AORN Blog - The Periop Life


COVID-19: The Value of Resilience and Self-Care

A Guest Blog Post by Mary Alice Anderson, MSN, RN, CNOR

AORN Perioperative Practice Specialist


COVID-19: The Value of Resilience and Self-Care

April 8, 2020

As our government and communities have made efforts to decrease the spread of the COVID-19 virus, our lifestyles and our work lives have changed dramatically. These adaptations range from inconvenient, when a trip to the grocery store involves a 30-minute wait in line, to life-threatening, when healthcare workers answer the call to action without adequate personal protective equipment required to take care of infected patients.

This virus has caused changes that are not only unprecedented, but also uncharted.

Especially for healthcare workers, keeping ourselves safe and healthy will require resilience and self-care while we navigate this new stress related to unknown effects that COVID-19 will have on our planet.

Even the CDC1 has made recommendations for managing the stress and anxiety caused by the unknowns of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of these self-care techniques are evidence-based and have the potential to allow users to develop the resilience to withstand tough times.

Some require more than a few minutes, like journaling, reading, exercising, sleeping, and eating well.  And, some require the involvement of others – reaching out to connect with friends and family, showing gratitude to others, or asking for professional help.1 It’s difficult to fathom doing  all these every day, so only focus on techniques that help you the most.

Then, there are self-care techniques that involve a mindset shift that you should self-assess regularly. Ways to achieve mindset shifts are to take deep breaths and practice mindfulness.2

Healthcare workers should recognize what they can control and use positive self-talk3 to focus on the optimistic reality rather than all the negative possible outcomes.4 For example, when thoughts of inadequacy, doubt, and fear occur while caring for others, realize that everyone else feels the same. Take a moment to feel empathy for yourself, take a few deep breaths, and respond to yourself with compassion.3

Often, serving others can also relieve anxiety and stress and the CDC recommends a buddy system to support each other through stressful periods of time.1

If you don’t have a formal buddy system in place, reach out to someone else who may be feeling overwhelmed and offer compassionate support to them; this can benefit yourself as well by being able to listen, assist, and encourage each other.1

When I’ve felt overwhelmed caring for patients (and even now, when the responsibility of the workload seems intense) and started to think there was no way for me to stay ahead of the work and advocate for excellent perioperative care, I step back to center myself and take a few deep breaths. I have been through tough situations before, what strengths that helped me then can help me now?

I also keep my emotions steady before stressful situations occur. I have a routine of listening to positive podcasts and affirmations, prioritizing a healthy diet and body movement, and sharing my gratitude and offering support to others daily.

If we remain centered and focused on becoming more resilient, we will all benefit from a new perspective for future challenges once this one has passed.

  1. CDC. Emergency responders: Tips for taking care of yourself.
    Updated 2018.
  2. Harvard Health Publishing. Relaxation techniques: Breath control helps quell errant stress response.
    Updated 2018.
  3. Vital Talk. COVID ready communication.
    Updated 2020.
  4. APA. The great unknown.
    Updated 2019.