By Johnna Dukes, ABOC

I know I’m not alone when I say that I’m tired. I know that my optical family understands and feels my pain when I say that I am the most exhausted I’ve ever been in my optical career. I worry endlessly about the cleanliness of my office, the safety of my patients, and the health and wellbeing of myself and my staff. All the while, running to clean this surface and disinfect this tool, and wonder if I wiped down that door handle (and then wiping it again just in case), while doing adjustments and dispenses curbside in the heat of the dog days of summer, and on and on. So not only am I physically tired from all the running, but I’m emotionally tired from all the worrying.  And through it all, I can hear my grandmother repeating one of her favorite quotes, “Worry is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere.”

I also hate the term “new normal.” However, I understand that this way of being is here and it will be here until it isn’t. My type A personality wants to know exactly how much longer things will be this way and of course my wanting for things to be different doesn’t make them different, again in the quotes of my grandmother, “It is what it is.” 

In thinking about the fatigue I’m currently feeling and wanting it to go away, I started to consider a few things that made me breathe a bit easier. If you’re in the same boat, maybe these things can give you a tiny bit of relief, too. Knowing that I am powerless over this situation and that there are only certain things I can control actually gave me a bit of breathing room. I know that I can’t control when this pandemic ends, but I can control that mask wearing in my office is mandatory. I can’t control the rates of transmission in my county, but I can control what risks I take, where I go (or don’t go). I can’t control people’s perception of what is happening, but I can be kind when faced with unnecessary commentary about our office policies. I don’t have to like what people have to say about it, but I don’t have to take it personally.

As a type A personality, I know that achievement has always been tied to my self-esteem and to make that a bit easier, I write a list of things I want to get done first thing in the morning and if I make it through that list, it makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something, and that gives me a boost and makes me want to do even more just for the satisfaction of getting to cross it off that list!

I realized that I needed separation from work time and personal time, so when I leave the building, I don’t check email, I don’t take calls. When I’m off, I’m off. I make time to be outside in nature, which has been incredibly important for me. I’ve prioritized my personal time and have decided that taking care of me is important. This is a new thought for me. I’m one who is constantly worried about everyone else and I often put my own wants at the end of the line. So I’ve given myself permission to relax when I get home. I’ve taken to re-watching some of my favorite TV shows and decided not to feel guilty about it.  And since I’m the boss, I decided to have days when I bring my dog, Mavis, to work with me. (She’s sitting on my lap as I write this, and I have to say that it brings a quick smile to my face.)  My staff is happier when she is here, and the patients have enjoyed seeing her. In fact, often they are disappointed when they come on a day when Mavis is at home. 

None of these things change what is currently happening globally with this pandemic, but all of them make me better equipped to handle my workday. So, to my fellow optical warriors, I feel you. I know you’re tired, but please, please take the time to take care of you. We need you, your patients need you, our industry needs you.