Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, healthcare workers are on the front lines, going above and beyond to care for those who need it most — but how can they care for themselves? Thrive Global and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health hosted a webinar as part of the #FirstRespondersFirst campaign, with the goal of helping healthcare providers answer that pressing question.
As most of the general public is being asked to stay indoors and socially distance from others, public healthcare workers are being asked to come forward and fight the pandemic, Michelle A. Williams, Ph.D., the dean of the faculty of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, noted. With that comes a tremendous burden. Now, these workers must also figure out how to recharge their own batteries as they are putting themselves at risk to save others.
While the #FirstRespondersFirst campaign aims to provide essential supplies and equipment to healthcare workers, it also strives to give them the tools they need to care for their mental health and build resilience. Those tools come in the form of Microsteps, or small, actionable steps that can be added to first responders’s existing routines to safeguard their well-being. These Microsteps will help first responders maintain their “service mindset” while also taking care of themselves and avoiding burnout, Joey Hubbard, the Chief Training Officer at Thrive Global, said.
Hubbard noted that first responders need to undergo a mindset shift — one that transforms a limiting mindset that screams “my well-being is my last priority” to a more positive one that values the well-being of both provider and patient.
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re a hospice worker in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a nurse’s assistant in North Carolina, a doctor at Mass Gen — it doesn’t matter — all of you need to find your ways of taking care of yourself,” Hubbard said. Those strategies can include anything from listening to a calming song at the end of each shift and getting outside over breaks, to reminding yourself of why you became a healthcare worker in the first place.
Arianna Huffington, the founder and CEO of Thrive Global, shared some of her best recommendations, like tuning into your breath when you feel stressed, setting a coronavirus news cut-off point each day, and remembering three things you’re grateful for while washing your hands for at least 20 seconds.
“Even in the middle of these incredibly uncertain, unprecedented, and deeply challenging times, there are things to be grateful for,” Huffington pointed out.
And while Microsteps can help first responders personally cope on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis, their decision to take small steps to recharge also has a widespread positive impact on the communities they serve.
“Frontline workers are reacting to the specific stress they have in the workplace, but they are also reacting as the entire community is reacting. So if we all practice these Microsteps, we will not only decrease our stress, but also decrease the cumulative stress of the whole community,” said Shekhar Saxena, M.D., a professor of the practice of global mental health at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
When you’re feeling stressed, remind yourself why you became a healthcare worker in the first place. If you joined this field because you want to help people, remembering that fact can help you to move through challenging moments with more resilience.
Listen to a calming or recharging song on shift breaks or after a shift ends. This Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration-recommended strategy is a signal to your brain and body that it’s safe to relax and unwind.
Set aside a few minutes of recovery time after a challenging moment. Instead of returning immediately to your next patient, if you can, take a short walk or a few minutes of conscious breathing. Consciously building in just a few minutes helps you to collect your thoughts, recharge, and bounce back from any challenges.
Set a news and social media cut-off time. While being informed can help us feel more prepared in a public health crisis, setting healthy limits to our media consumption can help us have a restorative rest and put the stressful news into perspective.
When you’re washing your hands, take the 20 seconds to think of three things you are grateful for. This will help you lower your risk of viral infection while reinforcing a more positive mindset.
Click here for information about how Thrive Global is supporting our healthcare workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, and find out how you can support the cause by donating to #FirstRespondersFirst.