Mind the Brain: Resilience Building in Uncertain TimesDec 16, 2020
Resilience – it’s what we are all searching for during this season of unprecedented uncertainty. In this week’s episode, Dr. Neill Epperson speaks with Dr. Anne Dondapati Allen to gain her insight on connecting with our inner resilience.
Dondapati Allen is a chaplain at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital on theUniversity of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. In her role, she provides emotional and spiritual support to patients, families and staff. In addition to supportive conversation, chaplains provide prayer and religious rites or contact particular faith group representatives upon request. They are also available for family meetings and ethical concerns.
FINDING ANCHORS FOR RESILIENCE THROUGH SPIRITUALITY
Uncertainty has always been a part of a healthcare provider’s daily experience, but never to the extent that we are seeing during COVID-19. Dondapati Allen shares that a common theme amongst healthcare providers and patients is how unprepared they feel. To combat these feelings, it is important to connect to the things that color life with meaning. For many, spirituality and religion are important anchors during this difficult time.
"Through spirituality we seek meaning and purpose in our lives and stay connected to thecurrent moment," says Dondapati Allen. She explains that it is through connecting with what is sacred to us that we gain the structure and stability we need to persevere. Life-altering events like the suffering experienced by patients, families and providers from COVID-19 have resulted in many reporting an increased awareness of their spiritual selves.
For many, an interpretation of spirituality can be found through building deep interpersonal relationships with friends, family and their community. Using technology to share a virtual meal together and sharing stories of what we are experiencing builds emotional resilience that enhances our perspective on life. For others, the rituals of formal religion and connecting with their faith community can be sources of strength during times of uncertainty.
HOW CAN WE CREATE POSITIVE MEANING FROM SUFFERING?
Finding meaning in struggle is an important protective factor in decreasing therisk of burnout. How can we help people create meaning in positive ways that are resilience-building rather than self-blaming?
Dondapati Allen explains that to create positive meaning, we need to search beyond the suffering and view our life as a much broader narrative. She asks patients and providers to share their stories about what makes them who they are – learning about their hopes, fears, sorrows and joys shows the person at their core, far beyond their medical diagnosis. This allows us to harness resources inside ourselves in powerful and healing ways.
Sometimes religious beliefs can result in the harmful worldview that an action we took in the past is the cause four our current suffering, that we are being punished. To combat this mindset, Dondapati Allen explains that it is important to place patients and providers in "safe spaces" that emphasize respect and comfort. The individual is then better able to reflect on their worldview, questioning where these beliefs started, and whether these beliefs are helpful or harmful to them in the current situation.
As a guide for creating these kinds of environments she recommends the four As:
- Acknowledge what’s being said – appreciate their effort in naming their pain and sharing their story.
- Affirm their experience and beliefs – communicate that suffering is a part of their story and honor the experience they are having.
- Assess what they need in the moment and identify what support should be provided.
- Address by taking action – follow up with them to continue to help them reframe narratives and build trust.
THE ROOT OF RESILIENCE BUILDING
In order to sustain resilience in an uncertain day or hour we must identify our core values. What do we hold close to our hearts? What values have been central to us throughout our lives?
We need to also recognize the small contributions to our well-being and elevate those things. During conversations with patients, families and providers she asks, "What’s going well for you today or right now? What is something that you are proud of today or in this hour? What other things can you do to really elevate that?"
Reflecting on these small wins can create an energy shift from a place of negativity to a place of connection with our core values – values that anchor us and ultimately provide what we need to find purpose through the next hour, day, month or season.
Listen to the episode: Dr. Neill Epperson and Dr. Anne Dondapati Allen discuss the importance of connecting with our inner resilience.
For additional support, explore all of our mental health resources.
Mind the Brain CME Information:
CME Survey for the July 28, 2020 Edition
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