The Finish Line

There has been good news lately regarding the pandemic.   It feels good that the spring is here, we have more daylight again both literally and figuratively.  The vaccines are effective, even for the variants, according to Dr. Fauci.  However, the pandemic is still here, and there have been some spikes in infection rates again.

As burned out as we all are on this, we must finish strong.  We must continue to wear masks and respect distancing.  This is about the greater good.   When community is doing better, we do better individually.

Think of how much we have learned in the last year.   Instead of wondering how and when we will get sick and die like we did in 2020, we now have vaccines that work, and we have the blueprint of how to beat this thing!  Despite this, many of us are suffering from short timer’s syndrome.

Short timer’s syndrome is real.  The concept came to public attention from the military, toward the end of the world wars.   It is basically a form of extreme burn out.  It manifests as a drop in morale, a decline in motivation, an increase in apathy and anxiety, a feeling of detachment and ineffectiveness, and a lack of commitment.   There may even be physical symptoms of back pain, headaches and over or under-eating.   These lead to careless mistakes, procrastination, poor health, and more burnout.

The goal is to focus on how to finish strong.    The first order of business to achieve this is to pretend like the race is just starting, not almost finished.  This helps keep the focus on the efforts being made, not the ultimate outcome.   For example, in a one-mile race, the contestant who is focusing on the current stride, breathing and overall technique, will experience a much shorter race than the contestant who is only wishing the race were over.   The contestant wishing the race to be done basically experiences one mile of running with each stride.

Next, take a step back, examine your day and identify what you are doing that may contribute to burnout.   Keep a work schedule and make sure you balance work and time off.  The trend this year has been for all of us to work more and not have good boundaries at home with work and time off.   For example, we seem to be taking less breaks and we are answering emails or texts that are related to work at all hours of the day instead of only during business hours.

Keep a consistent sleep and eating schedule.  Avoid social media during break times.  Instead, stretch, go outside, touch a tree, look at things far in the distance, and take deep breaths.

Do nice things for other people.   It has been found that doing something nice for somebody else makes you feel rewarded.

Focus on the positive things you do.  Applaud your efforts both now and for getting through last year.  During times like this, it is easy to get focused on the negativity and the struggle.   Having the negativity focus makes the race feel harder and longer.

I learned my lesson about letting up close to the finish line when I was in college.  I had an “A” in chemistry class going into the final.   Chemistry is an important class in pre-med.   It accounts for five credit hours and that can drastically affect the grade point average.

I was so confident about my grade that I decided not to study for the final.   It was one of the last finals of any classes of the semester and I decided I was finished like most of my friends were.   No surprise, I almost failed the final and that brought my grade down to a “C+”.  It made getting accepted into medical school way harder than it needed to be.

The recourse of having COVID-19 is infinitely worse than getting a bad grade in chemistry.

When I say we are nearing the finish line, I do not anticipate the end of COVID-19.   I anticipate the control of it, just like we have gained control of other infections and subsequent diseases.  It may likely be here for good, but we will get stronger with our immunity and medical supports.  We will gather safely in big groups again and we will move forward.

The beauty of the strategy to finish strong is that you stay focused on each day and each moment.   You get out of the trap of wishing things were like they were before COVID-19 or wishing for a different present.

By finishing strong, you will get through each day successfully.  I guarantee you that with this, not only does the finish come more quickly, but the reward will be greater.

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