Amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic, people spanning the globe are talking about the need for testing and PPE. They’re discussing the lack of respirators that many hospitals have faced along with social distancing, wearing masks and how badly they want to enjoy a meal at their favorite restaurant again.
There’s one important thing that most people aren’t talking about, though: The mental health crisis that could impact countless healthcare professionals.
During an unprecedented crisis like the one we are currently facing, it’s natural for just about everyone to experience varying degrees of stress, anxiety and depression. Social isolation and uncertainty about the future are impacting people from all walks of life.
For doctors, nurses and other frontline healthcare professionals, though, the impact is even greater. In addition to dealing with their own worries and anxieties, they are also responsible for caring for patients and attempting to ease the fears of others. Unfortunately, many are so focused on caring for others during the pandemic that they’ve put their own mental health and wellness on the back burner.
If you are struggling with your mental health during this time, you certainly are not alone. You are only human, and it’s natural to feel frightened, overwhelmed or depressed. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you need it. There are also several things you can do to take care of yourself and work through some of your difficult emotions.
Make Time for Yourself
Caring for patients may be your primary concern, but doing so shouldn’t come at the expense of neglecting your own needs. Tending to your own mental health is essential when it comes to preventing burnout and avoiding serious emotional issues. Make the time to take care of yourself – even if your schedule feels like it is already bursting at the seams.
Don’t bury your feelings. Instead, pay attention to them. Be mindful of symptoms that could indicate a serious mental health issue, such as prolonged feelings of sadness or hopelessness, intrusive memories or difficulty sleeping. Acknowledge these symptoms and try to work through them. If you are unable to do so and they are impacting your daily life, don’t be ashamed to seek professional help.
Don’t Spend Too Much Time Watching the News or Reading Social Media
When you are at work, there is no escaping concerns about COVID-19. You talk to your patients and colleagues about it. You have to take extra precautions to avoid exposure to it and prevent transmission. You have to deal with updated policies and regulations relating to it. During your work hours, it’s likely always at the forefront of your mind.
That doesn’t mean, though, that you need to be surrounded by thoughts of the virus when you are at home, too. Make a conscious effort to switch off the news and avoid social media. When you do tune in or go back online, make sure you’re only paying attention to information from reliable sources. As you undoubtedly know, there is a lot of misinformation out there. And getting wrapped up in all of that misinformation could make managing your mental health even more difficult. Keep in mind, too, that engaging with people on social media regarding COVID-19 could be detrimental to your well-being. Chances are, you aren’t going to be able to change your uncle’s mind about his conspiracy theories no matter how hard you try to debunk them. For the sake of your own sanity, it’s best to step away.
Spend Time with Friends and Loved Ones
Social isolation is getting to a lot of people right now, including healthcare professionals. While you may spend your days surrounded by colleagues and patients, you might go home to total isolation. If you are working in a hot spot, you might even be staying at a hotel rather than going home and potentially exposing your loved ones to the virus.
Whatever the case may be, it’s important to find ways to spend time with your friends and loved ones. While social distancing recommendations may make it difficult (or impossible) to meet up with people in person, you can still chat on the phone or meet face-to-face using Zoom, Skype or FaceTime. If you’re longing to see someone in person, you could even go for a walk or enjoy a cup of coffee together, as long as you stay several feet apart. Now may not be the time to get a hug from your mom or your bestie, but there are still ways to spend time with them and avoid feelings of isolation.
Chances are, you can’t go get a massage or a pedicure right now, but there are still plenty of ways to treat yourself and indulge in some much-needed self-care. If you’re feeling exhausted and run down, make time for a nice, hot bubble bath. Put on your favorite music, light some candles and give yourself a little mental escape.
Consider shopping for something to make work a bit easier and more enjoyable. Now would be a great time to invest in some comfortable men’s nursing shoes to help keep yourself moving when you’re working long hours. Even ordering some cute and comfortable scrubs could help you feel better. If there’s something that you’ve been longing for but haven’t bought for yourself, give yourself permission to splurge. Sometimes a special treat is just what you need.
When you spend your workday focused on caring for others, it’s easy to forget to take care of yourself. Whether there’s a pandemic or life is a bit more normal, it’s always vital to take steps to care for your mental health. If you are struggling with your mental health, try the tips listed above. If they don’t help or if you are experiencing extreme symptoms, don’t be afraid to reach out for help.