The first go-around was bad enough.

This time, we’re out of reserves.

Pandemic burnout hit me quite unexpectedly a couple of weeks ago. An introvert, I assumed I was doing just fine, sheltering-in-place and social distancing nothing out of the ordinary for me.

But I was wrong.

The front lines look different for every healthcare hero, and so does burnout. I reached out to my psychiatrist–and a practice I’ve been with for nearly twenty years–and confessed some unhealthy coping mechanisms. His eyes widened with concern, and the cynical part of me laughed. But really, it wasn’t funny.

With my physician’s help, I’m doing a little better. I’m forcing myself to return to healthy coping mechanisms that have worked for me in the past. Still, my heart feels raw. The scab of last spring is being scraped off too soon, and I just want to curl up with my dog and hide until the pandemic goes away.

But I can’t.

None of us healthcare workers can.

Just this morning, I received an email from our state board of health calling for reservists–even students and retirees–should the need for emergency staffing, even field hospitals, arise.  As nurses, therapists, physicians, aides, we’re trained to be brave. We’re trained to push through pain and fatigue. We’re trained to stuff our whole selves deep inside, so that on the outside, we can take care of the sick and dying. And we’re trained to do all that with a smile.

The problem is, for many of us, there’s no place left to stuff.

All around us, schools are closing again. Stay-at-home orders are being renewed. The numbers are higher than they were in the spring, and those of us who escaped without knowing someone who contracted the virus likely have relatives or close friends coming down with it now. The news predicted a long, dark winter, and it seems to be coming true.

Healthcare friends, listen to me:

Take care of yourself.

None of us will get through this if we don’t switch gears right now and get into a therapist, or employee assistance programs, or make concerted efforts to nurture our souls. Don’t do what I did and wait until you hit that wall of dark despair. Even if you think you’re fine, I’d willing to bet a whole bunch of money that you’re not.

Non-healthcare friends: you can help.

Please pray for us.

Please mask up and respect social distancing.

We’re all tired. exhausted. We all want to see and hug loved ones again. We all want a big Thanksgiving and even bigger Christmas. We all wish more than anything that things could be “just like last year.” But denying or snubbing is not a vaccine against this relentless enemy. Oh how I wish it was!

The battle isn’t over.

For those on the front lines, it’s beginning all over again.

The only way to fight is to lean into the Lord, and to take care of ourselves so that we can take care of the others who are going to need us desperately. Everyone who has ever flown on an airplane knows that if the need for oxygen masks arise, you put it on yourself first so that you have the wherewithal to help those around you.

Put on the mask of self-care, dear friends. Pull it snug around your soul.

And get help now before you really need it.



Coming soon: 40 Days of Hope for Healthcare Heroes

Renew your faith and focus, and rededicate yourself to the profession you love with 40 Days of Hope for Healthcare Heroes.

Healthcare workers are suffering from their own epidemic of burnout and moral injury as a result of dwindling resources and being overworked. To care for patients, you need to find ways to take care of yourself. In 40 Days of Hope for Healthcare Heroes you’ll find inspirational readings and prayers to help renew your faith and focus, center your heart, and inspire you to rededicate yourself to the medical career you love. This beautiful giftbook combines short stories from the front lines, “Breakroom Boosts” to encourage and energize, space to journal, and prayers that are quick enough to recite during handwashing—something that occurs multiple times a day. Healthcare workers across all continuums of care will want to read this book to rediscover the joy of their calling and as a balm of relief for their caregiver’s soul.

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