Tips on surviving 2021 from an anxious pediatrician
As we enter a new year, feelings of anxiety and uncertainty are common, especially as we say goodbye to one of the most challenging years of our lifetime. As a pediatrician, I am not immune to these same emotions.I feel strange when I try to prioritize myself. This stems from my time in medical school when I was taught to put myself last. However, the lasting effects of 2020 will continue for a while, so we all need to stop and prioritize caring for ourselves so we are better equipped to care for others. Working on the front lines and caring for children with COVID-19 has increased my anxiety levels. Below are a few tips and tricks I am using to take care of myself, and I hope what works for me will inspire you to find what works for you and your family.
1. I try to have a routine.
Since the start of the pandemic, I have made it a priority to stick to a routine schedule of meals and sleep. Even on days off, I try to get up and go to bed at the same time I would if I was going to work. I think this is especially important for those of you who are teleworking. It also helps to get out of your pajamas and have a designated space where you work.
2. I schedule virtual time with family and friends.
If you have time scheduled with your friends and family it helps make being at home less lonely. I love Zoom trivia and TV nights with my girlfriends. Laughing with friends is so therapeutic!
3. I limit social media use.
It's difficult and anxiety provoking for me to read social media right now. I have forced myself to put my phone away when I am not working.
4. I read/listen to inspirational books.
I have been working my way through Oprah and Reese Witherspoon's book lists. This distracts me from continually scrolling through social media.
5. I try to move every day.
It is incredibly important to stay physically active right now, both for your mental health and routine. I walk every day and enjoy listening to audiobooks during this time.
6. Keep a journal.
I find if I write my feelings down then I can confront them instead of bottling them up. If I don't have my journal or something to write with me, sometimes I will record a voice memo on my phone.
No matter what works for you to cope with your emotions and anxiety right now, the most important thing is to remember to be patient and gentle with yourself. There is no right way to feel. This is an uncertain time for everyone and we are all learning together every day.
By Suzanne Rastorfer, MD, Pediatric Hospitalist at Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children
Dr. Suzanne Rastorfer was born and raised in North Kansas City, Missouri. She graduated from the University of Kansas with the highest distinction and then attended medical school at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri. She then completed her residency at the Children's Hospital of Michigan in Detroit, Michigan. She initially practiced as a traditional inpatient/outpatient pediatrician in rural Wisconsin and most recently in Melbourne, Florida. She transitioned to pediatric hospital medicine in 2014–initially in Florida and now in Huntsville since 2016. She is board certified in both general pediatrics and pediatric hospital medicine. When not working, she enjoys reading and traveling the world. She is married with one son who is a recent graduate of Auburn University.