Self-care in times of crisis

April 8, 2020
CDC and doctors offer up tips for coping during challenging times.
Family Running Exercise

Self Care during times of Crisis

We're living in uncertain times and doctors of optometry aren't immune to the pandemic's overwhelmingly distressing spread.

As doctors of optometry across the country are filling the need and adapting practices to guidance from the  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the  AOA on delivering urgent and emergent care, easing the strain on emergency rooms, they also need to care for themselves.

"Doctors of optometry across the country are stepping up to ensure that we are available to provide care to those with urgent and emergent eye health care needs, working to remove some of the burden on our nation's ER system," says AOA President Barbara L. Horn, O.D. "But in order to provide care for our patients, we need to take care of ourselves, especially during this public health crisis. This is when we get back to the simple things we know we need to do to be at our best as doctors. Get outside for some social-distancing fresh air and get some exercise. Take care of those things that seem to never get done during busy workdays. Most importantly: carve out some time with family and friends that you're able to be close to during this time."

Stress, under the circumstances, is natural, the CDC reports. The question is what to do about it.

"Coping with stress will make you, the people you care about and your community stronger," the CDC says.

"There's no shortage of things to worry about right now," observes Diane Russo, O.D., associate professor of optometry, New England College of Optometry, who earned a master's in public health two years ago. "It's only natural. If you have a plan, if you have a process, if you have something in place for you to look to or go to keep you on track, it'll keep you from spiraling."

Here are some tips for coping from the CDC and optometry colleagues:

Stay informed. Consult fact- and science-based sources such as the AOA, the CDC and the World Health Organization, Dr. Russo says. Being informed enables doctors to make clinically based decisions. She agrees with the CDC, which advices to take breaks from watching, reading or listening to news accounts on the virus.

Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting and overwhelming. "I am trying not to dwell on the worst-case scenarios," Douglas Totten, O.D., chair of the AOA's Ethics and Values Committee, says. "I'm trying not to work outside of normal business hours and have also made a point to spend more time outdoors considering social distancing guidelines. My wife and I have taken more walks in the past two weeks than usual and it's actually been very enjoyable to do this."

Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch or meditate. Eat healthy, exercise regularly and get plenty of sleep.

"I just try to focus on the things I can control," Dr. Russo says. "That's very few things admittedly right now."

Continue learning. "Take a bit of time each day for professional development," says Lori L. Grover, O.D., AOA trustee, who also has Ph.D. in public health. "Read an AOA evidence-based clinical guideline. All of us in optometry, whether doctors or future doctors, are suddenly lacking structure in very normally busy schedules, so develop a new schedule and try to follow it. Repetition leads to new habits and stability in daily activities can help alleviate anxiety."

Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.

Dr. Grover wrote on Twitter last week:

"Please read & share: Here's an important shout out to ALL PRIMARY CARE PROVIDERS on front lines of pandemic. To avoid spread in emergency departments #PCPs remain the go-to doctors to contact first if ill. PCPs are triaging who needs testing, doing intake & consultation."

Access AOA guidance, resources on COVID-19

The AOA continues to closely monitor all developments and  actively participate in U.S. public health discussions regarding the COVID-19 response to keep optometry apprised of the latest information and guidance. Doctors of optometry need not only understand the risks and current public health situation but also have the latest clinical recommendations and guidance for informed patient care.

Considering the seriousness and evolving nature of this pandemic, the AOA launched a comprehensive COVID-19 updates page where optometry can quickly locate the latest updates and guidance from the AOA and U.S. public health authorities.

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