It takes a lot of energy to be an Activity Professional. You need the ability to focus on others, to give an unending stream of positivity, encouragement, support, and care. This can be challenging in the best of times, so what does it feel like in the worst of times?
I would not trade where I have been and what I have done these last two years for anything. I’ve worked double shifts seven days a week in full PPE, complete with homemade garbage bag gowns, over and over, week after week. I’ve administered hundreds of COVID tests in full PPE in the 90-degree heat and in quarantined hallways, soaked in sweat with my reused N-95 mask leaving indents on my swollen face. I’ve moved from unit to unit, following our facility’s quarantines to support my team and the residents I hold so dear.
I’ve listened to screaming family and friends who were not able to visit their loved ones, their voices shrill and desperate. I’ve held the hands and shoulders of those who were isolated and lonely, tears streaming down their faces as they ask, “Will this ever be over?”. I’ve led a team of individuals who focused everything they had- all their time, energy, and thought on how to provide quality of life during a time tainted with fear and paranoia. I worked while following an ever changing and stringent infection control protocol, with fewer resources and a staffing shortage. And I’ve given so much more. I would not trade where I have been and what I have done these last two years for anything.
My actions these past two years do not make me unique. You’ve heard hundreds of different versions of this story as people who work in health care have attempted to express the complete exhaustion they are feeling. On top of this, we navigated through the pandemic shutdown, political polarization, and lost time with friends and family. Right now, we are learning to reconnect while remaining cautious and careful amidst new COVID strains, vaccine mandates, and the worst staffing shortage I have ever seen. The pandemic is not over for Activity Professionals.
We are all different. We have different personalities, coping skills, communication styles, emotional triggers, responsibilities, faiths, and ways of life. Some of us are healing quickly while others haven’t yet started to heal. Me? I’m tired- a kind of tired I have never felt before. For the first time in my life, I feel like I don’t have much to give. The reserve is gone. My tank is empty. Heck, some days I feel like my engine is broken. Still, I would not trade where I have been and what I have done these last two years for anything. But please, don’t expect me to be the same. Many of us need time to rest and to heal so that we continue to work as Activity Professionals with the ability to focus on others, to give an unending stream of positivity, encouragement, support, and care.
No matter how we feel, the world keeps turning. Those in our care continue to need social connection, meaningful engagement, and quality of life. We must continue to provide support and opportunities for daily activities, connections, and celebrations- even when we don’t feel like celebrating.
As the new year continues, we are inching closer and closer to a time when we are used to celebrating ourselves, National Activity Professionals Week. So, what does an Activity Professional do when they don’t feel like celebrating? Ironically, an activity.
NAP Week can include parties, thank yous, gifts, and other recognition for Activity Professionals. Actually, we often throw our own party! Don’t feel guilty if you don’t feel like celebrating this year. REPEAT. Don’t feel guilty if you don’t feel like celebrating this year. There are a lot of other things you can do to honor yourself and your peers without faking a celebration. I recently saw a LinkedIn poll asking people what they do when they don’t feel like celebrating; 41% responded that they “do an activity”. Another 41% responded that they “take time to sort what’s true”. The key is to choose an activity that honors your interests and feelings.
Be extra kind and patient with yourself and your peers during NAP Week. There’s no reason to hide or to pretend to be happy when you are not feeling it. Whether it’s curling up in a soft blanket and reading a book, snuggling with your pet, going for a run, supporting friends on social media, or planning a party; if it’s an activity you enjoy- you are honoring yourself. And that is what NAP week is all about! Just like the previous years, NAAP is here to support you with a week full of possibilities. Choose the ones that suit you. There will be opportunities for education, discussion, international updates, prize drawings, social media engagement, and the NAAP website has an entire packet of ready-to-go FREE activities for you and your residents. This year’s theme is “navigating the future”. However you are feeling right now, I’ll bet that you would not trade where you have been and what you have done for those in your care during these last two years for anything. Now, it’s time to navigate the future.