Working in a high-stress job can lead to anxiety in any industry. Doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals, however, are especially at risk of experiencing anxiety and burnout. While these feelings are common even during normal times, they are especially prominent when facing unprecedented challenges–such as the coronavirus outbreak.
During uncertain times, healthcare providers are often forced to work long hours and put their own health at risk to care for sick patients. They may be faced with decisions like whether to spend extended periods away from their loved ones or risk inadvertently getting them sick. While at work, they may have to make literal life-and-death decisions on the spur of the moment, deal with the loss of beloved patients and face a wide range of other issues.
Whether you are afraid of getting sick or spreading illness or you’re struggling with general anxiety related to your job, there are things you can do to reduce your stress. From washing your scrubs using antimicrobial laundry detergent to making time to relax, here are a few ways healthcare professionals can reduce their anxieties during uncertain times.
Freshen Up Your Work Wardrobe
Sometimes, even making a small change can have a big impact on your mood and overall sense of well-being. If you’ve been wearing the same drab scrubs to work for years, consider investing in some new ones that will make you look and–more importantly–feel great! Cute scrub jackets are an excellent way to freshen up your look and put a smile on your face. Your new look may even brighten your patients’ day, too.
If you’re feeling tired, run-down and anxious, now might be a good time to think about upgrading your nursing shoes, too. Spending your entire shift on your feet takes a serious toll on your body, and if your shoes aren’t up for the job, they could be having a negative impact on your overall sense of well-being. Healthcare professionals put a lot of strain on their shoes, so even if yours aren’t that old, they may be due to be replaced.
Participate in Group Activities and Classes
Many hospitals and other medical facilities host or subsidize group activities or enjoyable classes for their employees. If your employer offers things like dance classes, art classes, etc., sign up! They’re a great way to spend time with your co-workers outside of your normal working hours, and they can provide exceptional stress relief.
Even if your employer doesn’t offer group activities and classes, you can still participate in events elsewhere. Most communities host various classes, activities and events, or you can coordinate with your friends or co-workers to create your own. Even if it’s something as simple as getting together with a few friends to play board games or learn how to paint a simple picture, engaging in enjoyable activities with other people is a good way to take your mind off work and connect with others.
Keep in mind, even during the coronavirus pandemic, there are safe ways to participate in activities with other people. While you may not be able to sit in close proximity to other people, many organizations, businesses and communities are offering classes and other activities with social distancing guidelines in place to keep everyone safe.
When you spend eight, 12 or more hours each day caring for other people, it is easy to put caring for yourself on the back burner. Self-care is extremely important, though, especially for those who work in high-stress jobs. During the coronavirus outbreak, it is more important than ever before for healthcare professionals to take care of themselves.
Keep in mind that taking care of yourself does not have to take a lot of time or money. Even something as simple as reminding yourself to slow down and enjoy a healthy lunch can be an act of self-care. Other options include engaging in activities you enjoy–such as writing, painting, knitting, etc.–or making time for things like meditation and exercise. You could also go get a massage, get your nails done or even spend a half-hour relaxing in a hot bubble bath at home.
Remind yourself that self-care is not selfish. Taking care of yourself is just as–if not more–important as taking care of others. If you want to be the best healthcare professional you can be, you need to take care of yourself to ensure you are functioning at your highest level. During stressful times, self-care can be the difference between feeling completely anxious and overwhelmed and being able to cope with the pressures of your day.
Know When to Reach Out for Help
Whether it’s confiding in a trusted friend or seeking guidance from a professional counselor, it’s important to recognize when you need to reach out for help. Working in healthcare is incredibly stressful during the best of times. Add the challenges of something like a global pandemic, and it’s only natural to need help. Managing mental health for healthcare professionals is a huge concern and certainly should not be taken lightly.
If you are feeling isolated due to social distancing guidelines and trying to protect your loved ones, consider reaching out via video chat. While it’s not the same as hanging out in person, it can help you fill the void when you’re feeling lonely. If you are dealing with anxiety or depression that cannot be eased by chatting with a loved one or friend, consider seeking professional help. There is no shame in reaching out for help, and there are resources to help you overcome your struggles.
The Bottom Line
Life as a healthcare professional is stressful, and it is normal to feel anxious. You don’t, however, have to let your anxiety take over your professional or personal life. If you are struggling with anxiety, try the suggestions above or make an appointment with a mental healthcare provider.