“I never expected to experience the life and death realities to the degree I did due to the pandemic,” said former Seal Beach resident Arielle, a critical care nurse at a hospital in Irvine. “It was heart-wrenching to watch people say ‘goodbye’ to their family members over FaceTime, to hear the family crying and not be able to be there by their loved one’s side.”
Many medical workers like her are exhausted from working through the pandemic. With variants straining short-staffed facilities across the country, some on the front lines are experiencing added physical, mental and emotional stress.
“I realize that we are in a marathon, not a sprint,” Arielle said. The steady stream of patient numbers admitted with the variants is rising in her hospital, affecting a younger age group. As this challenge stretches on, she finds that the mutual support from the members of her unit, along with a grateful attitude, help her address the overwhelming fatigue she and her colleagues continue to experience. On some days, burnout feels inevitable.
What pulled her out of despair in the early phases of the pandemic continues to keep her afloat. She credits her faith as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses for helping her and other healthcare workers in her religious community endure the ongoing toll of the pandemic. Arielle’s beliefs provide a balanced perspective on her caregiving role. “My faith has given me hope, peace and joy when you would least expect it,” she said.
As she travels to work each day, Arielle enjoys listening to spiritually uplifting songs and audio recordings of the Scriptures. Sometimes, she gets a boost from video chats with her fellow congregants and friends on her work break. And on the ride home, Arielle prays for the ability to keep the day’s impressions in their own quarantine, enabling her to give her best self to her husband and young daughter. She said she feels those prayers are working.
American psychological and psychiatric associations, while not advocating or endorsing any specific religion, acknowledge the role spirituality and religious faith can play in coping with distress and trauma.
Lawrence Onoda, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in Mission Hills, California, noted some ways spirituality can help, including giving people “a positive hope and meaning toward life, comfort by looking for answers and strength from a higher power, and a collective shared experience of support and community.”
One favorite resource for Arielle is jw.org, the official website of Jehovah’s Witnesses, with its collection of practical articles like “How to Beat Pandemic Fatigue” and short comforting videos such as “The Resurrection – Soon a Reality.”
The website served up what she needed when she needed it most, and she seeks opportunities to pay this encouragement forward to others too. No matter what twists, turns and unknowns this pandemic delivers, Arielle knows there will always be a way to maintain inner joy and that better times are just around the corner.
Featured Photo: Arielle, a former Seal Beach resident who works in Irvine, finds comfort in her faith after long shifts as a critical care nurse caring for the growing number of patients with COVID-19. Courtesy photo.