8 Healthcare Professionals Share How They Practice Self-Care During The COVID-19 Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought new meaning to the word 'superhero.' Superman and his homies can't hold a candle to the healthcare professionals, grocery store clerks, bank tellers, mail carriers, truckers, non-profit employees, civil service workers and the many more brave people who are at the forefront through this era of heaviness. Every day they sacrifice their wellness for the safekeeping of mankind.
In under two months, the United States is now the epicenter for the coronavirus disease with the number of cases rising daily. Shelter-in-place mandates and social distancing policies have become the new normal as we work together to flatten the curve. Then, there are the extra special people who work double-digit shifts delivering the best care to their patients. No matter the conditions – lack of supplies, overflowing hospitals, less time with family, sleep deprivation – they show up and they give every cell of their being to saving lives. Maybe the new normal is extreme resilience with a healthy cup of self-care.
We know that self-care has never been more important than right now because you can't pour from an empty cup. So we asked eight healthcare professionals what self-care looks like for them. Keep reading to see how they remain motivated along with some bright spots that push back the darkness.
Photo Courtesy of Rose-Krystel Hegngi
Emergency Medicine Resident Physician
Baton Rouge, LA
"I recently started yoga (something I've been wanting to do for years). I'm in the very beginner stages but it's so rewarding. My work schedule hasn't really changed at all, but now on the few off days I have each month I take time to stretch and meditate since it's easy to do at home now that gyms are closed.
"The overwhelming support from companies locally and nationwide offering support and goods and free food for those working during this time has been amazing! Recently, we got an email stating medical students at LSU were volunteering to help residents with daily household responsibilities such as running errands, grocery shopping and even childcare while we work if we're feeling overwhelmed. The good that hard times bring out in other people makes me smile!
"The idea that I am doing what God has called me to do, helping others [keeps me going]. Wouldn't have it any other way— it's a privilege and an honor."
Photo Courtesy of Nonee Ngazimbi
West Hartford, CT
"This has been a high-stress time for healthcare workers especially when we see our colleagues, young or older, dying from COVID-19. Everyone is anxious and morale continues to dwindle as we come to the realities of this pandemic; not enough personal protective equipment (PPE) and not enough system support to support an influx of ill patients when they come.
"At work, one of my colleagues led out in a mindfulness exercise the other day. Another, brought in an aromatherapy lotion we can use periodically throughout the day to center our energy. I have been working on adequate hydration, eating well, and being intentional about being a helping hand to my friends, family, and colleagues. My colleagues and I started a group chat were we share fact-based information daily such as the newest research and policies that are coming out; helps to ease the anxiety. Lastly, my skincare routine remains the highlight of my personal day. Fresh out of a steamy shower, I always lotion my body from head to toe. I then indulge in a step-by-step facial routine to keep my skin firm, clear, and hydrated. These things are keeping me grounded and secure spiritually, physically, and emotionally right now.
"Local businesses and even former patients have poured out their love and support for us by sending us treats, lunch, dinner, cards and way more! It feels so wonderful to know that you are supported by your community. Also, we have received donations from everywhere with masks and other personal protective equipment since we are nationally short. That has been a huge blessing in the midst of this chaos.
"Every now again, I am reminded why I entered into this helping profession. My experience in various intensive care units in the last seven years has prepared me in every way for such a time as this. Praise the Lord I have the knowledge and the skills and now it really feels like [it is] my duty to humanity to utilize those to bless others."
Photo Courtesy of Khaalisha Ajala
Assistant Professor of Medicine Emory Univ. & Grady Memorial Hospital Nonprofit Founder of Heartbeats & HipHop, Inc. Atlanta, GA
"I'm practicing self-care by doing my best to stay prepared during this COVID-19 pandemic where the U.S. now has the highest cases in the world. I care directly for patients who have or are have been tested for COVID-19. How do I try to stay prepared? I try to stay up-to-date on reputable medical literature, remain in daily communication with hospital leadership on the plan for our patients on a daily basis, stay as protected with proper personal protective equipment to decrease my chances of contracting COVID-19 and practice good hand hygiene.
"Also, I cry when needed, rest when needed and know that I can be vulnerable to/with my colleagues and husband as we all try to fight this pandemic and take care of our patients who are battling COVID-19 and other illnesses that bring them to the hospital.
