Your Outer Circle

How the world has changed?

It has been over four months of social distancing.  How are you holding up?  It is amazing how quickly the world can change.  In a matter of a few weeks the world changed.  School went online. All organized sports were cancelled. Playgrounds and facilities were closed. Only essential service open. And health care became virtual.

Given the piles of email that have now been flooding our inboxes over the past couple months, I was reluctant to write a blog post that would add to peoples list.  So what has changed? Well I think that there is so much fear, anxiety and negative talk out there that I wanted to add some positive messages into the mix.

As a family doctor my world changed considerably.  My clinic re-organized to avoid having potentially COVID19 positive patients interact with other patients coming to the clinic.  Most of my day is on the phone talking with patients or using one of the virtual methods to provide care.  Often very slow to change, health care has moved really fast and I think this is a good thing.  Patient are not sitting in the clinic wait to be seen.  There are at home or at work from home been productive instead of waiting for me.  Certainly not everything can be done virtually, and we are certainly happy to see patients in-person but I hope some of this new my way of providing health care sticks.

It is really nice to see the thank-you’s for the health care teams working through this health crisis. But I really want to the thank all those people working in other essential services; in grocery stores, restaurants, small businesses, and many others.  They are keeping the community running.

But now on to the real message.  I hope you are still reading.

My daughter graduated from high school last month.  This was a graduation that students will always remember.  We had drive-thru graduation, online speeches, online award ceremonies, virtual slideshows from their three years in high school.  As a parent, it has been hard to see our children missing out on their big celebration. There were celebrations, just smaller ones. Small family celebrations, staying within your bubble or maybe joining bubbles.   I wonder how many grandparents did not get to take part in order to protect their health. Some groups of friends dressed up and took some physically distance photos, maybe even some stylish mask-on memories.

Well it was at one of these smaller celebrations that an amazing insight came from these new high school graduates. No surprize here, I am always learning from really smart young people. When asked what their biggest disappointment was about graduation during the COVID pandemic several students mentioned that they missed connecting with the other students at school. But it wasn’t their close friends that they missed. Most students found a way to connect with close friends.  Instead what the students missed was this outer circle of students. Students that they don’t know well.  Maybe they just share a class or have a locker in a similar corner of the school. These are the people they missed. Those students or friends that they only see at school.  They also missed not being able to say goodbye.

After hearing this I thought about my own life. Working from home, less activities, less opportunity to connect with my outer circle. There are colleagues who work in a different area. There is that person who always is arriving or leaving at the same time as you. There are parents you only see at your child’s sport activities. Missing these connections in our lives has an impact. 

During this difficult time, there is a lot of talk about resiliency and grit.  I want to point out a key misunderstanding.  Resiliency is sometime described as how flexible you are.  If you get knocked, down you bounce back up.  This is incorrect.  Resiliency is actually how many resources you have and often these resources are your social connections. My suggestion is that during this time you need to invest in your outer circle as well as your inner circle.

If you are interesting in reading more or learning about resiliency check out some of the books and videos by my friend and colleague, Dr. Michael Ungar.

Hope you stay well and stay connected!

PS Over the next few weeks will be hosting the ideas of some really smart young people that I have the pleasure of working with this summer.  So share, comment, post and like so the ideas from these great young minds goes even further.

Written by Dr Doug Klein, Photo by Shutterstock

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