No one knows the horror of the COVID-19 pandemic like the healthcare workers on the front lines. Spending day after day among critically ill patients, especially when you don’t have the proper equipment to protect yourself, takes its toll very quickly. You might be concerned about getting the disease and giving it to your family while dealing with the intense emotions of seeing patients suffer.
If you’re working in healthcare right now, then you need to take steps to protect yourself until things start going back to normal. Your mental health matters, and it’s all too easy to ignore it when you’re trying to care for patients.
Here are 5 self-care tips you should consider to prioritize your mental health and get you through the pandemic.
Be Real With Yourself – Know Nurse Burnout is a Real Thing
Even during the best of times, nurse burnout isn’t uncommon. In fact, more than a third of American nurses display symptoms of burnout, which can include exhaustion, cynicism, and feelings of inefficiency. With the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic, burnout is even more likely to occur.
Nursing is an extremely stressful profession. In addition to heavy workloads, nurses do both physically and emotionally taxing tasks, ranging from caring for critically ill patients to heavy lifting and many hours without a break. Understanding that burnout is real can help you recognize the symptoms in yourself so you can take the necessary self-care steps.
Don’t Ignore the Grief That Comes with Working on the Healthcare Front Lines
Many people, whether they’re working in healthcare or not, are experiencing grief right now. That’s only natural, with thousands of people dying from COVID-19 all over the globe on a daily basis. But most people don’t have to confront the situation head-on every day, as healthcare workers do.
Recognize that you’re probably experiencing profound grief right now. Just as students and teachers experience grief and trauma over school violence, many healthcare workers are going through sustained grief. It’s important to find ways to cope, which might include seeking help from a mental health professional.
Be Able to Control Your Emotions
Most people don’t get into healthcare because they’re cold and emotionless, but because they care deeply and want to help patients recover. While being a compassionate person is a must in the healthcare field, it can also be a downside when it comes to your own mental health.
Patients might provoke many different emotions, including frustration, anger, and sadness. Although it’s important to remain compassionate, you must also learn to control your emotions so that you can not only respond appropriately in the moment and provide the best care possible but also so you don’t let your emotions at work affect your well-being.
Know and Be on the Lookout for Symptoms of Depression or Anxiety
Anticipating potential mental health challenges will help you to manage your well-being throughout the pandemic. It’s important to be on the lookout for symptoms of depression and anxiety so you can seek help as soon as you need it.
Both men and women can experience these mental health disorders, but studies have shown that women are often slower to seek help due to stigma and other factors. Front line healthcare workers need to make their own mental health a priority for their own sake and for their patients’ sake.
When You’re Off Work, Take a Break from COVID-19 News
As a healthcare worker, it’s hard to take your mind off things at the end of a long shift. The things you see and experience are going to have an impact on you whether you’re actively working or decompressing at home.
With that said, you can help protect your mental well-being by avoiding the news and anything related to the pandemic when you’re not at work. Being immersed in the reality of how COVID-19 is devastating our communities every day is bad enough; you don’t need to make it worse by reading reports and news articles online.
Healthcare workers are sacrificing a lot to help us get through this time of pain and uncertainty. If you are on the front lines, understand that your mental health and well-being matter. Take care of yourself and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it, whether you need someone else to make dinner appear or you need to talk to someone about what you’re going through. You need support to get through this too!
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