"I'm also a DJ and when I'm not working at Grady or doing global health work in Ethiopia or Thailand, DJing is a mental health practice for me. My bright spot was tuning into D-Nice's IG live session after a really challenging day at work. I danced with 100,000 of my closest friends and witnessed the healing power of music. As a doctor and a DJ, I loved it. For a moment, I was actually the patient and 'the DJ saved my life!' He saved many others by having a social distance party. Go figure!"
Photo Courtesy of Ashley Cockrell
Family Nurse Practitioner
"I have an attitude of gratitude for my current health and for my job – it is the mainstay each day and what keeps me sane. After a long day of caring for others, it is even more important to take care of myself. I've learned that self-care is giving the world the best of you and not what's left of you. As soon as I get home from work, I take my puppy for a walk and enjoy the outdoors. I also unwind by lighting my favorite candles and enjoying my favorite music in my favorite place in the house – the couch! It is equally important for me to decompress from the day and clear my mind by engaging meditating practices. My favorite mindfulness apps include Calm, Insight timer, and Headspace.
"One moment that made my heart smile was after performing COVID-19 testing for a patient who appeared severely sick. She informed me that she stood in line at several other testing sites for hours and was eventually turned away due to high volume. Once she arrived, she was extremely thankful because not only did we get her in and out fast, but we were able to accommodate her family members who were at risk as well. She was extremely grateful for the service we provided her and complimented that we truly helped break down barriers to access care. It always brings a smile to my face when I know I've helped someone and served my mission.
"Knowing that I'm fully operating in my calling and my purpose to serve communities and help others keeps me motivated. It's fulfilling and rewarding to know that I am making an impact not only on the people I see daily, but the world at large. The genuine support, encouragement and prayers of my family and friends keeps me going. Because of my faith and support system, I'm feeling recharged and full of hope, positivity, resilience, love, and light. I am extremely grateful!"
ChiChi Okpaleke AKA Dr. Chi
Photo Courtesy of Dr. Chi
Family Medicine Physician
"Initially, as a physician, self-care was honestly not on my list of things to consider when being on the frontline in combating COVID-19. My concerns were very patient-centered, and making sure they were being treated appropriately. But it took reality to set in for me to realize that if I am not healthy, how will I be able to treat my patients effectively? These last several weeks have been stressful and I needed to buckle down and control my mental health.
"It's easy to get caught in the panic mode with all the media outlets and uncertainty on what the future holds, but I found for me that my faith never fails me. I vowed to be intentional with my mental, physical, and spiritual health; purposely integrating my workouts with yoga, prayer, and meditation. Even with all the chaos and noise, this is an opportune time to personally slow down and embrace the process of life.
"Even through this storm, a simple moment of hearing my nephews pray with the family on the phone, really made my heart smile. My family motivates me to keep striving in medicine. I'm inspired to continue to treat patients, because I know they deserve someone they can trust with their health, especially during difficult times like these. Life is hard, but the bright side is 'This Too Shall Pass.'"
"I have been maintaining a sleep schedule by staying active during the day and having nightly dance fitness workouts on IG live. I think it's important to have a schedule and not get into the habit of being up very late and throwing off your body. When I feel anxious or overwhelmed I pray or meditate and just list the things I'm grateful for to get my mind off of the chaos.
"I think this time home is a blessing in disguise. I rarely have time to watch a favorite show, read a book or work out. This time home has helped me achieve goals, sort through life and force me to be still. I'm enjoying time with my son and the random moments I have to read a book or relax.
"I'm motivated by my son. He needs me more than ever. I'm also motivated by my patients. They need me, so I have to stay healthy and positive for them. Our lives and how we do things will change forever, we have to support each other."
Photo Courtesy of Brittany Grimes
"As a full-time travel nurse, I'm used to having four days off a weeks to run errands, relax and spend some QT with myself. However, with everything shut down, I can't leave the house for anything more than groceries. So, I started doing yoga and it has been a game-changer for me! I do it every morning on my off days and every night before the days I work. I am less tense, I sleep better, get up earlier and I'm more productive. NAMASTE, sis! I have also found a way to stay creative during this time by practicing calligraphy (modernly knows as 'hand-lettering'). I get lost in it for hours at a time and it makes me so happy. Oddly enough, having to be in the house during this pandemic has made me a lot more active. Although it is stressful, I am grateful.
"As an ICU nurse, I rarely get the chance to talk and interact with my sedated patients. My brightest moment recently was with a woman who had a tracheostomy. She had just gotten her speaking valve and was finally able to eat. I sat with her, fed her, brushed her teeth, combed hair and we talked. Boy, did she talk! Before that, I was having the craziest day, but after watching her hear her own voice again, none of that mattered.
