Mental Health Week: Self care is essential in difficult times

Being a healthcare worker can be stressful at the best of times, but during a pandemic such as COVID-19 this has been amplified exponentially. In the current environment healthcare workers are not only caring for patients, they may be managing and leading a team and balancing a changing home life all at the same time. Mental Health Week serves as a reminder about the importance of self care during this time, while we remain focused on all the new physical precautions that have become part of our everyday lives.

In this blog we’ll share some tips on managing your own anxiety and stress in addition to supporting your team. As healthcare workers it is important that you care for yourself first so you can care for others.

Tips for decreasing anxiety and stress within your team

  • Have a plan – anticipate questions and concerns your employees may have and have solutions ready.
  • The first line of defence against anxiety is knowledge – given the huge amount of misinformation out there the workplace must be a source of reliable information.
  • Keep the lines of communication open – communicate with your staff on a regular basis even if there have been no major changes.
  • Be open – assure your staff that you are there to support them and listen to their questions and concerns. As well, be honest if you don’t have an answer but assure your staff that you will do your best to get the answer as soon as possible.  Involve the staff in problem solving.
  • Show empathy – reassure staff that it is okay to be nervous, anxious, and/or stressed. Have information/resources available for employees on how to access further assistance such as employee assistance programs, etc.
  • Understand that not everyone responds the same way but encourage staff to practice self-care, take time if needed, and seek out further supports/medical attention if needed.
  • Remind staff that there will be challenges but together as a team you can overcome them.

(Canadian Mental Health Association, 2020)

 Self-Care Tips

  • Share your concerns and problem solve with others (colleagues, supervisors, family, and friends)
  • Practice healthy habits
    • Get enough sleep
    • Eat healthy meals and snacks
    • Get fresh air and sunshine (while still practicing social distancing)
  • Take time to be mindful
    • Try square breathing (breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, breathe out for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds).
    • Carry out short meditations
    • Ground yourself with your five senses (5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things that you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing that you can taste).
  • Take regular breaks
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help
  • Do something you enjoy in your free time
  • Maintain routine at home
  • Be flexible
  • Connect with others for emotional support via social media, texting, and telephone
  • Use resources available to you at your workplace and beyond (e.g., employee assistance program)
  • Focus on the positive, know and accept what you can and cannot control

(Coons, 2020)

To end on a positive note: Can positivity be contagious?

Absolutely. While this virus is serious, being positive during this crisis can spread and help others. You staying positive can affect those around you – especially if you are in a leadership role. So, when you are wondering what you can do…staying positive is a great place to start.

Below are a few of the many resources available to support self-care during this pandemic but also support you in the future as part of routine self-care.

Selected Resources

Thank you to everyone working in healthcare – stay psychologically healthy and physically safe!

References

Canadian Mental Health Association. (2020, March 12). 6 tips to respond to employee anxiety about COVID-19. Retrieved from Canadian Mental Health Association: https://cmha.ca/news/6-tips-to-respond-to-employee-anxiety-about-covid-19

Coons, H. B. (2020, March 26). Self-care advice for health-care providers during COVID-19. Retrieved from American Psychological Association: https://www.apaservices.org/practice/ce/self-care/health-providers-covid-19

 


About the Authors:

Ami Whitlock is a Registered Dietitian with over 20 years of experience in the field, with many roles including:

      • Chair, Food Service and Nutrition Management Program, CHA Learning
      • Food service supervisor/manager
      • Director of food and environmental services
      • General manager of support services
      • Clinical dietitian
      • Auditor
      • Independent dietitian consultant

Ami also has a Bachelor of Education and currently teaches high school in addition to her work as a registered dietitian.

 

Wendy Scott is a Consulting Dietitian in Vancouver.

Wendy’s many career opportunities include Assistant Food Service Director at Royal Columbian Hospital, several clinical positions in long-term care, a dietitian with Corrections Canada, and Regional Director of Nutrition for Compass Group.

Currently, Wendy is an Ecosure Field Specialist and Dietitian with the B.C. Ministry of Children and Families. She is also an advisor to Accreditation Canada to help develop the new standards on client and family- centred care. Wendy continues in her long-standing role as instructor and advisor for HealthCareCAN’s Food Service and Nutrition Management Program.