ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — As the coronavirus pandemic rages on, medical professionals across the nation continue to answer the call to care for others, shift after shift, hour after hour. But are they doing enough to care for themselves and their own mental health?
What You Need To Know
- Clinical psychotherapist provides tips for medical professionals on self-care
- Not addressing mental health now could have greater impacts later
- More coronavirus stories
After months of dealing with COVID-19 cases, health care workers who have been on the front lines are feeling it in every measurable sense.
“There’s that added anxiety being on the front lines, because we don’t want to take it home to our families and we don’t want to get sick,” said Dr. Meghan Martin with emergency medicine at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg.
Clinical psychotherapist Dr. Carleah East has an important reminder for medical professionals during this pandemic.
"You are a human being first," said East, who serves as CEO of SMILE Psychology and Associates. "Embrace your humanity, embrace those feelings of ugliness, embrace those feelings of uncertainty, but also embrace the feelings of love of encouragement."
Below we've listed some other tips that East shared to help medical professionals take care of themselves so they can keep doing their jobs:
Start your day with checking in on your emotions.
"Where am I today? How am I feeling emotionally? What have I brought over from yesterday that I’m still carrying today?" East said. "That allows you to do a self-check and when you’re doing that self-check, it puts you in a position to give time to that emotion that you’re having."
"Just giving that initial emotion of the morning its time, whether its anger, frustration, sometimes even denial because you can’t believe this is actually happening," she went on. "So when you give that moment that time, it doesn’t have time to fester throughout your whole entire day because you’ve acknowledged it."
Designate primary person or source for information
Rely on one source for your news and updates on what's happening outside of your immediate surroundings to avoid conflicting information and overload.
Connect with a coworker
"It’s difficult for that family member who maybe doesn’t work in the same sector that you work in to understand some of the weight, the heaviness that you’re carrying on a daily basis," East explained. "Even though they’re your loved one, they may not necessarily get it."
Recognize what is and isn't in your control
"Do the piece that you’re designed to do,' said East. "Do it with the best that you can and with the love and at the care that you can with that patient at that moment and know that that was your best and be satisfied with that."
Take a time out
Do something unrelated to work, such as
- Go for a walk
- Watch a short comedy video
- Listen to a musical power mix made up of songs that represent strength
Or, try a gratitude exercise:
- Count from 5 to 1, taking several deep breaths
- Say something positive each time, such as "I have done great things", "I am here today for a purpose", "I am capable", "I will get through this"
East says taking that time-out can help you restart.
Try a new hobby
For her part, Martin agreed that taking time out was good advice, and said she's also taken up new hobbies to help relieve her stress.
"I’ve been spending a lot of time gardening, which I’ve never done before composting, trying to find healthy ways to release my stress," she said. "Like everyone else, I've been exercising more than I normally have, taking bike rides, going for runs, trying to just kind of get some of that stress out that way, so when I’m coming to work I’m fresh, I’m ready to go."
Not addressing it now, East says, can have greater consequences later.
“In the next 90 days to 6 months, we’re going to see an influx of emotional overflow with grief depression, anxiety and post trauma,' she explained. "We want to try and get in front of that as much as possible.”
Sign up now for one of our newsletters that will show up in your inbox every weekday at 1 p.m. The newsletters highlight the most important stories of the day that you need to know for your area.