"Being able to see a critical patient make a complete turnaround at the hands of my coworkers and I is what keeps me going. It is not easy and I cry more than I like to share but I will never take it for granted."
Photo Courtesy of Kristamarie Collman
Family Medicine Physician
"In medicine, the mental and physical demands of the profession can be extremely challenging and tiring. Coronavirus and COVID-19 have added increased stress and uncertainty and therefore it's more important now than ever for me to look after myself. As the saying goes, you have to 'secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others.' At the end of the day, I cannot be the best doctor for my patients if I'm not performing at my physical and mental best. To do this, I try to keep a healthy diet, incorporate physical activity, and get regular sleep and rest. With constant reports being released daily about deaths and illness associated with COVID-19, it's important to protect my mental space by scheduling media and social media breaks.
"This is where a period of time where I silence my phones, disconnect from social media and turn the TV off. I use this time to either read for pleasure, journal my feelings, take a mindful walk or simply meditate to check in with my body, reflect and quiet my mind. I have also turned to activities which I used to practice when I was younger but lost touch with during my schooling and training. These activities include playing my old guitar and learning choreographed dance, both of which help me to unwind and brings me joy.
"Throughout the chaos, there have been moments that made my heart smile. A friend of the family is aware that I work in medicine and that we are experiencing a nationwide shortage of equipment such as masks. I came home unexpectedly to a package filled with a few hand-sewn masks along with a thank you note for being a doctor during this time. It reminded me that even in distressed times, human good can still prevail.
"I am constantly asked what motivates me and pushes me to keep going. For one, I know my purpose is so much bigger than me. I know that I'm helping to pave the way for many other individuals who are coming along on the journey to medicine. I am also helping people in a very real way every time I go into work.
"Sometimes I'm the first doctor they have seen in years or the first black female physicians patients have had or either way, I'm helping them in some way and they show appreciation. I will admit, I am also intrigued by the fact that I am experiencing and living through a pandemic and want to be able to tell my future children their mom was helping on the front lines!"
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Joce Blake is a womanist who loves fashion, Beyonce and Hot Cheetos. The sophistiratchet enthusiast is based in Brooklyn, NY but has southern belle roots as she was born and raised in Memphis, TN. Keep up with her on Instagram @joce_blake and on Twitter @SaraJessicaBee.
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Here's Why Very Few Relationships Can Actually Be 'Platonic'
Recently, while in an interview, someone asked me if I think that men and women can be just friends. I didn’t even hesitate to answer; my response was immediate, “Absolutely.” What I followed that up with is what intrigued them — “Life has taught me that not a lot of male/female dynamics are ‘platonic,’ though.” When they asked me to expound, the interview ended up taking a whole ‘nother turn.
As a writer who really pays attention to word meanings, something that can be a bit frustrating about our culture is the fact that based on whatever is popular at the time, folks will just up and change the original definitions of words to suit a particular agenda or whim — and the word “platonic” 1000 percent fits into this category. And perhaps that’s why we seem to continue to go in circles about whether or not people of the opposite sex can (and should) be friends and what that even can (and should) look like.
Let’s talk about it for a bit. Because as a word-literal type of individual, while again, I absolutely believe that men and women can be friends, at the same time, I think it’s about as rare as a red diamond to truly find yourself in a friendship that is…platonic.
It’s Time (More) Folks Knew What ‘Platonic’ LITERALLY MeansGiphy
So, let's do first things first — let's define what it literally means for something to be platonic. If you go to your favorite search engine and put something along the lines of "What does platonic mean?", the first thing that you're (probably) going to see is a ton of dictionary definitions that say something along the lines of "of, relating to, or being a relationship marked by the absence of romance or sex" (Merriam-Webster), "designating or of a relationship, or love, between a man and a woman that is purely spiritual or intellectual and without sexual activity" (Your Dictionary) and, my personal favorite, "purely spiritual; free from sensual desire, especially in a relationship between two persons of different sexes" (Dictionary). Yeah, bookmark that last one; I'll be circling back.
