During a crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic, it is common for everyone to experience increased levels of distress and anxiety, mainly due to social isolation. As a result, physicians and other frontline health care professionals are particularly vulnerable to adverse mental health effects as they strive to balance the duty of caring for patients with concerns about their well-being and that of their family and friends.
Here are some strategies and resources to manage your mental well-being while caring for patients during the pandemic or any other crisis.
1. Take care of yourself.
Airline safety briefings remind us to put on our oxygen masks before helping others in the event of an emergency. Attending to your mental health and psychosocial well-being while caring for patients is as important as managing your physical health.
2. Feel free to feel your feelings
You and your colleagues are likely to feel immense pressure given the potential surge in care demands, risk of infection, and equipment shortages, among other stressors. However, 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.
3. Intentionally employ coping strategies.
Put into practice strategies that have worked for you in the past during times of stress. These include getting enough rest and finding respite time during work or between shifts, eating healthy meals, engaging in physical activity, and staying in contact (with appropriate social distancing) with family and friends.
4. Perform regular check-ins with yourself.
Monitor yourself for depression/stress symptoms such as prolonged sadness, difficulty sleeping, intrusive memories, and/or feelings of hopelessness. Talk to a trusted colleague or supervisor. Be open to seeking professional help if symptoms persist or worsen over time.
5. Take breaks from the news and social media.
Make a regular habit of stepping away from your computer and smartphone from time to time. When returning online, focus on information from reputable sources, not just sources in your social media feed. You don’t have to take in everything produced by a 24/7 news cycle.
6. Be fortified by remembering the importance and meaning of your work.
Remember that despite the current challenges and frustrations, yours is a noble calling – taking care of those in need in a time of great uncertainty. Make sure to take time to recognize the efforts and sacrifices made by your colleagues. Together, we are all stronger.
7. Take care of your staff.
Leadership should strive to maintain critical infrastructure and have other support for staff during this time, knowing that this may require modifications to existing strategies, tactics and/or roles. In addition, practices will want to protect staff from chronic stress and poor mental health to foster better patient care.
Get help when you need it
Hoping mental health problems like depression will go away on their own can lead to worsening symptoms. If you have concerns or if you experience worsening of mental health symptoms, ask for help when you need it, and be upfront about how you’re doing. To get help you may want to:
- Reach out to a close friend or loved one – even though it may be hard to talk about your feelings.
- Contact a minister, spiritual leader or someone in your faith community.
- Contact your employee assistance program, if your employer has one, and get counseling or ask for a referral to a mental health professional.
- Call your primary care provider or mental health professional to ask about appointment options to talk about your depression and get advice and guidance.
- Contact us at Salience at 214-880-8778 for a no-cost consultation today.