Hello SOTGC community!
In medicine, a “patient handover” consists of a meeting between the daytime team and the overnight on-call team, where information is shared about each of the inpatients, in order for the night team to have the necessary information to care for each of the patients overnight. An important aspect of information that is “handed-over” consists of sharing a contingency plan – in other words, a plan of care in case an adverse health event should occur. For instance, in a certain patient with asthma, a contingency plan might be created to address the possibility that the patient develops heightened respiratory distress. The plan would highlight how one would manage respiratory distress in said specific patient, should it occur.
The word contingency itself is defined as “something (such as an emergency) that might happen” by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
What does a contingency plan about an asthmatic patient have to do with wellness, stress and wellbeing you may ask? Here is a personal anecdote that will hopefully tie everything together and help you deal with anticipated stress in the future …
During my first rotation as a pediatric medical resident, I was placed on the team that was in charge of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. The learning curve was steep and the rotation was challenging; what started off as quite a daunting and even scary experience, turned out to be beyond valuable in my growth towards becoming a competent pediatrician. Nevertheless, I found myself needing to find a way to deal with the anticipatory stress in a healthy way. I was anticipating some level of stress and fear and found myself wanting to plan for this possibility.
It is here that my mention of contingency planning will begin to make sense. Similar to the contingency plans used by the medical community in order to plan for unanticipated adverse health issues in a given patient, I created a personal contingency plan to cope with the anticipated stress and worries surrounding my Intensive Care Unit Rotation.
On the Sunday afternoon before I officially started my rotation, I sat down with a series of blank, pink post-it notes and colorful markers and completed the following sentence; “When I begin to feel nervous or fearful about my rotation I will <blank>.” Thus, I began to think of healthy ways to cope with the anticipated stress. I wrote down all my ideas; some were as silly as dancing around the kitchen to an uplifting song and others consisted of reaching out to my support system of family and friends. Some consisted of keeping a stash of fortune cookies in my pantry while others involved reading my childhood Dr. Seuss books. I mounted all the post-it notes next to my coffee maker in my kitchen, creating a wall of healthy coping strategies for the stress that I felt may come during the rotation ahead – in essence a contingency plan for the anticipated stress.
The exercise of making a contingency plan to cope with my anticipated stress and fear was an empowering experience. It required me to firstly be introspective about the feelings I had towards the upcoming experience that I was to face; this was a great opportunity to practice self-awareness. It also allowed me to be cognizant of all the healthy ways I could deal with the anticipated states of stress and fear that the future held, leaving me quite grateful for the support system of family and friends around me, as well as the interests and hobbies that I had developed over the years. Finally, it allowed me to feel prepared to deal with what was to come. I had equipped myself with the tools that were necessary to not only move forward and deal with the possible stress to come, but to do so in a healthy and effective manner. In the end, it was the process of “planning” itself that became just as valuable as the plan itself.
My dearest SOTGC community, next time you face a challenging time ahead, with anticipated stresses and fears, I encourage you to create a contingency plan of coping strategies. In doing so, you will be empowering yourself, setting yourself up for success, and creating a scaffolding of support around you. Create a wall of coping strategies that will leave you feeling prepared for whatever the future holds; leaving you as the fearless and inspired individual that you are!
Finally, I leave you with a quote by the famous Warren Buffet. As he rightfully once said, “Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”
My dearest SOTGC community, what healthy ways have you discovered over the years in order to cope with stress? How would you describe your typical coping style? If this post resonated with you, share it with your friends, family and colleagues on Facebook and Twitter!