Coping with uncertainty has been a huge challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is especially true for physicians who feel they are expected to be strong in the face of adversity. Developing skills to counter stress was the focus of mindfulness and other wellness sessions the VPSA offered physicians over the spring.
Weekly mindfulness workshops, which were developed and led by Dr. Rahul Gupta, received glowing responses from participants. They received the most positive feedback any VPSA program has been given over the past three years as measured by net promoter scores. Comments included:
- “A hugely beneficial program.”
- “A lifeline and the best support for wellness.”
- “The best mental health support that has come out of this pandemic.”
- “A key factor in maintaining wellness during the pandemic.”
- “The single best wellness thing I’ve engaged in during the COVID crisis.”
- “A tremendously valuable resource at this time.”
“We intentionally created short, 15-minute sessions that were offered early in the morning to fit with physicians’ schedules plus a one-hour evening session every week that allowed for group mindfulness practice plus opportunities to explore exercises to build resilience,” said Dr. Gupta. “Participants were able to experience mindfulness as a way to navigate the pandemic.”
Physicians, Dr. Gupta noted, are used to being analytical. But this can cut them off from being aware of their bodies and the physiological strains placed on them during stressful times. Instead, there is a tendency to become disconnected and numb. Mindfulness can help followers understand their physiological response and cultivate their ability to adapt to new situations. This helps us make better choices.
“This is especially important in our interactions with others,” added Dr. Gupta. “When we feel threatened, it’s harder to be generous, or collaborative, or to explore new possibilities. Mindfulness is rooted in an attitude of compassion and helps us pay attention to what’s happening not only to ourselves but also to those around us. It settles and grounds us in the moment. Using mindfulness can make us feel more confident about handling rapid change.”
Dr. Gupta reminds us that mindfulness needs to be a lifelong commitment. He hopes those who participated in the spring sessions have built lasting friendships and a sense of community and that they will bring mindfulness to their actions on a daily basis.
VPSA is considering restarting the mindfulness program in the fall. In the meantime, check out the resources on Dr. Gupta’s website to help maintain or begin your mindfulness practice.