The COVID-19 crisis has caused stress and struggles for many people, whether it is the isolation, anxiety of getting the virus, fear of losing one’s job or already losing one’s income, balancing being a caretaker and a full-time employee while working from home, and teh overall uncertainty of what the future holds. While a global pandemic is occurring, the mental health crisis continues to grow. There has been a widespread increase in substance abuse, domestic violence, and general mental health struggles during the era of the pandemic.
Although we are all struggling with current events, frontline workers such as medical professionals, paramedics, firefighters, police, janitorial staff, and others find themselves right on the battlefield of trying to stay healthy while providing care for those around them. The pressure of being called a hero is overwhelming. An NIH study shows that these frontline workers are being subjected to chronic brain trauma with side effects of depression, anxiety, difficulty sleeping, nightmares, and more.
We are launching a support system for frontline workers to be able to discuss their triumphs and tragedies with others who understand. Many places where the frontline workers work are not adequately providing the necessary support.
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Here are some ideas of coping skills that may help reduce the immense stress frontline workers undergo during the COVID-19 crisis.
- You can’t pour from an empty glass. You have to take care of yourself before you can take care of others. When experiencing increase in anxiety and depression, mood changes, appetite changes, loss of enthusiasm for work, or even being at home, it might be time to pick up some good self-care habits and remind yourself to take care of yourself.
- Turn off the news. Trying to keep up with the current events is straining. Using your break time to watch the news might not be the best idea, take that time to take a break and take care of yourself.
- Take a break. It is increasingly popular to continue to go, go, go, and forget to stop and breathe. Finding that balance is important. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from loved ones. Take the hour for self-care and have a friend or family member do the groceries.
- Social distancing doesn’t mean social isolation. Keep listening to local guidelines, but take time to work on your social life. Video chat friends and family, reach out to colleagues, use our social support system to connect with others. You are not alone in this.
- Exercise. Exercise is proven to increase wellbeing, mood, energy levels, and concentration. After a long shift, exercise may be the last thing you want to do, but there are many types of exercise from walks and runs, to yoga and strength training. Combine your social life with your exercise: call a friend while you go on a walk or do a Zoom yoga session.
- You can only control what you can. Much of the COVID-19 crisis is out of our own control, so it is important to focus on what you are able to control. Think about what you can do for yourself today. Exercise? Join our support chat? Call a friend? Find something in your power and do it.
- Don’t get sucked into substance use. A lot of people not on the frontline have made daily drinking, virtual happy hours, and drinking during the day a common action during the COVID-19 quarantine. It has become some sort of running joke. Try to keep your self-care healthy and not get sucked into what others are doing.