Fiona’s World Flips Upside Down
Fiona’s day job used to offer meaning and enjoyment. She visited home-bound patients managing chronic illness. The days went by quickly as she drove from house to house delivering care items and offering words of inspiration.
Once COVID-19 arrived, home-bound visits stopped. Fiona’s employer scrambled to get a plan in place that protected employees while still providing quality patient care. For now, employees schedule virtual face-to-face visits. Care packages are dropped-off to patient doorsteps.
Because travel time is no longer relevant and Fiona works from home, her employer doubled Fiona’s patient caseload. Apart from a lunch break, she’s now on the computer non-stop for 6-8 hours.
Fiona has had a hard time adjusting. She knows her precious patients have little energy and even less enthusiasm to look at a screen and check-in with her. Without an in-person visit, Fiona isn’t able to accurately assess other issues that may harm or endanger a patient, such as their leaving doors open and forgetting to turn off the oven.
Aside from practical safety concerns, Fiona emotionally struggles with the lack of personal contact. During screen time she notices her stress levels rising. Her heart zig-zags from guilt to frustration and sometimes even zigs to anger.
Fatigue Takes Over
After two months of working virtually, Fiona notices four types of fatigue:
- Emotional fatigue. With hourly rotation and little downtime between patients, Fiona has a tough time recovering from online visits. She wakes up with headaches and low motivation. After work she doesn’t have the energy to work out, and prefers to sit in front of TV to forget about the day. Fiona doesn’t bother calling friends and family because she is worn out from talking and listening to others.
- Screen fatigue. Fiona feels her eyesight is changing. Her eyes don’t focus and they are prone to strain more quickly than before. Because she has to sit in a fixed posture for hours at a time, her neck and shoulders are tight and sharp-shooting pain occurs in the hips. Fiona ignores these symptoms, preferring to complain about them to her partner.
- Performance fatigue. With a pressure to perform, i.e, staying engaged and interested in others, Fiona’s concentration levels are at risk for error. She has to heavily rely on facial cues to ascertain what is happening with her patients. Gone are the days when she could observe non-verbal gestures and take in physical environs.
- Technology fatigue. When the internet goes down in her house, Fiona panics at the idea of rescheduling patients and getting backed up. Being overly dependent on equipment makes her feel vulnerable and out-of-control. Plus, she runs out of patience when her patients forget how to use technology or hit a button that abruptly ends the session. She is doubtful that these virtual visits are fostering meaningful connections.
What Do We Know About Emotions in Today’s World?
- Emotions start in the brain.
Feelings are controlled by the release of signals traveling through the body whenever we are exposed to something. By pushing the brain with activities like concentrating on devices, reading people’s faces and strain – our eyes, our emotions push back and default to anger, frustration and anxiety.
- Feelings Talk.
When we go online, our brain-body connection may shut down as we mindlessly scroll, text and click. At some point the body wants to be heard. We are likely to already be in pain before we pay attention.
- Negative feelings are important
Experiencing and dealing with emotional struggles is essential to maintain balance and strong mental health. It may feel unpleasant. Although important to emotionally support others, we must check-in with our own emotional well-being to see if we can give to others without feeling compromised. This emotional check-in is even more critical when our lives revolve around devices.
Preventing Crisis – one feeling at a time
After a heart-to-heart talk with her supervisor, Fiona takes a three-day break and is asked to get help from a Wellness Coach. Fiona and her Coach talk about the short and long-term impact of remaining in this job. Before returning to work, she sets up an immediate recovery plan which encourages relaxation, movement and emotional release. Fiona realizes she can no longer maintain her current pace without costing her heart, body and mind a big toll. She also misses being with her loved ones and having quality time with her partner.
Fiona’s recovery plan
- Ask for a lighter caseload.
After her three-day break, Fiona approaches her supervisor . She asks for a caseload reduction and an adjustment in how virtual visits are scheduled. Can they give her a ten-minute vs. five-minute break in-between patients so she can move her body, start paperwork or make a call?
- Take a healthy lunch break.
Fiona prepares lunch ahead of time instead of eating snacks and restaurant delivery meals. Her energy levels start to increase with the intake of fresh fruits and vegetables. She eats outside if the weather is nice and takes a walk around the neighborhood with no device.
- Reduce TV time.
As Fiona and her partner watch less TV, they choose to spend leisure time by playing games and hanging out at the park.
- Relax her body.
Fiona sets aside time to rest and close her eyes in the middle of the day. She shuts off her stress and turns on her imagination. Her mind visualizes a healthy body. She focuses on relaxing her eyes, neck, shoulders and hips. Fiona learns how to better care for her body and to regularly provide it with love.