As a healthcare practitioner, your job is to care for the health and well-being of others. Often putting patients’ needs above your own, this can lead to long hours and a strong emotional investment.
For these reasons, clinicians—under the most ordinary circumstances—are at risk of higher burnout than employees in other industries. Given the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s normal to be feeling even higher levels of stress, anxiety, and physical and mental exhaustion—especially as you pick up extra shifts and care for a higher volume of critical patients.
While you may be attempting to push these feelings aside, it’s important to remember that better self-care leads to better patient care. Taking care of yourself, both physically and mentally, will help you stay alert, focused, and present on the job. To implement self-care into your daily routine (and to keep burnout in check), check out these self-care tips:
For those who feel particularly anxious or overwhelmed, practicing mindfulness can help you get a grip on all of the thoughts racing through your head. While mindfulness can be one of the most difficult self-care tips to grasp, simple exercises such as measured breathing, meditation, taking in your surroundings, and active listening can help you lower your stress levels and be a more effective practitioner.
Practicing mindfulness can give you the tools you need to slow down. When every second counts, it can be tough to take a moment to ensure you are going through all the necessary steps to not only care for your patients, but for yourself. As you go from one patient to another, remember to be quick, but not to rush. The same concept should be applied to your self-care routine. Allow yourself to take regular breaks and re-center your mindset.
Focus on your relationships
Social distancing, quarantines, and worrying about passing the virus onto your loved ones and colleagues can make you feel especially isolated. Even if you can’t physically be in the same room as your family and friends, it’s important to keep interacting with them. Whether that’s through phone calls, texts, or video chats, make the effort to check in with your support system. These conversations can help you unwind after what can be a long and stressful day!
When your job involves combatting the pandemic head on, the news and social media can be very overwhelming. While it’s important to stay informed of current events and recent developments, too much screen time can start to impact your ability to get a good night’s sleep. Try to find a balance.
Take a break from home responsibilities
More easily said than done, taking a night (or morning) off from some of your home responsibilities can give you a small window to recharge. This form of self-care could mean a number of things, including getting a friend to watch the kids, ordering takeout instead of cooking, and simply allowing yourself some flexibility at home. While home life can get hectic, see if you can sit down for 30 minutes and read a book or watch a new television show. Taking time to do small things for yourself can remind you prioritize your own needs when they’re so easy to abandon.
Exercise + maintain your healthy habits
This may seem counterintuitive if you’re really exhausted, but sticking to your normal eating and workout routines is an important part of self-care. Since physical and mental health are correlated, staying active—whether that’s a virtual workout or a quick walk—and eating balanced, healthy meals can increase your energy levels and help you to feel a renewed sense of focus.
Start a journal
Sometimes we just need a time and place to sort out our thoughts to begin to feel refreshed. In addition to analyzing our stressors, a journal can serve as a log that you can look back on. In chronicling your everyday life, you may find an unhealthy pattern or a particular event that always causes you more anxiety. As a result, you might be able to extract those root causes that are contributing to your burnout.
For more self-care tips for healthcare practitioners during COVID-19, check out these resources: