MILWAUKEE, Wis. (SPECTRUM NEWS) - The COVID-19 pandemic can not only be a physical stressor on those dealing with it, but a mental stressor as well.  Especially for frontline workers, the emotional stress of dealing with a global pandemic every day can take a toll.

“Healthcare providers, because they’re worried about bringing the virus home, I’ve seen stories that they’re sleeping in their cars or staying by themselves in hotel rooms,” says Carthage College Professor Debbie Minsky-Kelly.  “That’s the exact opposite thing that you’d want someone exposed to trauma to be doing.”

Kelly teaches a class dedicated to trauma for Carthage College.  She says what the nation’s frontline workers are dealing with during this pandemic is unprecedented.

“One of the cardinal rules of trauma recovery is that the person needs to be safe before they start a recovery process,” she says. “So, until our healthcare workers feel they’re in a place of safety, we can’t expect them to begin a recovery process.”

Elizabeth DeVito is a registered nurse in Milwaukee.  She says she’s thankful for her support system, including family and co-workers.

“I’ve had a few breakdowns and cried for the first time after work, but it has gotten better,” she says. “In the beginning, it was the unknown of not knowing the best way to care for these patients, but working with my team, we’ve figured out what the best course of action is.”

DeVito says it’s tough not being able to see her family.

“Easter was really hard for me this year,” she says. “I was here alone and I had a Zoom date with them while they were eating Easter dinner, but it was difficult not being able to be a part of that and just feeling isolated.”

She says taking time for yourself is key.  For her, keeping a diary and running helps with stress.  She also says it’s important to know when you just need to decompress.

“Do not feel guilty about being a bum some days,” she says, after six 12-hour shifts in one week.  “If you want to just lay around your house and do nothing that’s okay.”

Kelly also says taking a mindful walk and beginning a yoga practice could be helpful.  She notes activities that bring you into the present moment and put you in tune with your body are key.

If you do not have your own support system, many hospitals have mental health councilors available for frontline workers to speak with.  ​