9 Ways to Take Care of Your Own Mental Health Right Now
Monday, April 27, 2020
Many people are experiencing added stress in their lives right now, and that’s even more true for healthcare workers who are seeing the direct effects of the COVID-19 crisis.
Healthcare workers are increasingly vulnerable to negative stressful health outcomes when pandemics occur. From increased risk of exposure to working long hours and caring for ill patients, the stressors pile up at work. At home, you add the same worries most people are experiencing: the well-being of yourself and your loved ones, financial concerns, childcare concerns, and the loss of your support system during isolation.
Everyone handles stress differently. Common reactions include insomnia, increased use of alcohol or tobacco, stomach problems, increased irritability and anger — and that’s just to name a few symptoms you may be experiencing during this unprecedented time.
Now more than ever, it's essential that you take care of yourself mentally and physically. We know that can be easier said than done, but here are some actionable ideas that may help:
Avoid Work Burnout
- Be alert to signs of fatigue and overwork. Signs include depression or apathy, becoming easily frustrated, blaming others, poor self-care and more. When you spot them, take action quickly. Don’t neglect your own needs.
- Use the “buddy system.” You may not recognize these signs in yourself, so partner with a trusted co-worker to keep an eye on each other. Monitor each other’s workloads, remind each other to take breaks, share opportunities for stress relief and just check in with each other in general.
Develop a Support System
- Share your personal concerns. Talk to a therapist, a close friend/family member or a colleague about what you’re going through.
- Consider Project Parachute for free mental health counseling. Developed as a local movement in North Carolina, Project Parachute now includes more than 500 volunteer therapists offering pro bono therapy sessions for front-line health workers in 37 states.
- Physical distancing, not social. Maintain relationships with family and friends virtually and by phone. Video calls and group chats can allow you to have game nights, watch a movie together, enjoy dinner at the same time, or, of course, just talk.
Control Your Activities
- Focus on what you can control. Part of our stress comes from not being able to control what’s happening. So, focus on the lifestyle choices you can control: diet, exercise and quality time with your loved ones (the ones you’re quarantining with, and virtually).
- Turn off the TV. The CDC recognizes that hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting. Take a break from news outlets and social media.
- Have a “new” daily routine. You may be working longer hours, practicing telehealth, or not working at all. Whatever the case may be, set up a new daily schedule around your new routine exercise, work, meals, fun activities, and virtual socialization. Avoid disrupting your sleep schedule just because you may not be working normal hours.
- Mindfulness activities. Try mindfulness activities to manage your stress, including meditation, journaling, yoga and breathing exercises. There are a number of free videos online or check with your local yoga studios — many are offering free classes via their social media accounts right now.
We know you’re dedicated to helping others in need right now, but you can’t take care of them to the best of your ability if you don’t take care of yourself. Treat yourself as you would treat a patient — your well-being should also be a priority.