The Importance of Self-Care for Healthcare Professionals during COVID-19
August 11, 2020
By Tom Florence, EVP at Merritt Hawkins
Since the COVID-19 virus began its rapid spread across the
U.S. approximately five months ago, healthcare professionals have been
tirelessly working and caring for patients, risking their own health and even
their lives each day they walk through the hospitals’ and doctors offices’ doors.
When constantly looking out for others, it can be easy to
neglect the importance of taking care of oneself. However, self-care is an
essential practice for all individuals, particularly for those who are being
exposed to the coronavirus and seeing the significant and sometimes fatal
impacts that it has had on countless individuals throughout the entire world.
While everyone responds to situations differently and has
different methods of coping with stress and anxiety, below are options for
healthcare workers to employ in order to practice self-care and help minimize
the risks of burnout and mental and physical illnesses as a result of working
through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Vocalize your feelings.
Don’t hesitate to talk with your coworkers or an on-site
chaplain regarding how you are feeling. Caring for coronavirus patients and
consistently facing the dangers it presents to you and to others can have a
tremendous emotional impact on you and your well-being. It would also be wise
to speak to a therapist, especially if you begin to experience “compassion fatigue,”
in which your desire to provide care and help to others diminishes.
Participate in the hobbies and activities that you enjoy.
Exercising on a regular basis carries significant benefits
and helps to improve an individual’s overall quality of life. Not only does it
change your body, metabolism, heart, and spirits,
but it also allows you to set aside specific time in your routine to focus on you.
Stay connected to the people in your life.
While socialization and spending time with loved ones may
look different during this time, technology has made it possible for
individuals to stay connected with their friends and family members when they
are unable to see them in person. By regularly communicating with and
connecting with others, health professionals reduce the risk of anxiety and depression.
In fact, one study
of social relationships and health found that connectedness leads to a variety
of additional health benefits, while lack of social connection with others can
lead to an increased risk of death.
Properly nourish your body.
When always focusing on patient care and not self-care, it
can be rather easy for doctors and nurses to neglect proper eating and sleeping
habits. However, in order to be capable of providing the best care possible for
their patients, healthcare providers must make sure that they are sustaining
their energy with healthy diets and adequate sleep (at least 7 hours).
Additionally, making concerted efforts to drink water throughout the day is
essential, as well. Staying hydrated not only benefits an individual’s physical
health, but it also helps to improve cognitive abilities.
Take time for yourself.
Whether it’s meditation, a brief walk outside, or a number
of other methods, taking time to escape the stressful environment within a
COVID-19 hospital setting is imperative for the mental and emotional well-being
of healthcare professionals. Doing so allows time for processing your thoughts
and feelings and gives your mind a chance to reset, which will ultimately help
you focus and maintain your concentration better when you are back at work.
Remember that it is difficult to effectively help others if
you are not mentally and physically well yourself. Monitoring your own
self-care habits will help to ensure that you are in the best condition to help
those who need care most during the global pandemic.
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