Helpers Need Help Too: How Healthcare Workers Can Prioritize Mental Health During the Pandemic
By Vania Manipod, DO

It can be difficult to care for ourselves when we’re so busy taking care of others. You have likely seen the headlines describing the mental health pandemic anticipated to proceed COVID-19. However, healthcare workers have experienced immense distress since the start of the pandemic. From shock and grief to isolation and invalidation — there are so many mixed emotions associated with being a healthcare worker during a global pandemic, so it’s inevitable that the events of this last year could take a toll. 

With an end to the pandemic in sight, it’s even more important for healthcare workers to prioritize their mental health. Often what follows a prolonged period of extreme stress and chaos is a period where all the suppressed feelings and emotions finally rush to the forefront of our minds. Taking steps to prioritize mental health now may alleviate symptoms of burnout and also help to develop ways to cope with anxiety and mood changes triggered by the pandemic:

1. Schedule vacation time (if you haven’t already). Many of us are used to pushing through and working nonstop, but adequate rest is necessary for recovery. Remember, you are a human being, not a machine. 

2. Discover ways to process difficult cases and work stressors. If you have coworkers you trust, talking to people who “get it” can help release emotional distress that builds up from caring for patients with poor outcomes and frustrations associated with work. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to others, then writing, drawing, journaling, or whichever modality feels most therapeutic for you, is another helpful way to process your thoughts and feelings. Keep in mind that emotional self-disclosure, rather than avoidance, is associated with better mental health outcomes 

3. Reach out for mental health support. Since the impact on mental health has been pervasive, the pandemic has made it less stigmatizing for people to acknowledge their struggles and seek support from a professional. In addition to scheduling an appointment with a psychotherapist or psychiatrist, another option is to contact employee assistance programs, which provides a number of free counseling sessions to employees. Other options include contacting a support line (example: physician support line) or utilizing online therapy resources.

4. Schedule self-care time.  Reincorporate self-care activities that have been therapeutic for you. During the pandemic, activities were limited and many healthcare workers’ schedules busier than usual, so the activities that helped in the past likely became less of a priority. If you know the type of activities that were most therapeutic for you, make a conscious effort to reintroduce these activities back into your life.

5. Connect with your support system. Social connectedness is an important component of happiness. When busy and overwhelmed, we have a tendency to isolate, so remember that staying connected with those you are closest to can improve your mood and stress levels in the long run. Make a phone call, text or message via social media, plan an outdoor activity — taking a few minutes out of your day to connect with others can minimize the feelings of isolation that many of us have been experiencing 

Vania Manipod, DO – Psychiatrist

Dr. Manipod is a guest writer for InCrowd. You can learn more about her on her website, Freud and Fashion, or on Instagram.

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