Being a healthcare provider has never been easy. After all, when you spend your life taking care of others, it can be easy to forget to take care of yourself. But the advent of COVID-19 brought a whole new level of difficulty to the profession of medicine.
Now you’re waging a life and death battle with a largely unknown enemy - and you’re doing it with little sleep, few resources, and, often, precious little support. In the face of this global crisis, though, it’s never been more important to take care of yourself, to prioritise your own mental health.
Why It Matters
Nowadays, physical health seems to be everyone’s focus. But the reality is that the psychological harms of the pandemic may be just as severe, just as dangerous. That is particularly true for healthcare workers who are at heightened risk for an array of mental health challenges resulting from the pandemic, including depression, anxiety, and insomnia.
Because of the unprecedented stress and uncertainty of the pandemic environment, it is more important than ever that healthcare workers be proactive about stress mitigation. Learning to manage stress effectively will reduce the risk of burnout, decrease the likelihood of stress and/or trauma-induced mental illnesses, and minimize the impacts of stress on the immune system.
One of the most effective ways to nurture your mental health in pandemic times is simply to take some time away. Take the time every day to get quiet and unplug. Turn off the cell phone. Step away from work. Allow yourself time to breathe and be still — no news, no questions, no one asking anything of you. And then do what you need to do: cry, scream, eat, sleep. This is your time. Give your mind, spirit, and body what they need.
Get Some Sleep
Sleeping might feel like a luxury you can’t afford in the throes of a pandemic. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. The reality is that if you’re sleep-deprived, you’re not going to be able to cope effectively with the stresses of the day.
Sleeping should be prioritised; it is not selfish. It’s the time your mind and spirit need to restore, unwind, and heal. When you take the time to sleep, you’re ensuring you’ll be able to be the nurse your patients need, the person your family needs, and the you you need.
Do What You Love
As chaotic as life might seem right now, prioritising your mental health means taking the time to enjoy the things you love. Listening to or playing music can be a wonderful stress-reliever — and if you decide to get up and dance, all the better!
Physical activity is a great way to get rid of pent-up anxieties. So, as strange as it may seem, now might be the perfect time to take up a new hobby. If you’ve ever wondered about tennis or golf, why not give it a whirl?
You’ll be outside and socially-distanced, and you’ll get to expend some energy while having a lot of fun. Plus, this is a great opportunity to practice a bit of self-care with some recreational shopping, such as investing in a top-of-the-line tennis racket or gleaming set of fancy, high-performance tungsten golf clubs. After all, you’ve more than earned a bit of indulgence.
Nurturing your mental health might feel fairly low on the priorities list when so many people are sick and struggling. But prioritising mental wellbeing has perhaps never been more important than now, especially for healthcare workers.
Taking the time to give your mind and spirit the care they need is essential if you’re going to make it through this crisis. Practicing self-care isn’t selfish. It simply means that you will be better able to be the care provider your patients — and your loved ones — need.
About the Author
Jori Hamilton is an experienced writer residing in the Northwestern U.S. She covers a wide range of topics but takes a particular interest in covering topics related to health and wellness, including mental health awareness and addiction education. You can follow Jori and learn more about her on Twitter and LinkedIn.