggers of the past from things like incivility, past pandemics like SARS, loss of loved ones, etc. all can all show up in a myriad of ways – sleep disturbance, irritability, hopelessness, and more. Consider if what you’re dealing with now is bringing up past pains. Same with patients. Loneliness, isolation, pain and the like are often unprocessed memories that COVID has triggered. Hopefully, you have help if COVID has triggered something in you, and if you don’t, I strongly suggest when you can, and certainly when this is in order, process the experience so it doesn’t carry forward into your future in an unhealthy way. (For anyone wanting to dig further into this, The Body Keeps Score is the best book on post-traumatic stress I’ve ever read.)

  1. Focus on greatness:

greatness with Sarah McVanelEveryone needs to feel valued and appreciated and always remember – you are already greatness!  You are surrounded by greatness within and with others, even when it’s not apparent. You don’t have to look for it or work on it. Just know it’s there. And the fastest way to feel this is true is to recognize the greatness in others. Create a ripple effect of recognition through a 10-second acknowledgement and experience the endorphin rush as your reward.

  1. Address negativity:

When you feel like you’re enveloped in negativity stop, take notice, be understanding of those around you, identify the strength of the source, and give some feedback that makes them recognize their greatness. In other words, you don’t have to put up with it, however starting from a place of empathy and curiosity will allow you to find your voice in this difficult time more easily. And sometimes all that’s needed is a request:” Hey guys I’m having a really hard time these days. Can we switch the conversation to what we’re binge-watching on Netflix versus criticizing Sally?”

  1. It’s okay to be okay and not be okay:

Here’s my favourite mantra as we round out 2020: “It’s okay to not be okay. And it’s okay to be okay.” This is true minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour, shift-by-shift and even month-by-month. Sometimes you feel “yeah I can do this” and then “I have no idea how I can sustain this.” This is totally normal. Observe it. Don’t judge it. So how do you make this super practical?

  1. Practice hardcore self-care (more than you’ve ever practiced in your life)
  2. Don’t get too attached to the highs so the lows don’t feel so extreme
  3. Observe the lows as an understandable reality so they don’t feel so devastating
  4. Get others to care for you – have someone pick your groceries, your partner cook the meals, have kids fold the laundry – stop at least one care for others practice
  5. Say nice things to yourself.
  6. Celebrate micro wins
  7. Allow yourself to mourn disappointment, frustration, failures with detachment (blame only makes it deep, painful and more permeant)
  8. Tell yourself every day: There are few people who have the skills to do what I do. I am greatness.

I thank you from the bottom of my heart and offer any help that I can to help to keep your hope alive and make sure that you recognize your own greatness today and every day!

If you ever want to connect and I can be of service to you in any capacity, be sure to reach out!  I get my greatest satisfaction in helping those who help others, in their time of need.

Here are more resources to keep you in a mindset of greatness:

“There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.”

– Mother Teresa

Judy Kucharuk

Director, Marketing and Special Events, Encana Events Centre

"Funny, full of energy and incredibly motivating – all words to use when describing Sarah and her passionate stage presence. We were fortunate to have Sarah join us as a speaker for Spark Women’s Leadership Conferences and her presentations about leveraging greatness hit the core of our objective at SPARK: “A rising tide lifts all boats”. I would not hesitate to recommend Sarah to other organizations that are searching for a well-prepared, well-organized, thoughtful and passionate storyteller."
Shelley VanVeen

Learning & Development Manager, Libro Credit Union

"Sarah brought so much energy and enthusiasm to our International Women’s Day event at Libro! Her message was uplifting, thought-provoking and truly appreciated by our team. Dealing with Sarah was wonderful – she was open, professional and willing to work with us to customize her message to incorporate our culture and connect to our topic and participants. During the session, she was a pro with a powerful message and a fantastic delivery. We had wonderful feedback from all that attended and can’t wait to have Sarah back for another session in the future!"
Sylvia D’Intino

Executive Director, Community Living Hamilton

"THANK YOU so very much for leading the engagement activities today! You’re a constant professional, with an amazing attitude and always seeing the great in everyone. I am grateful for how you have helped us this year to transform our in-person staff recognition events into virtual and on-location events. Our staff feel more inspired, appreciated and motivated after they hear you speak, and I know our amazing in-house team here looks forward to designing engaging appreciation events with your support."
Melissa Chaulk

Manager of Professional Development

Canadian Dental Hygienists Association

"We work hard at CDHA to give our members a wonderful conference experience, so we were thrilled to have received resoundingly positive feedback on Sarah's opening plenary keynote. It was the highest attended of the entire conference for both dates!"
Jamie Campbell

Director, The Center for People in Organizational Development, Sheridan College

"Smart, challenging, innovative, committed, dependable, and reliable, I highly recommend her for all your recognition needs. I have brought Sarah into my last two organizations to help build a culture of recognition and celebration. The focus on appreciation is more important now than ever."

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