Laurel Road: A 5-Step Guide to Reducing Stress as a Frontline Healthcare Worker

As a frontline healthcare worker protecting communities during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s natural to feel stressed, anxious or overwhelmed. It’s easy to slip into putting everyone’s needs before your own with changing pressures and demands both at home and in the workplace. Taking small steps to manage your emotional health today can help you be your best self now and in the future, for your patients and your loved ones.

1. Accept that some level of stress is rational

It makes sense to be stressed or anxious as a healthcare worker. The future is uncertain, and there are life-threatening dangers. However, it is important to understand when distress is interfering with your daily life.

A certain level of stress might push you to do your best under pressure, and it can be helpful in making tough decisions like staying away from loved ones. However, stress that keeps you up with insomnia, anxiety that keeps you refreshing news sites while off the clock, or depression that keeps you from eating enough to fuel you — that’s when understandable emotional responses become self-destructive. 

2. Focus on what you can control

You might have heard of (or even recommended to patients) the “Circle of Concern” technique, which consists of writing out all of your worries and marking down which ones you can realistically influence. It’s a useful tool to help us understand that even though we might have concerns spanning the whole world, we can only control ourselves and our actions. We have to direct our energy toward what is actually within our power, right now, at the present moment.

Easier said than done? Of course. It’s a struggle not to worry about things that are legitimately frightening and dangerous, and as a healthcare worker, you might feel like you could or should be in control of everything. But rationally, we know that’s not possible, so try to allow yourself to cast aside those feelings.

What’s more, handling stressors that you can control can lighten your overall load. Being proactive about less-impossible struggles like managing student loan debt and figuring out a grocery shopping strategy will help you be more resilient when it comes to the bigger issues weighing on your mind.

3. Stay on top of self-care basics

When you’re in the middle of a high-stress situation, things like eating and sleeping can feel trivial to worry about, not to mention are made more challenging by the hectic schedule you’re all too familiar with as a healthcare worker. Nevertheless, these behaviors are the fundamental building blocks of physical and mental health.

Try to spend some time every day doing physical exercises you enjoy. Do the best you can to maintain good sleep hygiene (no screens in bed!). Eat as regularly and balanced a diet as possible. Avoid drinking and mood-altering drugs, even if they seem like a simple way to unwind — alcohol is a depressant and may heighten your emotional vulnerability even days later.

It also might be a great time to practice mindfulness. The meditation app Headspace is offering free subscriptions for anyone working in a public health setting.

4. Reach out to your support system

Being quarantined has been difficult for everyone, and particularly for people on the front lines. Try to find low-pressure, distracting ways to connect with people, such as staying on a phone call while you do chores, or watching an old favorite TV show on Netflix Party. Don’t feel like you have to exclusively video call — while seeing people’s faces can be comforting, lots of people find video calls draining.

If you’re extremely distressed, don’t be afraid to seek help even in the middle of quarantine. Telepsychology tools can connect you with social workers, psychiatrists, couple’s therapy or simple peer support, and many therapists are currently offering virtual sessions.

5. Think about the end goal

For some people, it helps to zoom out and think about the bigger picture. Don’t be afraid to plan for the future, and remember that this is fundamentally temporary. Although so much is being asked of healthcare workers right now, it’s important to remember that you’re as deserving of care, health and happiness as any of your patients.

Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank N.A., member FDIC.

Any third-party linked content is provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement by KeyBank N.A. and its brand Laurel Road of any third-party product or service mentioned.

Source: Laurel Road


Categories: Healthcare

Tags: Coronavirus, Healthcare Worker, Pandemic, Self-care

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Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $7 billion in federal and private school loans.