“Running Has Been an Antidote to the Fear”: A Social Worker on How She’s Managing Stress During the Fight Against the Coronavirus

An inspiring account from a frontline worker helping others amid COVID-19.

Our frontline health workers are the first responders in the fight against the coronavirus. These health professionals will also be our guides and community allies on the road to our full recovery as a healthy nation. Thrive Global is sharing their inspiring stories. 

As a licensed independent clinical social worker in Boston, MA, Johnna Marcus’s role at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center changes daily. Before COVID, she worked in the department of addiction psychiatry. Now, she goes wherever she’s needed.

Thrive Global: What are some of the most stressful challenges you’ve experienced during the coronavirus crisis?

Johnna Marcus: I am used to working with the idea of acceptance — acceptance of things that we cannot change and realizing the power in the things we can. COVID challenges this idea of acceptance because realizing the limitations of our current health crisis is a tough pill to swallow.

TG: What are the unique ways you’ve had to adapt to support your patients in these circumstances? 

JM: I still work with addiction (patients) as I navigate through the hospital in our “new normal,” but the cases bring about new challenges. Opioid use disorder treatment looks a lot different in the setting of COVID-19, as linking patients with meetings for support as well as helping them access medication for their disorder becomes more challenging to navigate. 

People have relapsed, but people have also found strength that they did not know they had. We speak to patients more frequently, ask them more about what they are doing to stay safe, and work with patients to keep motivation for sobriety at a time where our collective motivation for our goals has been tested.

TG: What are some of the ways you’re staying resilient and protecting your own mental well-being?

JM: One of the ways that I have stayed strong during this time has been running. I often ran after work to clear my head, and now it does something else for me: It sends me the message that I am not sick and that I am strong. 

Many times in the hospital, we get worried about contracting COVID, potentially looking out for symptoms in our bodies. Running has been an antidote to the fear. I got used to running with a mask fairly quickly and now run at a social distance away from others.

I am currently training for the Boston Marathon (whenever it will occur) with a goal of raising money that goes toward the betterment of frontline workers. More supplies, support, resources — all things frontline workers need everyday, but especially now.

Click here for information about how Thrive Global is supporting our healthcare workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, and find out how you can support the cause by donating to #FirstRespondersFirst.

If you’re a first responder and want to share your story, email us at [email protected]. Please note, a Thrive editor may contact you to hear more about your story, and your submission may be edited for length or clarity before publication. By submitting your story, video, or pictures, you are agreeing for Thrive to publish your submission(s) if selected, and agreeing to the Thrive Global Privacy Policy. You can find more guidelines here.

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