• The Pandemic’s Impact on the Mental Health of Healthcare Workers

    The coronavirus pandemic that began in 2020 took a toll on everybody’s mental health. Everybody has lived in a state of fear and uncertainty throughout this pandemic. People have feared losing their income, essential workers found themselves worried about being exposed to the virus, and many have lost loved ones to the virus. Most of the world, however, endured this pandemic in the comforts of their home, alongside their families.

    Perhaps the most affected by the pandemic were the world’s healthcare workers. Working tirelessly around the clock, witnessing the effects of the virus in person, having to quarantine themselves to prevent their loved ones from catching the highly contagious virus, and fearing for their own health and safety, stating that the heroes we call healthcare workers had a tough year is truly an understatement. The constant stress caused by these issues can lead to many mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

    What the Statistics Say

    Healthcare workers have been performing under high-stress conditions throughout this entire pandemic. These conditions can cause mental health issues for anybody. Knowing this, researchers have already conducted a multitude of research about the mental health of healthcare workers who have worked through the pandemic.

    Mental Health America found that 93% of healthcare workers who participated in their survey were dealing with stress, 86% reported experiencing anxiety, and 76% reported experiencing feelings of exhaustion and burnout. Young, et al. (2020) found that, through a survey conducted in April of 2020, 33% of healthcare workers reported clinically meaningful anxiety, 29% reported mild depression symptoms, 17% reported moderate to severe depressive symptoms, and 14% screened positive for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

    Healthcare workers have experienced many fears of exposing loved ones to the virus. Many live with high-risk parents, spouses, or children that they do not want to expose to the virus for fear of the repercussions. 76% of healthcare workers who participated in Mental Health America’s survey reported being worried about exposing their children to the virus, with about 50% worrying about exposing their spouse, and 47% worrying about exposing an older family member.
    Many healthcare workers are operating on empty. They have found themselves changing their sleeping habits, eating habits, and dreading going into the job they once dreamt of having. Healthcare workers who are parents feel as though they are unable to spend quality time with their children, with around half reporting that they feel as though they cannot be fully present or offer their children support.

    Tips for Coping with Stress

    With the introduction of the COVID-19 vaccines & booster shots, there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel. This does not mean that the pandemic is over just yet, though. If you are a healthcare worker who has worked through these scary and uncertain times, working to take care of your physical and mental health is crucial. There is a saying that says, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” This saying is so true. Healthcare workers are some of the most selfless and caring people you will ever meet, but they may struggle to care for themselves. Neglecting to care for yourself can increase symptoms of stress and often leads to burnout and exhaustion.

    A few tips for dealing with stress while on the job include:

    Communicating with your colleagues about your feelings and thoughts during this tough time. Sometimes, all we need is to vent to somebody we know understands just what we are going through. Open up to your colleagues about how your work has been affected by this pandemic, how you can create a less stressful work environment, and do not be afraid to ask about your job’s mental health resources.

    Control the things you can and learn to accept the things you cannot control. As a healthcare worker, you will experience many instances in which situations are no longer in your hands. Creating a structured routine for your everyday life can grant you that need for control that will get you through the day. On the other hand, learning to release your worries about the things that are out of your control will be crucial in maintaining your mental health.

    Take care of your physical health. Our physical health is extremely important to maintaining our mental health. Make sure you are getting enough sleep, stay hydrated throughout the day, eat enough nutritious daily, and move your body in some way or another.

    Practice mindfulness techniques. Mindfulness techniques like yoga, breathwork, or meditation are great tools to help relax you when you are feeling stressed. There are great resources all over the internet to learn mindfulness techniques for free like blog posts and YouTube videos.

    Take time to unplug. It can become easy to be consumed in the news that surrounds us. News about the pandemic can be found everywhere from our phones to our television screens. Constantly consuming news about the pandemic can increase your stress levels unnecessarily. Try to occupy your time outside of work with things that bring you joy, instead. Work on a hobby, get outside, or connect with loved ones however you can. When you are not at work, make sure to make time to truly wind down and relax. You deserve a break.

    Be kind to yourself. You, along with everyone else in the world, are experiencing a strange and terrifying time.  Understand that you are doing the best you can and practice self-compassion.

    When to Seek Help

    If you are experiencing mental health issues that are beginning to take their toll on your overall quality of life, know that you are not alone. There is help for you. Talk to your workplace about their mental health resources. Seeking the help of a mental health professional can help you work through the issues you are experiencing, understand why you are feeling this way, and help you find the right treatment for you.

    If you need help working embracing who you are as a human, as well as a professional  – let’s chat!  I provide online therapy in Ohio, Tennessee, Florida, CaliforniaTexas, and Pennsylvania.  I’m proud to offer online therapy for helping professionals, online therapy for busy professionals, and Therapy for Therapists™. I specialize in treating imposter syndrome, burnout, and anxiety using The Daring Way™ and offer online workshops to clients who want to overcome shame. Contact me today and let’s be rockstars together!

    If you want to know more about me you can read about me as a therapist. Or, if you’re curious about my therapy practice then check out my FAQs, or read my mental health blog.

    As always, take care of you and know that you are not alone –

    References:
    https://mhanational.org/mental-health-healthcare-workers-covid-19
    https://ps.psychiatryonline.org/doi/10.1176/appi.ps.202000424

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