Working on the front-lines during COVID-19 is nothing short of tiring physically and emotionally. Health care workers dedicate their lives to care for others, but caring for patients during the COVID-19 pandemic is truly unprecedented for many, causing rising stress levels and anxiety. Health care workers are putting themselves and their families at risk for potential exposure and spread from a virus with no vaccine or approved treatment as of yet. Some workers have even chosen to isolate from their families to reduce risk of transmission.
Health care workers are essential to caring for the community, but stress, anxiety and exhaustion can lead to burnout. Acknowledging feelings of stress, supporting each other and knowing when to ask for help are all strategies to build resilience and cope throughout the pandemic and beyond.
Acknowledge and understand feelings
Health care workers may be experiencing a variety of heightened emotions, including sadness, anxiety, loneliness, fear or helplessness. Some of these feelings can lead to lack of motivation, exhaustion and lowered concentration. Acknowledging these feelings and talking to family members, friends or coworkers about them can help you realize you are not alone.
Support yourself and each other
No health care worker is alone in this pandemic. There are multiple ways to seek support for yourself and care for others on your team, including the following.
- Talk openly with your colleagues and manager about how the pandemic is affecting you.
- Identify strategies with your team to help each other cope but stay connected, i.e., ensuring everyone takes breaks and a full lunch, sharing compliments or hosting virtual hangouts after work.
- Learn what resources are available to you from your employer. UF Health Jacksonville employees have access to the Center for Healthy Minds and Practice, or CHaMP, via on-site or virtual appointments.
- Take breaks from the news, social media or constant conversations about the pandemic.
- Exercise when you can – whether it’s a short walk outside on a break from work, or at home on your days off.
- Get plenty of sleep and stick to a daily routine to keep your sense of control.
- Understand and recognize the things that you cannot control, and focus on what you can.
Fortunately, respect and support for health care workers from the community and nationwide has drastically increased over the past few months. Many are sharing their support through food and supply donations, creative song parodies and social media campaigns encouraging all to stay home when they can. If you choose to engage in social media, check out the positive posts and stories first!
Know when to seek help
If stress and anxiety are overcoming your ability to focus, stay motivated or sleep, it can help to talk to someone outside of your inner circle. Now more than ever, mental health is truly important, and any sort of stigma should not prevent you from seeking help.
Many workplaces offer support for employees, whether through an employee assistance line, a dedicated support center on-site, or coverage for therapy sessions. Review your employee handbook, human resources site or intranet to explore these options.
UF Health Psychiatry currently offers online virtual visit appointments. Call 904-383-1002 to make an appointment or visit UFHealthJax.org/psychiatry to learn more about services offered.
Various helplines are also available to all in case of emergency or if immediate assistance is needed 24/7:
- Disaster Distress Hotline: Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746
- The online Lifeline Crisis Chat is a free, confidential chat service that connects you to a skilled counselor
- National Suicide Prevention Hotline: Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMHSA: Searches for mental health providers or treatment options in your area.