H ow can you survive this winter holding on to your temper, family, and job? Look out for #1. That’s you. To care for others, you must care for yourself first. That’s not selfish. That’s smart. To protect those who need you, you must stay healthy and sane. How? These are my tips.

  1. Set rules for others and for yourself l Your sleep should be sacred. So should whatever time off you can schedule.
  2. Enlist help l So many grateful folks want to help healthcare workers. Your neighbors may be glad to walk your dog, run some errands, or grab a gallon of milk.
  3. Prioritize yourself l Pay someone to plow, buy groceries online, hire a housekeeper to save time for the things that really matter.
  4. Schedule time for yourself to exercise, meditate, pray, journal—whatever helps fill your well.
  5. Shut off the TV l Whether you’re Democrat or Republican, you won’t enjoy the news. Watch the Nature Channel, Hallmark, or the Food Channel. Watching food is fun, and it won’t make you fat.
  6. Go outdoors l There’s magic in nature and sunlight, whatever’s left of it. Hike, snowshoe, and allow your lungs to breathe real air instead of the reconditioned germs they allow you in the hospital.
  7. Say no l That’s a survival technique. Say no to parties, hugging strangers, doing things you shouldn’t, and protecting others’ feelings. Let them take care of their feelings. You take care of yourself.
  8. Cut yourself some slack l You aren’t perfect. Nobody is. You’ll make mistakes, gain a few pounds, step on some toes, maybe even lose it at times. So what? Just do the best you can.
  9. Read a book l Remember those things made of paper? You turn a page and land in a new world?
  10. Be careful with alcohol and substance use l They may feel good at the moment, but you’ll be worse off in the long run.
  11. Watch old movies that make you laugh.
  12. Take a break from social media l Picking fights with random strangers won’t help your mental health. Cut off those who hurt you.
  13. Get a cat l They have nine lives; that’s why they are masters of survival. They ignore all unpleasantness, and they’ll show you how. And they’re the best nap helpers.
  14. Communicate l Ask coworkers how they handle the stress. They may teach you something, and if they don’t, sharing the burden will help you both.
  15. Seek help before you lose it l Check out the CDC’s resources on stress and coping.
  16. Pat yourself on the back l You’re a darn hero! In recycled PPE, instead of shining armor, you saved fair maidens of all genders, ages, and persuasions. With a vaccine in sight, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

Wishing you all health, joy, and happiness. See you all on the other side.

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Rada Jones is an emergency physician and can be reached at her self-titled site, RadaJonesMD, and on Twitter @jonesrada. She is the author of Overdose.