The COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect us all in many ways. We continue to see the ongoing devastating consequences, and it often feels like there is no end in sight. With potential for another resurgence of cases during fall and winter, along with the double whammy of the incoming influenza season, it is easy to spiral down the path of psychological and mental despair, which in turn significantly affects our well-being. What do we do to keep our hopes up for a better and brighter future?
Though there is no easy answer, I have found it helpful to take a few minutes each day to self-reflect. Each of you might have your own tools and methods, and this is a time to dust them off and start using those tools. It is helpful to ponder why we feel anxious, depressed, isolated, or why we fear uncertainty. If we try to get to the root of these emotions, we may realize that each of us has control over our own thoughts and emotions. How we think and react to a particular situation is up to us. That is the beauty of being a human being! We can choose to sit in an emotion of anger, fear, or depression, or we can take control and convert these emotions to joy, happiness, or to another constructive positive emotion. When we let the situation dictate our response, we become slaves to our emotion. If we take control of the situation and react the way we want, we will invariably bring joy and happiness, because this is the core of who we are as a human being!
This talk about self-reflection and mindfulness is not easy. However, there is nothing to lose by trying our best to become conscious of each action/emotion we generate in response to any situation we encounter. Though I have failed miserably many times, as my kids and wife will attest (I get angry or upset and then realize the emotion that I generated), I continue to strive to do better to be conscious of each reaction to a situation. Each of us may know of a colleague, friend, or a family member who exhibits joy and happiness irrespective of the situation they are in. These folks have taken control of their life and their emotions and dictate how to react, rather than letting the situation dictate their emotion.
The recent Virtual SLEEP 2020 annual meeting is an example of how we can turn a negative situation into a positive. Being unable to meet in Philadelphia was initially a great disappointment. However, we kept an optimistic outlook and worked hard to create something special and unique. The meeting was a great success, providing a meaningful way to connect and learn during this unusual season of isolation and distancing. One of the highlights was the special Blues Night event that honored our founding president, Dr. Bill Dement. We were able to capture and present moving tributes from his colleagues and his daughter, celebrating his life and legacy in a way that we never could have replicated in a convention center.
In a similar way, the AASM leadership is working hard to make the external environment better for our members through various initiatives, which have been informed by the results of our recent COVID-19 pulse survey. I shared some of these initiatives at the recent Presidential Town Hall Forum. One of our latest initiatives is to offer a facility membership dues waiver for 2021. This is just one of many more initiatives that the AASM plans to unveil in the next few months to help our members. However, to make sure this is actually helping you, we need to hear from you. So, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are all in this together, and I strongly believe we will get through this together. Together we are stronger, and each of us will be better as a person because of what we all are currently going through. Let us embrace this as an opportunity for growth rather than an obstacle. Let us take control of the situation rather than letting it control us!
Kannan Ramar, MD