It’s a cliché now to point out how COVID changed everything. From how we work and how we live to how we interact, perhaps no event in the 21st century will create the kind of huge cultural shifts we’ve seen over the past two years.
For healthcare workers, a global pandemic created an unprecedented strain on our systems of care. While physical health was at the forefront of the pandemic, quietly, behind the scenes, the mental health of our nation’s frontline workers suffered. The latest studies report “psychopathologies such as acute stress disorder and posttraumatic stress disorders.”
As a result, unprecedented numbers of healthcare professionals report burnout, which is now recognized in the ICD-11. During the pandemic, one in five healthcare workers left their jobs. Now, here we are two years later, and still dealing with the fallout from this disease.
How can healthcare workers protect themselves from burnout and other mental health symptoms from the pressures of the job? The answer is self-care.
Why Self-Care Matters to Your Mental Health?
As healthcare professionals, we’re trained to put the patient before ourselves. Yet without creating a professional distance, we learn early on that the highs and lows of the job can create serious and debilitating stress. How do you balance care and caring for the patient with care and caring for yourself?
Practicing self-care requires a level of self-compassion that enables healthcare workers to protect their mental health. These techniques could include:
- Relaxation practices such as yoga, meditation, or massage.
- Spending time with your family, family, and loved ones.
- Seeking the advice and support of your professional colleagues.
- Recreational activities and hobbies.
- Regular exercise.
- Journaling or another type of quiet internal reflection.
- Improved diet.
- Seek professional counseling.
- Spiritual practices that calm the mind and body.
- Vacation and time off.
- Getting an adequate amount of sleep.
Practicing self-care to improve your mental health requires frequently checking in with yourself, especially during times of high stress on the job. It also requires avoiding being overly critical about the work you’re doing—something we know is hard for many healthcare professionals. Self-critical thinking is easy to do when the stress is high, but if you can, prioritize and simplify tasks and focus on what’s in front of you. Don’t obsess over things you can’t control, and seek support from those around you.
Remaining aware of what’s going in inside you is difficult when the crisis is all around you. However, taking regular breaks when you can to process how you’re feeling is critical to your mental health. Having an outlet to express your emotions instead of repressing them can also help create better mental health.
What Are the Benefits of Mental Health Self-Care?
Researchers have studied the effects of self-care on our mental health and concluded it provides healthcare workers, “improved physical, mental, and emotional well-being.” Studies also found this kind of inner check-in helps us care more compassionately for our patients. Regular self-care can provide a kind of stability amongst the chaos of a busy shift.
It’s important to mention that this approach to improving your mental health is a practice of sorts. There will be days that are better—and some days will be worse. If you’ve been practicing the art of self-care but still find that the job environment is a struggle, consider giving us a call. There are dozens of jobs out there that you’re probably qualified for these days. All you have to do is take the next step to improve your work/life balance.
We have dozens of open positions waiting to be filled by amazing healthcare professionals like YOU! Browse our open positions today to get started!