Jori Hamilton 6m 861 #healthcare
The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
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The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on almost everyone. But, you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who has been under more stress throughout the pandemic than healthcare workers.
Throughout the pandemic, those in the medical field have been stretched too thin. They’ve had to work longer hours, put their health (and their very lives) at risk, and even quarantine away from friends and family members just to stay safe at work.
A recent survey found that 93% of healthcare workers are stressed, and 76% are experiencing exhaustion and burnout.
While there are already some questions about the long-term mental health effects of this pandemic, it’s important to take charge of your mental wellness now, especially as a healthcare worker. You can’t pour from an empty cup, so making your mental health a priority will not only improve your life, but it will allow you to provide better care for your patients.
So, how can you manage your mental health in an ongoing pandemic?
As a healthcare worker, you already know the benefits that come from a well-rounded, healthy lifestyle. Proper diet and exercise can help to reduce your risk of:
High blood pressure
Making your physical health a priority is also a wonderful form of self-care. That’s more than just a marketing phrase nowadays. It’s a crucial practice if you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed. Try to do something every day that directly benefits your well-being. When you combine that with making healthy choices for your body, you’ll be taking care of your mental health, too.
In addition to cooking healthy meals and staying active, it’s important to get enough sleep each night. You might be working crazy hours and long shifts. But, managing your sleep health will give you more energy, improve your focus, and help your body ‘repair’ itself every night. It will also lower your stress levels and can make it easier to manage symptoms of anxiety.
Don’t be afraid to partake in other self-care practices every day. From bubble baths to catching up with a friend, make it a priority. But, be careful when it comes to using self-care as a “cure-all”. If you’re struggling with your mental health and experiencing symptoms of anxiety, depression, or other disorders, it’s important to seek out professional help instead of trying to “self-care” the issues away.
That brings us to our next point …
Healthcare workers across the country are feeling the same stress you are right now. That’s one reason there’s a problematic physician shortage plaguing the U.S. It’s estimated that we could see a shortage of up to 122,000 primary care physicians by 2032. Unfortunately, these staffing shortages in hospitals cause more stress for those still working.
Never hesitate to confide in your fellow healthcare workers. No one will truly understand what you’re going through like they do. Even starting up small support groups within your “team” can make a big difference. You can look out for each other, share your thoughts and feelings, and offer support. It might seem like a small solution, but it can make a big difference in feeling heard and understood.
Another option is to talk to a therapist or counselor. They can help you get to the root cause of your stress and guide you through different coping mechanisms. Whether you got into the healthcare industry to be a nurse, a doctor, or a specialist of some kind, it’s important to remember why you started – to help people. But, that doesn’t mean getting the help you need when you need it, too.
Often, stress and anxiety stem from fear. If you’ve been in the thick of treating others throughout the pandemic, you’ve probably seen things no one should ever have to. Seeing people struggling to breathe never gets easier, and it can even spark fear inside you.
Being around sick patients all day can fuel that fear, even if you’re trying to take precautions to stay safe and healthy.
Hospitals across the country have taken safety very seriously through the pandemic, so you can breathe a sigh of relief. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is more effective than ever, including:
- Safety glasses
- Body protection
- Hearing protection
Healthcare today is extremely safe for both patients and workers. It might offer you peace of mind to research your place of employment and look over their safety guidelines and procedures. Knowing they’re taking extra precautions can give you a greater sense of security as you work with patients every day.
From self-care to seeking professional help, managing your mental health as a healthcare worker has never been more important. It might seem like there will never be an end to this pandemic, but it’s people like you that will put a stop to it. By taking care of yourself physically and mentally, you’ll be better equipped to do that, and you won’t burn out along the way.
~ Jori Hamilton