Giving (And Receiving) Thanks

As the worldwide pandemic rages on, Americans have arrived at one of our favorite holidays: Thanksgiving. For some, it is about food and football, but for others, it is truly about time spent with loved ones and truly giving thanks for that which you are blessed with. Put another way: This is a holiday rooted in gratitude.

2020 has not been an easy year for most people, including me, as I’ve posted about previously. Stressors have been, and for some continue to be, at an all-time high, potentially fostering unprecedented levels of burnout, anxiety, and depression. But, I do say “potentially”, as the other side of the coin here is the potential for positivity, joy, and hope. 

Within this unique Thanksgiving, it’s easy to focus on the travel and gathering restrictions, political issues, climate change woes, and whatever else…let’s be honest, the media prefers that you focus on these things. But this holiday, I’m seeing opportunities to find the silver linings, believing that things are getting better, being grateful for what this difficult year has taught me, and being hopeful for beautiful things to come. 

This is not selective ignorance, nor a break from reality, but seeing and feeling the world around me and then choosing through which lens I wish to view it. This choice is a beautiful thing. Choosing gratitude over misery or feeling like a victim of the circumstances empowers me. As Tony Robbins says:  “Life is happening FOR you, not TO you.” I encourage you to try to muster whatever energy that you have to find the ability to be grateful and to give thanks for what is good in your life this holiday.

This morning I am thinking about and being grateful for the medical professionals and first responders who are working today and have been working tirelessly throughout the pandemic. Some have given their time, others have given their lives. I want them to be seen and know they are appreciated. WE ALL THANK YOU. 

I am also aware and thankful for my role as a clinician throughout this pandemic, and how we have persevered through countless stressors and built resiliency for future issues. Now, more than ever, I’m extra-appreciative and aware of the gestures of gratitude and positive sentiments that are coming in from patients, friends, and colleagues. Today I am giving thanks to those who have taken the time to be appreciative, and am allowing myself to truly receive the gratitude. 

I feel that it is all too often that a patient might casually say “Thank you for seeing me”“Thank you for your help” or “I really appreciate you fitting me in today.” Or, they genuinely say “Stay safe” at the conclusion of the visit. And it also seems all too often that our response is something like “No problem” or “Will do”, but lately I’ve been really trying to intentionally reply with good eye contact and an attitude of gratitude. “Thank you, (insert patient name), I really appreciate your concern. It was good to see you today and I hope you stay safe and healthy yourself. Happy Holidays.” 

When compliments come in, I am really letting them sink in and filing them away for when the going gets tough and I need something positive. I’m keeping cards or other physical relics of gratitude gestures, and literally filing them away to bring out when I need a hit of goodness. Just opening up and embracing vulnerability, allowing myself to receive the giving of thanks, has been such a stress reducer and mood booster.

When you open yourself up to seeing how much good there is, it’s amazing just how much wonder surrounds us, that which usually is just overshadowed by the negative. This Thanksgiving, a holiday whose name is even rooted in gratitude, I encourage you to slow down, take the time to think about all of the beautiful things in your life, give thanks for these things (and maybe for the lessons learned from the tough times too), and then consider taking tiny actions to let someone or something know that you are grateful. Lastly, open yourself up to genuinely receiving any giving of thanks that may come your way. 

DISCLAIMERS: 1) The views expressed here are my own and do not necessarily represent the views of my employer. 2) There are no conflicts of interest to report. 3) I don’t know what I don’t know, so feel free to message me if you don’t agree with something that you read.

KEYWORDS: #gratitude #thanksgiving #burnout #medicine #physicianassistant