Keeping this in mind (and please do), where does the word "platonic" actually come from? From what I've researched, the philosopher Plato once penned something entitled "Symposium." In it, he addressed the topic of two people sharing the kind of love that is free of any type of sensual desire, one that is based on divine love alone. An author from the 1800s broke it down this way: "Platonic love meant ideal sympathy; it now means the love of a sentimental young gentleman for a woman he cannot or will not marry." A write-up on Merriam-Webster's site stated that "The term platonic was initially used to mock non-sexual relationships, as it was considered ridiculous to separate love and sex, but eventually this connotation faded away leaving us with today's notion of close friendships." Yeah, we used to live in a culture where love and sex were not separated. Hmph, that's another article for another time, though (check out "We Should Really Rethink The Term' Casual Sex'").
Anyway, as with many things (especially in our culture), the word "platonic" is kind of used in "broad strokes" these days (bromances, female friendships, etc.). However, because there continues to be this forever discussion — and oftentimes debate — about whether or not men and women can be "just friends," I'm going to tackle this topic strictly from that angle — from the place where platonic actually originated.
Yes, Men and Women Can Be Just Friends. But…Giphy
At this stage in my life, I'm pretty sure that I have more male friends than female ones. There are layers of reasons why, yet I think a huge one is because I like the balance that masculinity brings to my femininity (especially as I'm learning to embrace different aspects of my femininity, intentionally even more). And while every single one of my male friends is respectful and is a super safe space in my world on every single level that I can imagine (and have been for years now), there are probably only a couple who I would say 100 percent qualify as being…trulyplatonic.
Why would I say that? Well, I'll illustrate this point with something that one of my male friends once said to me. He's super cute. He can sing his ass off (and definitely has one of my favorite speaking voices). People see us out together often, and some have told us that they assume that we've had something going on at some point. Anyway, after hearing someone share their theory about us, I told it to him.
Me: "I told him, 'He's my brother. We would never mess around.'"
My Friend: "Correction, you are like a sister. You are not my sister, though. Under the right conditions, you could still get it."
When I shared that exchange with another male friend of mine, he basically cosigned on the sentiment: "Shellie, I have never approached you like that because I really respect you. I want to be good for you for the rest of our lives." (That reminds me: check out "Question: Is The Man In Your Life Good 'TO' You? Good 'FOR' You? Or...Both?" when you get a chance.)
Then I went to one more guy homie and ran both statements by him: "Girl, yeah. If I didn't want to keep you in my life long-term, I would've tried to holla a long time ago!" And he and I have been friends for almost 20 years at this point. When did he get around to telling me this? Eh, maybe two years ago. LOL.
So, my takeaway from all of these "for real?!" exchanges is even though men and women can be just friends, there is a certain level of intention, self-control, and ability to see into the future (on some level) that must go into account — because, just because something more-than-friends-like may not have gone down, that doesn't mean there isn't a "dormant seed" lying around somewhere…whether it's one-sided or on both sides of the friendship dynamic.
As you can see, I just provided you with three instances where the male friends in my life; we've had nothing sexual or even physically intimate beyond a hug when we greet each other in nature — although things aren't exactly platonic if there is some sort of attraction or sexual/romantic curiosity that simply never got explored. Because again, according to Plato, a platonic relationship is free from all of that kind of…tension — or possibilities. Zero. Nada. Zilch.
And now you probably get why I entitled this article in the way that I did…right? I mean, just think about it — out of your male friendships, where is there NO sensual desire or dormant romantic interest…on your side and/or on his? If you're not sure about "his"…have you ever asked him? Or them? Because again, once I really let the definition of platonic sink in, I think maybe two guys in my life totally fit the bill.
This brings me to my next point.
Are You Platonic? Or Are You Friend-Zoning?Giphy
Now that you know that probably 70 percent of the people you know (both online and off) have been using the true meaning of platonic all the way wrong, let’s go about deeper: when it comes to your friendships with men, are they genuinely platonic or…is it more like you’re friend-zoning them?
A few years ago, I penned an article on the topic entitled, “Before You 'Friend Zone' Someone, Read This.” If you’re skimming this on your lunch break, I’ll summarize friend-zoning as knowing that a guy has so-much-more-than-platonic feelings for you, yet because you basically want to keep the benefits of the friendship or even his emotions around, you will string him along on some level.
Personally, I can’t stand friend-zoning. I think it’s selfish, with some sprinkles of manipulation and wasting someone’s time. Don’t agree? How would you feel if a guy was friend-zoning you? (Yeah…exactly.)
