When we talk about populations who are vulnerable to getting COVID-19, the healthcare community always tops out the list. Doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers put themselves at risk daily to help people overcome this silent threat that is taking so many lives.
But it’s important to remember that healthcare workers are exposed to more than just the virus itself. Those on the front lines have a front-row seat to the worst of what this virus has to offer.
Now more than ever is a time to take care of our mental health, so we can continue showing up for those in need.
Remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
So many healthcare workers are dedicated to putting the job before their own wellbeing, but we need to remember to cover the basics before we can truly be of service to others.
If you’re forgetting to eat and not sleeping well, burnout is almost inevitable. These may be the furthest things from your mind, but they are most crucial to your physical and mental health.
There’s a strong link between nutrition and mental health, and if you aren’t getting the right nutrients, you may be at greater risk for developing symptoms of depression and anxiety. According to a 2008 Indian Psychiatry review, the most common nutrient deficiencies found in patients with mental disorders are omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and minerals and amino acids that are precursors to neurotransmitters (e.g., Phenylalanine and tyrosin).
Research is also showing a strong link between gut health and depression, so taking a daily probiotic may also be helpful during such an intense time and beyond. Taking a probiotic has many benefits, including improved gut function, improved cardiovascular function, and reduced symptoms of certain allergies. Overall, this can be a helpful addition to your stress-busting and healthy-living arsenal.
We also cannot underestimate the importance of a good night’s rest. If you are currently having trouble sleeping, consider natural sleep remedies like chamomile tea or valerian root. Or talk to your own doctor about potential solutions.
Practice Mindful Breathing
You may not have control over your schedule or how many patients you see, but you can take hold over those few moments in-between patients. Use that time to practice mindful breathing. Even if it’s only for 10 seconds, this can impact your anxiety levels. A 2016 PLoS One study found that mindful breathing not only had a positive impact on anxiety, but it also improved automatic positive thoughts. It’s not a magic bullet, but if it helps you feel slightly less overwhelmed, it’s a win.
Stick to a Routine
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a giant blazing wrench into so many of our daily routines, but that doesn’t mean all is lost. Instead of going to the gym, you may do a workout at home. Instead of a girl’s night out, you may do a Zoom get-together. Try to keep as close to your regular routine as possible and avoid falling into any unhealthy coping mechanisms like drinking alcohol. And if you’ve already fallen into that trap, be on the lookout for the warning signs of substance abuse. Drugs and alcohol will only exacerbate feelings of anxiety and depression. Instead, try to foster healthy habits whenever you can. Meditation and yoga are great natural stress relievers.
Mental health should always be a priority, but it’s especially important today as healthcare workers have been swept up in the demand of the current pandemic without warning. We must also remember that if we don’t take care of ourselves, we won’t be capable of caring for others.