10 Mental Health Tips for Healthcare workers during the Covid-19 Crisis

Author: Shaznin Daruwalla, PsyD

Dr. Shaznin Daruwalla, a Licensed Clinical Psychologist at Oregon State University with experience in low resource settings such as Bangladesh and India, put together a list of best practices to maintain good mental and emotional health for healthcare professionals facing the Covid-19 crisis. 

As our communities are battling, bracing for, and recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic, healthcare workers are facing challenges on all fronts including mental health. Here are some mental health recommendations for you – the healthcare professionals on the frontline. I hope you find some of them helpful. Start with one before adding a new one. If you’re already doing all of them, try strengthening them by establishing a consistent routine (e.g., calling your loved ones every Sunday afternoon). 

  • First, it is normal if you and many of your colleagues might be feeling under pressure. The stress and the feelings associated with it do not mean that you cannot do your job or that you are weak. In fact, managing your mental health and psychosocial well-being during this time is as crucial as managing your physical health.
  • Therefore, take care of yourself at this time by using helpful coping strategies:
    • Caring for the body: Get sufficient rest and respite during work or between shifts, regular exercise, eat sufficient, healthy and regular meals.
    • Relationships: Maintain contact with family and friends, talk with your colleagues – whether they are part of your staff/department or in different parts of the world. It is likely that they might be having an experience similar to yours; knowing that you’re not alone in this might be really beneficial for your mental health and stress levels.
    • Take breaks: engage in activities you enjoy. Take deep breaths. Unplug, go for a walk. Meditate. Pray. Read.
    • Stay informed (responsibly): Minimize or limit exposure to news about COVID-19 that causes you to feel anxious or distressed. Getting frequent updates about the pandemic can be upsetting. Also, get your information from reliable sources (e.g., WHO). Facts can help minimize fears.
  • Avoid using unhelpful coping strategies such as use of tobacco, alcohol or other drugs. In the long term, these can worsen your mental and physical well-being. 
  • The COVID-19 outbreak is a unique scenario for many workers, particularly if they have not been involved in similar responses. Also, everyone reacts to stress differently. Your own reactions/feelings might also change over the course of this pandemic. Notice and accept your feelings.
  • Start with de-stressing strategies that have worked for you in the past. Remember, you are in charge! You are the best person to know how you can de-stress so do not hesitate in prioritizing your psychological well-being during these unprecedented times.  
  • This is a marathon, not a sprint. Therefore, pace yourself, be gentle and kind with yourself. 
  • Amplify hopeful stories and positive images of local people who have experienced COVID-19 (e.g., stories of people who have recovered).

Prepared by Shaznin Daruwalla, PsyD 

References: https://emergency.cdc.gov/coping/selfcare.asp | https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/mental-health-considerations.pdf?sfvrsn=6d3578af_2