As COVID-19 continues to spread across the United States, the toll it’s taking on our healthcare professionals on the front line is overwhelming. Seeing their faces and hearing their stories of grief, helplessness, and utter exhaustion breaks our hearts. Hospital employees are working overtime to care for the thousands of patients with COVID-19 while trying to care for other patients, too.
It’s important to remember we are all human no matter how well you were trained; fatigue, exhaustion, and frustration can and will take its toll on your emotional and physical well-being. If you are a health care worker, it’s important you take care of yourself during this difficult time. These “first aid” skills can be practiced once or twice a day; taking 10 minutes for yourself may save your life and those you touch. If you know a health care worker, be aware that your friend needs your support now more than ever. Reaching out with the smallest gesture of kindness can begin a ripple effect of gratitude that is felt by every patient your loved one cares for.
1. Practice self-compassion. It’s more important than ever to be kind to yourself. Give yourself permission to grieve the situation and focus on doing what you can. Many lives depend on you being able to think clearly. Therefore, take time to sit in a quiet space, take a walk in a garden, and breathe.
2. Create a buddy system. Having someone you can check in with and talk honestly to will help you feel connected, less isolated, and more supported. It’s also uplifting to talk about other things than what is happening at work.
3. Learn to relax. When your body is agitated and dealing with life and death every day, it contributes to depression and burnout. Find an activity that helps relieve anxiety and quiets your mind, such as practicing meditation, listening to music, reading scripture, putting a puzzle together, or coloring.
4. Sleep when you can. Many healthcare workers are working erratic and long shifts. That makes sleep restless and difficult. Taking a hot bath or nurturing yourself with a cup of hot tea before you sleep will help you ease into sleep. Indulge in naps whenever you can.
5. Remind yourself that you’re not alone and this difficult time will end. Having a mentor or loving family member who reminds you that they are praying for you and thinking of you gives you strength and endurance. They should validate the value of what you are doing for others.
Most hospitals have therapists standing by who are willing and ready to give counsel and emotional support to healthcare workers. It is not a weakness to ask for help; in fact, it’s one of the best signs of a mentally healthy individual. No one could be expected to do what our healthcare workers are doing without feeling stressed and overwhelmed.
Healthcare workers risk their life every day for you and me. Please stay home so they can continue the incredible work they are doing. Remember they are counting on your prayers and emotional support; remind them what they do matters.