Looking after people every day, can be exhausting, especially in situations where you feel powerless i.e. an international pandemic. Put your oxygen mask on first, so that you have the capacity to help others. Here are some tried and tested coping strategies to help you stay sane
1. Update limitation
Choose a reliable source to obtain information about COVID-19 and check that resource a set number of times a day e.g. once a day
2. Physical distance, not emotional isolation
Speak to your colleagues and seniors for support. You know that habit of bringing up work whenever you’re around healthcare workers in social settings? That’s a form of therapy. Your colleagues are going through similar experiences, lean on each other. You may not be able to see your loved ones but keep in contact via digital platforms. Social distance does not mean emotional isolation
3. It’s okay not to have all the answers
Friends, family and patients will approach you for answers; they will assume you know everything. It's uncomfortable not to but this pandemic is evolving; you don’t have all the answers and neither do your superiors. That can be stressful and it’s okay.
4. Tune into your stress levels
Meditation helps you touch base with how your body and mind are holding onto stress. It’s difficult at first but after the first few times, you’ll notice the difference. YouTube has many useful guided tutorials. Headspace is a very useful app if you’d like different daily meditation guidance (Disclaimer, to access app features, there is a fee. The website features are free). Try this 1-minute Headspace mini meditation as a start
5. Feeling overwhelmed is normal
You’re not alone. This is the most important part of the experience to realise. As a healthcare worker, you’re always expected to be the support structure that has their life together. If you’re struggling emotionally, you are not the only one. Allow yourself to feel your emotions. If you need assistance with processing your emotions, refer to our directory for a mental health professional.
When you’re stressed, it becomes more challenging to get enough rest. Limit factors that steal away hours of sleep. Measures you can take include limiting screen time before bed; building a routine like showering and having a cup of tea before bed; limit caffeine close to bedtime; don’t sleep with your phone next to you; exercise after work. The less sleep you get, the more anxious you become.
7. Nourish your body
You are like a plant; you won’t thrive if you don’t look after yourself. Drink enough water and eat regularly. Eating enough during a workday can be challenging, that’s why you need to have a plan for what you’ll be eating, even if that plan includes buying lunch. Pro-tip: have a small water bottle and protein bars on your person to keep your energy levels up.
At home, if cooking is something you dread, make it more enjoyable by trying out new recipes. Cooking enough food for multiple days to decrease the number of times you’re cooking also doesn’t hurt morale. If you’re struggling to prepare food, there’s no shame in allowing Woolworths to help you out. Taking care of yourself doesn’t mean your life needs to look like a health blog, but you need to intentionally nourish your body.
8. Physical exercise
Exercising regularly has become more challenging with lockdown regulations, it's easy to fall out of a routine and become sedentary. Apps like the Nike Training Club or other online resources provide quick, convenient exercises you can do in your home, with or without equipment
9. Maintaining motivation
There is no end date for this pandemic. Maintaining motivation will be like a marathon, it’s not a sprint. Don’t burn yourself out. Check out the website next week, for a more detailed approach to staying motivated.
10. Pause --> Breathe --> Process
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a step back, breathe and then process what you’re feeling before acting.
1. NHS Extreme Stressors. Nathan Smith. University of Manchester. 2020
2. COVID-19: Your well-being. British medical association. https://www.bma.org.uk/media/2217/bma-wellbeing-covid-19-poster.pdf.