This all needs to go on record because, knowing that a guy wants to “take it there” with you (whether sexually or romantically), you not full-on addressing it and/or giving him just enough hope to take you out, listen to all of your stories about other men and give you the attention that you need knowing that he doesn’t have a shot in hell — that is NOT a platonic friendship and honestly, you’re not being a good friend at all. Friends protect each other’s hearts, not abuse them.
A platonic friendship means that you both have no interest in each other, and, as Plato put it, while you may have a strong and solid bond, it’s spiritual love that connects you. And what exactly does that mean? Spiritual love also deserves its own article, yet the gist would be that you recognize there is a purpose in your friendship, yet it’s about wanting what’s best for one another and even helping each other to get there.
For instance, a platonic friend of yours may know that you desire to be married one day, so he has no problem setting you up with a good guy in his life. And if things go well, he would have no problem standing up as your own best man (without feeling like he’s dying inside) because he never saw you beyond anything but a friend. A guy in the friend zone doesn’t move like this; he likes you too much to help you move on with someone else. See the difference?
Why Relationships Should Start Off As NON-PLATONIC FriendshipsGiphy
Before I end this with some tips on how to properly care for the few platonic friendships you may actually have, since the use of the word may require a bit of mental reprogramming, I do think we should also address that if you've got a good guy in your life, who right now is a friend and either you've never thought of him in that way or the topic has never come up — he's someone that you may not want to brush off.
What I mean by that is, it's one thing for there to be absolutely no interest in someone vs. never considering it before — and the reason why you might want to give it some thought is because, ask any healthy married couple who's been together for more than five years and I'll bet you my next rent check that they will say that the best relationships are birthed out of friendship (check out "Are You Sure You're Actually FRIENDS With Your Spouse?").
Yeah, just because you've filed someone in the "I see him as a good guy" category, that doesn't automatically mean that y'all's friendship is platonic. For instance, I have a male friend who is fine and I adore on many levels, yet the reason why it would never work on my end is because there are certain relational standards that I have that he does not meet. However, don't get it twisted — I've considered him because, on so many levels, we "fit." So, the mere fact that I ever seriously thought about him on that level means that we are "good friends," yet it's not exactly platonic.
I'm not free of potential sensual desire…I just choose not to act on it. Yet because I get the value of having friendship as the foundation for my own future marriage (should life play out that way), I am wise enough to know that I would've been a fool to not at least…ponder him and the possibilities.
So yeah, if there is a male friend in your life that the thought of dating or having sex with him doesn't make you want to throw up in your mouth, there's a pretty good chance that it's not a classic platonic dynamic — and you might want to consider if it could/should go to the next level — if not immediately, eventually. Because there's a pretty good chance that if you are thinking that way, he probably is as well.
Protect Your Genuine Platonic Friendship(s) At All CostsGiphy
Let me end this with how one of my platonic friendships rolls. We both think that the other is attractive, yet neither of us is attracted. We both give each other opposite-sex insights. We both have said that the mere thought of dating each other makes our noses turn up like there’s an odor in the air. And even when I try to imagine us together, my mind goes blank. I love, love, LOVE this man — oh, but it is absolutely nothing more than platonic — and he feels the same way. It’s as close to familial love without being blood relationships. It’s a rare dynamic, and that is what makes it so special. There is definitely a spiritual type of love there; no more, no less.
If you’ve got someone in your life who you feel the same way about (again, it’s got to be mutual; he must feel that way, too), you’ve got a gem of a situation going on because there is nothing like having the kind of friendship where you and a guy can hang out, exchange perspectives and thoroughly enjoy each other’s company, knowing that’s all it is and will ever be. Things will never get weird. No one’s feelings are gonna get hurt (from the whole friend-zoning thing). You don’t have to walk on eggshells. You can just be.
And that’s why I’m all for platonic friendships. And listen, if you’re blessed enough to have even one in your lifetime, be fiercely protective of it. Don’t take it for granted. Nurture it in a way that your male friend needs (because it probably won’t be the exact same as your female friendships). Y’all, platonic friendships are so bomb because, if it’s honored and protected correctly, it’s the one male friend that you can probably keep for life because even your romantic partner will not find it to be a (true) threat — hell, they honestly could probably end up becoming (some level of) friends with your platonic homie as well.
I hope that I broke this all down enough to where, when you decide to use a word to describe your opposite-sex friendships, perhaps you will pause and ask yourself, “Wait, is this a platonic friend or a good or close friend?” Because the clearer you are on the differences, the easier it will be to know how to maintain your friendship — and feel about your friend. Feel me? Cool.
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