Burned Out from Lingering Pandemic, Some on Frontlines Find Faith an Antidote
Updated: Mar 1, 2022
Damon and Irene Stone, a married couple who are registered nurses, remember being reassigned to the frontlines of the COVID pandemic to test, screen, triage, and care for patients. They describe the angst from the sheer volume of COVID positive patients, the scarcity of supplies and personal protective equipment, the fear of contracting the virus, as well as the emotional toll of having to console, not just patients, but colleagues.
Many medical workers like them are exhausted from working through the pandemic. With variants, like the recent omicron, straining short-staffed facilities across the country, some on the frontlines are experiencing added physical, mental and emotional stress.
Damon and Irene worked in a healthcare facility in Largo, Maryland. “It was rough,” said Damon, referring to patients’ pleas to not let them die. Irene sadly recalls the heartbreaking stories of couples who had COVID where one survived but the other spouse did not. Adding to their emotional trauma, both Damon and Irene contracted COVID-19 and became sick. They both recovered without the need for hospitalization.
What pulled them out of despair in the early phases of the pandemic continues to keep them afloat. They credit their faith as Jehovah’s Witnesses for helping them endure the ongoing toll of the pandemic.
“Keeping a good spiritual routine, prayer, and a sense of humor is important,” Damon said. “It is what helps us push through.”
They lean on fellow Witnesses’ for support, regularly meeting together for spiritual activities via Zoom. This interchange of encouragement energizes them. “It’s refreshing,” Irene said. “It really helps to rejuvenate you to face the next week.”
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.”
Damon and Irene find joy in sharing with others what has helped them. They join friends online to write or call people in the community with a message of hope from the Scriptures. “That keeps me balanced and it keeps the anxiety at bay,” Irene said.
One favorite resource for them 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 proved itself to be beneficial, encouraging, and faith strengthening,” Damon said. “It’s been right on time with what we needed.”