How to Take Care of Your Mental Health as a Medical Frontliner

How to Take Care of Your Mental Health as a Medical Frontliner

Jul 12, 2020 Published by Kathrin O'Neill

Table of Contents

The COVID-19 pandemic added a significant burden to the medical health workers. During this crisis, it’s common for everyone to experience increasing levels of emotional stress; however, as a medical frontliner, you’re more vulnerable and prone to the negative mental health effects that the COVID-19 brought upon everyone.

Finding the balance between their duty as a physician to the patient and their personal concerns about their own well-being is what pushes every medical frontliner to their breaking point. Not to mention that the landscape of the coronavirus disease is rapidly changing and every medical staff is doing their best to keep up.

The Journal of the American Medical Association has released the findings of their initial study of mental health among clinicians caring for patients with COVID-19. In the study, frontline health care workers caring directly for patients with COVID-19 reported higher levels of severe mental symptoms than those in secondary roles. They also found out that women were significantly more likely than men to report severe symptoms of anxiety, depression, and psychological distress.

This is why we couldn’t place enough importance on taking care of your mental health especially during these trying times. Keeping yourself healthy means not only keeping track of your physical wellbeing but your mental and psychological health as well. The American Medical Association provided certain strategies to help manage your mental health during COVID-19. Here are some highlights and takeaways:

1. Take Care of Yourself First

While the medical profession is a noble field, you have to put your own wellbeing first before helping others.

It’s valid to feel levels of frustration and helplessness as a physician during the pandemic. The natural reaction of every medical health worker is to continue working until all patients are well-treated; however, your health comes first. Moreover, attending to your mental health and psychosocial well-being is as important as managing your physical health. You’re no use to your own medical institution if you pushed yourself to the brink of total physical and mental exhaustion.

There’s a good reason why airline safety briefings always remind the passengers to put on their own oxygen masks before helping others in times of an emergency. You can’t treat or save someone else if you are already incapable to do so.

2. Let Yourself Feel

Every single person in the hospital is so focused on keeping the institution running despite the pandemic that sometimes, medical health workers would forget that they’re human and not robots that should keep grinding 24/7.

You, along with your colleagues, are likely to feel the increasing pressure due to the surge of care demands and other stressors. This is why it’s important to remind yourself that letting yourself feel stress and other emotions that are associated with your life and job are not a sign of weakness or a reflection on your ability to do your job.

Don’t make mental health conversations taboo in your workplace. If you’re stressed out, exhausted, or demotivated, let yourself feel it and let your co-workers feel theirs too. Just because you’re expected to perform on top of your shape during a pandemic, you’re stripped away of your capability to become human.

3. Choose Your Own (Healthy) Coping Strategy

The demands of your job, including the measures that you have to take to keep yourself and your family safe, make it easy for you to fall into a bad mental state. Not to mention your constant presence in such a high-stress environment.

This is why having your own coping strategy is important. The small pick-me-ups have a greater effect on your physical and mental state more than you think. May it be a small nib of chocolate between shifts to keep your morale up or finding a little alone time during work.

Social engagements are proven to help people cope with their own problems. However, physical distancing made us feel a little alone during these times. But, being away from others doesn’t mean that the communication should too. Most medical frontliners chose to not go home to their respective families to protect them which is why it’s important to keep in touch. Don’t let the distance dictate your contact with other people in and out of your work.

4. Be Self-Aware of Your Mental Health

With the daily physical toll on your body, it’s easy to overlook the state of your mental health. To keep yourself psychologically healthy, you have to constantly monitor yourself for symptoms of depression or stress disorder. It could be anywhere from prolonged sadness, difficulty in sleeping, or feelings of hopelessness.

If you think that you’re more comfortable doing this with someone else, talk to your trusted coworker or to a professional. Your institutions should provide their staffs with proper mental health guidance like scheduled check-ups and therapy sessions. Take advantage of those psychosocial support to keep yourself as mentally healthy as possible.

5. Remember the Importance and Meaning of Your Work

The road to becoming a medical professional is not easy. The amount of work and studying that you put through college and medical school is no joke. When it comes to the job itself, it’s not anywhere near as easy, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is why reminding yourself of why you chose this profession is important. Remind yourself of the hard work that you put through despite the multitude of challenges just for you to reach your profession. The medical field is, and always will be, a noble calling. Your ability to take care of others in a time of great uncertainty is an ability that no one could take away from you no matter what challenges you face in your career.

During these trying times, the sole motivation of a medical professional is to pursue a better and healthy future for their community. Your sacrifices during the fight of COVID-19 will be well-remembered by everyone so make sure to take the time to recognize your efforts and sacrifices.