3 urologists discuss coping with increased stress caused by the pandemic

Karen Nash

Karen Nash is a medical reporter and media consultant based in Monroeville, PA.

Urology Times® reached out to 3 urologists (selected randomly) and asked them each the following question: How did you cope with the increased stress the pandemic has placed on your life?

“I took the opportunity to focus more on myself since I was not working as hard. I’ve been doing more cardiac workouts and aerobic conditioning [and] some lifting. I reembraced the game of golf. I realized over the past 20 years of my life, my work-life balance is really off. I was doing really good at work and really bad at life.

COVID-19 hit me 2 ways. First, I turned 60. Suddenly, there’s a disease that has nothing to do with how I’ve taken care of myself, that could easily take my life. Two, if I ever retire, I have no hobbies. I kind of embraced self-help [and the] self-awareness effort.

So I focused on me, which was the only thing I could control during the pandemic. [That] meant putting extra effort into making dinner instead of getting a quick meal and going to bed, exercising more, and reading more. [COVID-19 forcing] me to slow down [at] work [has brought] a tremendous benefit: I planned a trip to Florida for golf school. I always wanted to do golf school and thought if I put it off too long, I wouldn’t be able to do it because I’d be too damn old.

The beauty of medicine is that I never felt unappreciated. But as I got older and the pandemic happened, you realize you need to start focusing on yourself. I don’t know if I’m a better person because of it, but I feel better.”

Alex Horchak, MD

Dubuque, Iowa

“We had enough faith in medicine to know we’d figure it out and there would be an end to this. What worked best were health care organizations pulling together. Those same principles worked with our families. People rallied together.

I didn’t do counseling but did more with my family. Trying to look at things we really enjoy doing other than work was very helpful.

I have 2 teenagers. It was hard because they’re used to being social. They like hanging with their friends more than parents. It was hard not being in school, doing remote learning. It really affected their social life.

So we went on hikes and did activities with them where we could be socially distanced from people: hikes, movie night, playing cards, interacting more in the house, working in the yard, being outside when we could. We did things we do as a family but made sure we did more of them.

When you’re busy with work and school, you don’t do as many family activities. Here, we did them. When you do fun things with your family, it’s not only enjoyable, but a stress reliever.

The pandemic gave people a chance to reevaluate their values. There were positives. We realized what is important. [You] see changes in people. They’re making time for family and making sure family doesn’t get pushed aside when we’re busy. This may be a resetting of our values.”

Paul Kozlowski, MD

Seattle, Washington

“We talked about things that made us fearful so they didn’t chip away at our own mental health. I’m charged with training residents/fellows, another layer of stress: how to train the next generation when clinical work is completely shut down?

To relieve stress, I did things I always do to stay healthy. It was great being outdoors, which was safe. I walked or ran, either individually or with my husband and son.

I’m Christian. People have different faiths and belief systems, and people relied on the sense of peace faith brings.

I focused on what I could control: relationships that were my certainties, exercise, and healthy eating. My husband’s a surgeon, and our child is 13. We walked and talked. It was wonderful getting back to basics and not be pulled in a thousand different directions and to refocus on what really mattered.

With life returning to normal, we miss that opportunity to gather in midafternoon. We realized the most important things are the people you love. If we had each other, we’d be OK. We still try to be mindful of that—eating together at least once a week or walking together and reconnecting—because we want that part to continue. I cooked during quarantine; I love cooking but never have the time. It was delightful to cook and be home around the table. There were many things I will always treasure.

Some good came from this. The best lessons aren’t always taught the way we would’ve chosen. We have to embrace the lesson no matter how it comes.”

Dana Giel, MD

Memphis, Tennessee