May 03, 2021 3:20 PM

COLUMN: Hutchinson Regional CEO looks at post-pandemic life

Posted May 03, 2021 3:20 PM

Ken Johnson, Hutchinson Regional Healthcare System

As COVID-19 infections trend down, and vaccinations become widely available, we inevitably, yet cautiously, begin making preliminary plans for what some pundits have dubbed “post-pandemic” times.

Some say there is a silver lining to the pandemic, as most of us have seized the opportunity to spend more time with our families, reconnect (even at a distance) with old friends, develop new hobbies, and increase physical activity. No matter what course we have taken, the anticipation and yearning for a return to normalcy may be like nothing we have experienced in our lifetimes.

Karen Dempsey, an accredited and practicing psychotherapist, writing for The Awareness Center, offers six specific tips for rebuilding and reentering “real life” that bear repeating. She points out that although we may tentatively be thinking what life will be like without restricted activity, we can forget to prioritize our self-care. “Self-care is about doing little things for yourself that help you feel and stay well and resilient, no matter what life is throwing at you,” Dempsey said. “During lockdown, our self-care rituals were mostly built around structuring our days so that we had a robust routine and could carry on as normal a life as possible.”

Dempsey’s six tips are thought provoking:

1. Accept that new stresses may arise.

“You have become accustomed to staying indoors and you feel cozy and safe there,” Dempsey said. “Take time to check with yourself every day to monitor your triggers and how you’ve reacted—and be gentle with yourself.”

2. Start connecting again.

“You have been deprived of those everyday human interactions and for some people this has been more difficult than for others,” Dempsey said. “Start reaching out and connecting with the friends and family who are important to you. Say and do the things you’ve been promising yourself since the pandemic began. But take it step by step.”

3. Give yourself a moment to respond.

“You don’t have to say ‘yes’ to everything, just because you can,” Dempsey said “You don’t need to overburden or overwhelm yourself to prove anything to anyone. Don’t put yourself under any pressure to return to a pre-pandemic schedule.”

4. Don’t compare and despair.

“In many ways, lockdown has been a leveler,” Dempsey said. “We have all had to stay inside, and the number of social gatherings and events has been curtailed. You haven’t felt as though you were missing out on anything, simply because there was nothing for you to miss out on. Don’t fall into that old trap of scrolling endlessly through social media to see what everyone else is up to. Comparing yourself to others can lead to stress and despair.”

5. Remember the body basics.

“Eating, sleeping, and exercising are fundamental to your emotional and physical wellbeing,” Dempsey said. “What new routines have you created that work for you? Don’t let them slip as you ease into a post-pandemic world. Try to focus on what you know keeps you balanced and maintains the energy you’re going to need for yourself and others. Exercising may take up some time, but see it as an investment in yourself.”

6. Keep it simple.

“When life pared back and all the social distractions were removed, you may have found yourself discovering simpler pleasures in life,” Dempsey said. “You don’t need to swap this simpler life for chaos and overwhelm. Remember to take small moments to react each day and be grateful for what you have and who you are.”

As the region’s major healthcare provider, Hutchinson Regional Healthcare System will stay the course and provide compassionate care to COVID-19 patients until this virus is eradicated from our state and nation. In spite of difficult times during the past 13 months in particular, we have much to be thankful for. Never before has our community united to solve a once-in-a-century healthcare crisis.

This cooperative spirit will prepare us for the next challenge that comes our way. So, let’s finish the task at hand as we prepare for better times to come.

Next time you see a healthcare worker, please say “thank you” for a job performed above and beyond the call of duty under difficult circumstances. We could not be prouder of our staff of high caliber healthcare professionals.