Health care providers and hospital staff are on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Staying mentally healthy is important for managing the multiple and unique demands of this situation.
Strategies for managing COVID-19 stress
Here are some science-backed, self-care strategies for managing stress:
- Manage anxiety. Increased anxiety is common as we deal with stressful situations. Patient care and uncertainty about personal health, family, finances, childcare and cancellations are highly stressful. Action is one of the best ways to manage anxiety and worry. Share your concerns and problem-solve with colleagues, family and friends to develop a personalized coping plan.
- Pace yourself. Our work is a marathon not a sprint. Monitor yourself for excessive fatigue, irritability, poor concentration or marked anxiety. Don’t forget to refuel yourself with healthy eating and rest.
- Breathe. Take a moment for slow and steady breathing throughout the day. Keep it simple—take three to five slow breaths, tell yourself to “slow down” or “stay calm” or simply “breathe.” Good times to practice this are before entering a patient room or procedure, when you wash your hands and before you eat.
- Keep moving. Exercise is vital for stress reduction. When you’re home, consider walking, running, biking, or visit the virtual gym. When you’re at work, try walking or running a flight of stairs, doing jumping jacks or running in place for short bursts of acute exercise throughout the day. This has been shown to mitigate the effects of chronic stress response activation.
- Stay connected. Reach out to family, friends, colleagues, and other sources of support to maintain a sense of connection and reduce isolation. Meaningful, fun and frequent contact (especially virtually) will help provide the emotional support vital to your well-being.
- Take mental health breaks. Encourage your team to take mini breaks during these especially long work days. Take a minute to yourself. Take a walk. Plan and give yourself permission to take the necessary down time when away from work. Recharge with a book, movie, podcast or games with your family or friends. Practice mindfulness techniques for stress management and relaxation.
- Stay flexible. Increased demands for care, social distancing and other stressors unique to this situation will test our ability to tolerate uncertainty and change. We may be asked to modify our typical approach to practice meeting the demands of an ever-evolving situation. Ask for support, stay flexible and responsive, and keep moving forward.