Find tips, tricks and information to help you along the way.

08.07.20

Protecting Your Mental Health in the Healthcare Industry During COVID-19

Whenever there is a global crisis, the healthcare industry steps up. Medical professionals of every stripe are working around the clock. In hospitals, in local clinics, even family practices are swamped with the suddenly overwhelming demand for care. COVID-19 victims, those who have symptoms, and those who still need non-COVID care drastically increased the demand for personnel and hours.

For those in medical services, it can be difficult to get a moment to yourself these days. Even if you are managing enough food and sleep to keep helping people, what about your mental health? Right now, doctors, nurses, EMTs, orderlies, and everyone in between need to put in special effort to stay sane and well-balanced while the pressure is high.

Today, we are here to talk about a few ways to make space for your mental health, stay organized, and find that inner-peace when you need it most.

Set a Minimum Weekly Off-Time

Do not let your off-time whittle away to nothing. Working extra shifts, helping out between shifts, being on-call and all the other obligations of an adult life still need to leave you enough time for meals, sleep, and a little relaxation. So set a minimum amount of time that you will take off and never dip below that number. It can also help to set an upper-range, a goal that you can celebrate when you get enough time off to really unwind.

Build a New Routine & Master It

Part of the stress of the new COVID pressure is the need for new routines. The cleaning and safety measures already practiced by medical personnel just got a serious upgrade. Everyone is more stressed out as they learn how to follow new, stricter rules. But as we enter the ‘new normal’ phase, you have a chance to adapt.

Build a new routine around masks, gloves, and sanitization. A routine that your muscles and back-brain can memorize basically lets you ‘automate’, removing that stress in favor of more pressing thoughts while your hands work.

Stock Up on Silly or Beautiful Masks

  • Make yourself happy to wear
  • Make your patients smile to see

There’s a reason nurses wear scrubs in beautiful colors or covered in fun cartoons, and it’s not just for the patients. What you wear can influence your mental health, and now we must wear masks every day. So choose a set of masks that will make you smile to see them and make you feel good to wear them. It’s even better if your mask is friendly in a way that helps patients see that you are smiling, even though they can’t see your mouth.

The other reason to stock up on masks is for your own personal safety. Maybe your facility provides stacks of clean daily-washed masks, or maybe they don’t. But when you have your own supply as well, there’s never a need to worry if you can put on a fresh mask for the next patient.

Use a Roster or Checklist to Stay On-Track

If your tasks are becoming overwhelming or if new schedules have completely thrown off your natural rythm, delegate. In this case, delegate to a calendar or organization app. Use a roster, a checklist, or even a whiteboard at home to keep your day straight. List your tasks and map out any schedule that has changed or become complicated.

There’s no need to get overwhelmed with the new requirements brought on by COVID-era healthcare. Use the many tools at your disposal to get organized. Even if you’re a naturally well-put-together person who does not usually need an organizer, we are all augmenting with technology to get through these fast-changing times.

Make an Effort to Sleep Well

  • Same bed and wake times every day – when possible
  • Sleep for the same duration every sleep period – when possible
  • Exercise 30-120 minutes before bed
  • Take a hot bath or ask for a massage before bed
  • Stretch and meditate before bed
  • Do a security and clean-up round before bed
  • Wear an eye-mask and play white noise

Sleep is essential for energy and performance. When you feel like you should be sleeping the least is exactly when you need to defend good sleep hygiene. Make an effort not just for sleep-time, but also for sleep quality. Do what you can to get a really good night’s sleep as many times a week as possible.

Sleep Times

Keep as consistent a bedtime as you can, going to sleep and waking up at the same times. This will train your body to get sleepy and be wakeful on the right schedule. After that, do things to help yourself sleep more deeply. Darken your room completely or wear an eyemask. Use white noise to muffle outside sounds. 

Body Temperature

Manipulate your body temperature by making yourself hot, then cold, right before getting into bed. Exercise 30 minutes before bed. Cool down, then take a hot bath. Take time and relax. Get out of the bath into the cold house, let your body chill then crawl into bed. You’ll be asleep in no time.

Ease Your Mind

If you have a worried mind, there are a few things you can do as well. Stretch and meditate to ease your physical tension. Check doors and windows and do a final round of tidying before bed if you tend to worry about the house. Maybe even ask your partner for a massage to help you relax into sleep if you repay the favor when they need it most later on.

Continue to Eat Right

Treat your stomach with respect as well. You can’t help others if you, yourself, get sick from eating wrong. Don’t eat too quickly, make sure to get enough food, and choose foods that digest easily into energy. When your burning the candle at both ends to provide medical services during the COVID-19 pandemic, that’s when you need good clean calories the most.

There are two tactics, depending on your budget and circumstances. One is to prep a week of meals ahead of time, so the rest of your week is a healthy grab-and-go experience. The other is to order healthy food, which only works if it fits your budget and there’s a good place near your facility

Take Steps to Reach Your Inner Peace

Everyone gets a few moments of break-time during each day. Maybe it’s your 15 minutes with a yogurt and the news. Maybe it’s your drive to work. Whenever you get a moment – make it count. Learn to meditate quickly, achieving mindfulness and relaxing your body on command. Learn to find your inner-peace by taking a deep breath and reaching for that calm emotional center.

When you have a relaxing moment, be sure to savor it. Let yourself languish in a moment of quiet or the heat of a warm bath. This actually helps you release more stress per-second of off-time and therefore improves your mental health on tight schedule.

Take a Walk Before Bed

Walking is uniquely great for your mental health because it helps you process your thoughts and your stomach at the same time. Many healthcare professionals already know the benefits of a good walk, and now is the time to reap them. If you can’t sleep, if you don’t digest comfortably, or if you’re anxious after getting home – take a walk. Bring your dog or a family member or walk alone. Enjoy the quiet and the trees and your own thoughts. You might be surprised how much better you feel the next day if you walk each evening before bed.

Take a Quiet Moment for Breakfast Daily

Finally, remember to savor breakfast. Before you head out to your next shift, remember that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Instead of rushing off with a piece of toast in your mouth, take a moment. Close your eyes over your coffee and reflect on the day. Prepare yourself for the upcoming challenges and mentally practice your routine. Savor the flavor and nutrients of your breakfast and when that moment is done, then rush off.

Maintaining your mental health is essential for healthcare industry professionals today. The Covid-19 pandemic has sent millions to healthcare and caused millions more to be disconnected from their ongoing medical care. As one of those essential to keeping the world on its axis right now, take good care of yourself and keep yourself healthy inside and out. Contact us today for more insights for medical professionals during these trying time.

Sarah Parker

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