Staying Grounded and Focused in Emergency (Covid 19) Healthcare Situations

Surviving the Covid 19 pandemic with awareness and compassion

Throughout waiting and vital focus during emergencies, you may at times vaguely become aware that you feel vulnerable, unsettled, scared and groundless. However the groundedness you need is not in the space around you, but in the space within you. Start just there. That is where love, wisdom, grace, and compassion reside. What will keep you going throughout is to lean in often with open honesty about your difficult experience, but lightly and to acknowledge your experience with grace and kindness for yourself.

Kindly remember:

  • You are responsible for your own actions in all respects.
  • Acknowledge and follow your professional training in all respects.
  • If you are a healthcare worker, always follow the protocols and rules of your government health departments, hospital, clinic or practice.

Breathe in… lean in… and go…

1. Tactical Breathing*

  • Inhale deeply through your nose, expanding your stomach, for a count of 4.
  • Hold in that breath for a count of 4.
  • Slowly exhale all the air through your mouth, contracting your stomach, for a count of 4.
  • Hold the empty breath for a count of 4.

*Staying with emotion, not off-loading it, tactical breathing explained by former Green Beret, Mark Miller, as quoted in Dare to Lead by Brene Brown.

2. A Mindful Walk

  • You are walking to wash your hands, or to attend to the next patient or the next matter which needs your full attention.
  • For one or two seconds, pause and try to shift your focus from your mind’s overthinking, to your body posture.
  • Take a deep breath in, and when breathing out, relax your jaw, your neck and shoulders and your stomach.
  • Just for the first few steps, become aware how you lift your foot and put in down in front of you – first your heel and then your toes.
  • If you want to, do this short mindful walk for your previous patient. Every time you breathe out, let go of everything that is not yours to carry.

3. Putting On or Taking Off Protective Gear

  • Just before you put on or take off your protective gear, pretend that you have a pause button on the palm of your hand.
  • As you “press” this button, remind yourself: “I am here for me now”. Try to be just in this moment.
  • Breathe slowly in through your nose, and out through your mouth.
  • While putting your gear on or off, try to do this a little slower than usual. Become fully aware of each bodily movement, each action.
  • Do this knowingly loving kindness towards yourself.

4. A Short Grounding Exercise during Chaos or Trauma

  • When it is safe and possible, withdraw from the situation for one or two minutes.
  • When you breathe in, think of the number “one”. When breathing out, relax your forehead. When you breathe in, think of the number “two”. When breathing out, relax your neck and shoulders. When you breathe in, think of the number “three”. When you breathe out, relax your stomach. Repeat if possible.
  • Become aware of your surroundings, as if for the first time.
  • Remind yourself: “I can be anxious/tired/upset and still deal with this situation.”
  • Repeat your chosen affirmation such as: Every day in every way I am getting better and better (Dr Coue) .

Possible Affirmations:

  • There is a new challenge every moment. It is new to all of us. It is OK to be upset. I am learning to deal with this.
  • I can only do what I can, and that is more than good enough.
  • I can be overwhelmed and still deal with this situation.
  • I am not alone. World-wide healthcare workers are going through this with me.
  • It is OK to be upset. It just reminds me that I care.
  • Let it be. I am learning radical acceptance in an abnormal situation.
  • Let it be. I am learning radical.
  • I am making a difference. I am where I am supposed to be.
  • I survived difficulties in the past. I will survive this too.

5. Taking a Break while Handwashing or Sanitizing

  • Just before you start washing your hands, take a few seconds to give yourself acknowledgement for the reason why it is necessary: You tried to help, or heal. If there is a mirror in front of the sink, make sure to give yourself a smile.
  • While you focus on washing your hands, become aware of each part of your hands. Try to become aware of thankfulness – that these hands can make a difference.
  • As you wash and sanitize each of your five fingers, repeat these 5 words, one for each finger as you wash or sanitize it: I.AM.THERE.FOR.ME…
  • Before you go again to help with these hands, hold your left hand for a moment with your right hand while reminding yourself: “With these hands I am doing the best I can, and that is more than good enough.”

6. Being Able to Take a Mindful Rest

  • Do a quick Breathing Howzit Exercise: Lean in lightly, and become aware of your thoughts, pleasant and unpleasant feelings, as well as your bodily sensations. Do this without trying to change them or judging them. These difficult feelings may just remind you that what you are trying to do is important to you.
  • On a scale from 1 to 10 (1 being the most difficult moment ever and 10 being the best moment ever), where are you now? Try to accept wherever you are with no judgment or expectations. You are doing the best you can.
  • Then, return to mindful breathing. Breathe in through your nose for 3 counts, pause, and breathe out through your mouth for 4 counts. Do this for 3 to 5 minutes if possible.
  • Become aware of your surroundings: what sounds can you become aware of… without having an opinion about them or judging them.
  • Do the Breathing is Awesome short course here at 360Smartly.

7. Dealing with Difficult People

Colleagues, clients or family of clients may act unfairly in these difficult times. Try not to make it about yourself. They are just desperate, worried or tired.

Do the Mindfulness BOLD exercise:

  • B– Breathe consciously (three times in and out)
  • O– Observe your difficult thoughts and feelings (“This is unfair. I did my best.” “I am so disappointed that they can’t see that I did everything I could.”)
  • L– Listen to your values and needs. (I am usually professional and caring. I need some support or breathing space.”)
  • D– Do what you need (not want) most! (Forgive. Focus on the task at hand. Give reassurance. Take a break. Seek support.)

8. When Isolated from Loved Ones and their Support

  • It helps to remember during your struggling in the midst of necessary isolation, that your brain will keep on reminding you that connection with others helps you dealing with stress. Longing for loved ones is a good thing. Thank your brain every now and then for this reminder, even if it is uncomfortable.
  • Every time you feel alone, breathe in reminding yourself: “I am not alone”. While breathing out, remind yourself: “We all are doing this…”
  • When you feel isolated and alone, make sure to make some notes on what you would like to share if you connect with loved ones again. Make voice notes, write down high lights and challenges. Keep photos of loved ones on your phone or in your purse. Keep a journal if possible.
  • During your every day, show yourself gestures of kindness: hold your own hand, or give yourself a hug.
  • At the end of every day, write down three things you appreciate about yourself in doing this for yourself and our common humanity.

Take good, mindful self-care. As many times as you may need it, make the choice to stop, breathe, be, walk slowly, and keep on deciding to show up. You are in the thoughts and prayers of millions of people. Trust your journey.


Download this page as a pdf-file:

Mariki Smith (MA PhD Psychology)
Dirk Joubert (Attorney and Mediator)
Free State Institute for Mindfulness

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