The coronavirus pandemic is stressing nearly everyone out. But perhaps no group is more affected than health care workers.
Frontline health care workers are exposed to demanding and tense situations on a daily basis. In virus hot spots, that can include dealing with multiple dead and dying patients every day.
Other factors affecting the mental well-being of health care workers include:
- Coping with the strain and exhaustion of taking on new roles and bigger workloads in caring for patients with COVID-19 who may get worse at a moment’s notice.
- Caring for co-workers who become ill and sometimes even die from COVID-19.
- Worrying about infecting family members at home.
- Dealing with shortages of crucial medical equipment in virus hot spots.
- Finding limited access to mental health services for coping with depression and anxiety.
Are you feeling stressed?
If you’re a frontline health care worker, possible signs and symptoms that you’re feeling stressed may include having:
- A rapid heart rate.
- An inability to relax when off duty.
- Sleeping problems.
- A hard time thinking clearly.
- Social conflicts.
Ways to cope
Here are some ideas that may help lessen your stress:
- Take breaks from the news. Hearing stories about the pandemic can worsen anxiety.
- Take care of your body. Practice deep breathing. Stretch. Try to eat healthy meals and get regular exercise. Get rest whenever you can. Avoid alcohol and drugs.
- Make time to relax. Write down activities that you enjoy. Then schedule time to do some of them.
- Connect with friends and family. This can be difficult if you’re isolating yourself at home. Talk by video or by phone if need be. Seek support from your colleagues, who may be having the same experiences as you.
- Keep in mind that feeling stressed doesn’t mean you can’t do your job. It doesn’t make you weak; it makes you human.
If you’re a team leader at work, try these tips to help your staff:
- Rotate workers between high- and low-stress functions.
- Build in time for workers to provide social support to each other.
- Make sure your staff is aware of how to access mental health support.
- Be a role model in how you reduce your stress.
Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; JAMA; Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; World Health Organization