Airborne particles, bacteria, and miscellaneous germs are nothing new for Healthcare Providers. COVID-19 has brought personal health, mental health and wellness practices into the limelight. The increased stress of the pandemic has unfortunately cost various healthcare providers to take their lives. Now more than ever, it’s important for all healthcare providers to make both their physical health and mental health a top priority.
Mental Health Concerns Among Healthcare Professionals
Healthcare providers have been bombarded with many mental health issues during the COVID -19 crisis. Some of these include social isolation, acute stress disorder, depression, alcohol abuse and the fear of death. These mental health concerns all add an enormous stress on the body further decreasing it’s immune response.
Those Healthcare providers who have been coming in close contact with COVID-19 patients and are potentially exposed to the virus may exhibit symptoms of PTSD due to the potential for increased illness, death and supply shortages. PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is a chronic psychiatric illness that develops subsequent to experiencing a significant traumatic event. Studies show that those healthcare providers who have decreased social support are more susceptible to PTSD. People living with PTSD commonly start to manifest a dysregulation in the systems that regulate the stress response. This can lead to somatic inflammatory response and autoimmune diseases.
Healthcare providers tend to be selfless and put all others first. But, COVID-19 has sounded the alarms on personal health. It’s a huge wake up call for everyone to starry healthy.
Focus On Self-Assessment
As healthcare providers, we typically assess our patients before we give them a diagnosis. It’s important to take pause and complete a mini health assessment on yourself and ask yourself these questions:
- Are you feeling overly fatigued?
- Has your mood taken a vast shift from the normal?
- Are you experiencing feelings of guilt, anger or shame?
- Have you lost interest in pleasurable activities?
- Are you having trouble sleeping and or experiencing recurrent nightmares?
If your answer was yes to any of the above, then you need to stop and listen to your body and follow these 5 important tips:
1.Improve Your Diet And Boost Your Immune System
The food and supplements you put in your body can make a dramatic difference in your mental health as well as your body’s immune response. Chronic stress will decrease your body’s immune system, further making you susceptible to disease. Decreasing caffeine and alcohol intake will decrease your inflammatory response helping your immune system to function better.
Increase vitamin C through citrus fruits or supplements (75 mg/day for women 90 mg/ day for men). Eat a diet rich with foods like broccoli, bell peppers, garlic, ginger, spinach almonds, papaya, kiwi, poultry and shell fish. Decrease complex carbohydrates as well as limiting refined sugars. Getting enough vitamin D through diet and or sunlight is also important to mental health as low levels can cause depression, problems losing weight and bone loss. Supplementing with Zinc will boost your immune system and help fight of colds.
2. Exercise and Meditate
Another thing we take for granted is exercise. COVID-19 has shut down many gyms and exercise facilities around the country, but simple activities like walking, swimming, dancing and jumping rope can help boost your mood as well as keep the extra weight off. Meditating for 10-15 minutes a day is a great way to decrease stress as well as increasing mental focus.
3. Take Breaks While At Work
Yes, healthcare providers have a tendency of sometimes working straight through their shifts without taking any breaks. Breaks are crucial and, in many states, legally mandated for all healthcare providers. Make yourself a priority during your busy day and take a power nap or go for a walk. Make a point to get off all electronics for at least 10-15 minutes and regroup with yourself and get grounded. You’ll feel more energized and empowered to finish your day.
4. Phone A Friend
Technology has made communicating easy yet complex. Many of us quickly resort to texting when we want to communicate. But hearing someone’s voice and connecting with someone on the phone or through facetime, who will let you just vent while they simply listen can do volumes for your mental health.
When working in high stress environments, designating a friend who understands that sometimes you just need to vent and let the emotions out is key. Perhaps have a couple of designated friends that understand that you need to do this. If they are unavailable, sometimes just going to your local coffee shop, or supermarket and engaging in idle chit chat with another human being will also help. Many apps are available for mental health support as well as in person mental healthcare providers who can help you navigate through difficult situations.
5. Becoming Conscious Of Your World And Environment
It’s always best to be as conscious and aware of your present state as possible. When things get rough and or chaotic it’s a good practice to take stock of how much you have achieved in your life. Take a pause, be conscious of your surroundings, the present moment, and take a deep breath. Finding a creative outlet like painting, coloring, writing, playing music and or dancing can also help uplift your mood and disconnect from your work life.
We as humans have the ability to shift our moods and create our environments. Like Viktor Frankel wrote in ‘Mans Search For Meaning’ “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” You are the master of your universe and in charge of your own health and wellbeing. It’s up to you to focus on what keeps you healthy and able to function at your highest capacity. After all, your health is in your wealth!
If you are someone you love is thinking about committing suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline for help 1-800-273-8255.