As COVID-19 rages on, many medical professionals, hospital workers, and healthcare personnel are feeling the stress and strain of being on the front lines for so long.
During a long-term health emergency, it’s common to experience increased levels of distress and anxiety, particularly as a result of social isolation. Physicians and other frontline health professionals are particularly vulnerable to negative mental health effects as they work to balance caring for patients with concerns about their own – and their family’s – well-being. In fact, current findings show a 7.4% to 35% presence of trauma-related stress – mostly among women, nurses, frontline workers, and those who experienced physical symptoms.
For healthcare professionals dealing with COVID-19, attending to your mental health and psychological well-being – while caring for patients – is as important as managing your physical health.
The following strategies and resources can help you manage your mental well-being while caring for patients during the pandemic or any other crisis:
Don’t Be Afraid to Express your Feelings
You and your colleagues are likely to feel immense pressure given the surge in care demands, risk of infection, and other stressors. Experiencing stress and the feelings associated with it are by no means a sign of weakness or a reflection on your ability to do your job – and keeping these stresses to yourself can often make things worse.
Use Coping Strategies
Put into practice strategies that have worked for you in the past during times of stress. These can include getting enough rest, finding respite time during work or between shifts, eating meals on a schedule, breathing exercises, engaging in physical activity, and staying in contact (with appropriate social distancing) with family and friends.
Perform Regular Self Check-ins
Monitor your feelings for symptoms of depression/stress disorder such as prolonged sadness, difficulty sleeping, intrusive memories, feelings of hopelessness, irritability, etc. Talk to a trusted colleague or supervisor. Be open to seeking professional help if symptoms persist or worsen over time.
Take Breaks from the News and Social Media
In times of stress or mental overload, it can be helpful to give your computer and smartphone a rest from time to time. For example, check the news once per day if you like and then let it go. Be sure to focus on information from reputable sources, not just those in your social media feed. There’s no rule that says you have to take in everything produced by a 24/7 news cycle.
Remember the Importance and Meaning of your Work
Remind yourself that despite the current challenges and frustrations, what you do is making a positive difference during a time of great uncertainty. Make sure to take time to recognize the efforts and sacrifices made by you and your colleagues.
Sign up for Headspace
A good way to address your mental well-being is with Headspace, an AMA preferred provider of meditation and mindfulness. The website offers any US-based healthcare professional with a National Provider Identifier (NPI) and a complimentary trial subscription. AMA members can get a two-year subscription for free through AMA Member Benefits PLUS.
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