Think about your average work day during COVID-19. Chances are, it looks nothing like it did several months ago before the pandemic began. Today, if you’re a healthcare provider, you might be filling in or helping out in other departments, working long past your scheduled shift length, and running back and forth trying to accomplish all of your scheduled work and more. You may be more consumed by your work than ever before by necessity during these uncertain times.
At the end of the day, you may be a healthcare superstar, but you’re also still human. While taking care of your patients can be fulfilling in its own sense, being human still means you can’t run on empty. In order to be capable of giving the best care to those who need it most, you’ll need to take care of yourself first. Here are four ways you can be mindful of your own health amid such a demanding season for healthcare workers.
1. Take time to unwind
You’ve got family and other obligations to take care of once you’re off the clock. You may feel that truly the work never ends. This may be true, in a sense. But being intentional about your time off is essential in giving your mind and body a rest from the stress of the day. Even if it means looking for help—asking a family member to cook a meal, or a friend to run an errand for you—so that you can have some time to sit down and take a breather. Maybe that looks like reading a book in bed, listening to music while you clean, watching a movie with your kids, or enjoying a long bath—whatever makes you feel like yourself again. Even partaking in small tasks like these for an hour can bring you relief, and as a result, energy to spend quality time with the ones you love during your time at home.
2. Practice Self-compassion
Go easy on yourself. While you might be tempted to feel like a bad parent or spouse during this time where you can’t seem to find the time to fulfill everyone’s needs, realize that chances are, your family members understand. Don’t beat yourself up because you can’t be everything for everyone. Like all things, this time of stress will pass. You may be struggling for a season, but it won’t last forever. Give yourself some grace, and keep your self-talk positive. Even the strongest can’t burn the candle at both ends and not feel weak and inadequate at times. Focus on the things that fulfill you, and remember what you’re doing it all for.
3.Reduce Screen Time Before Bed
According to the Cleveland Health Clinic, the blue light emitted from your cell phone screen can actually reduce the amount of melatonin in your body and make it harder for you to fall asleep at night. Have you ever came home from work—completely exhausted—but for the life of you, could not fall asleep when it was time to turn out the lights? Using your phone before bed can also keep you psychologically stimulated, which in turn will make its more difficult for your brain to “shut off” when you want to fall asleep. Try putting your phone away for at least an hour before you’d like to be asleep, and see how it affects how quickly you fall asleep and how well you are sleeping!
4.Set aside time for social interaction
It’s amazing how hearing the voice of a loved one during a long day can immediately boost your mood. If you’re feeling especially burnt out, try seeing if a friend or family member has time for a phone or video call during your lunch hour. Catching up with friends can be a pleasant distraction from all that you’ve been worrying about all day. Taking time out of your day to speak with friends and family will also speak volumes to them. They know how swamped you are at work, and just the fact that you’ve taken time for them will show them how valued they are.
Being mindful is considering not only the patients under your care, but also your friends and family, and most of all your own mental health. While other people can help you with that, you’re the only one who is truly in control of the habits you form, your internal dialogue, and the ways you bring yourself out of anxiety and stress. We are emotional beings, and sending yourself on an emotional high for even an hour by doing something you love has the capacity to change your whole day. Don’t forget to take that time for yourself, and actually feel like the superstar that you are right now. Realize that you are appreciated, valued, and respected during this time—and always.