"Enisa, an emergency room nurse, has been on duty for the past 18 hours. She hasn't eaten and has only managed to take 3 five-minute breaks today. She's exhausted and she can feel a migraine coming on. She feels anxious that she will make a fatal mistake because she's so tired she can barely see straight. Everyday, it's a bit harder to muster the energy for work."
Health professionals have a demanding schedule that automatically pushes self-care to the end of priorities. Doctors, nurses, laboratory technicians, and other care workers often work at a break-neck pace that leaves little to no time for themselves.
In addition to the stress of their daily schedule, they also tend to be at the forefront of every major event, from pandemics like Covid-19 to the frontlines of terrorism and war.
Constant and intense levels of stress leave health professionals at risk for burnout, anxiety disorders, compassion fatigue, and even depression. To prevent these, self-care must be a part of the daily routine.
Here are some self-care tips to incorporate into your day as a health professional:
Build social relationships
Working round the clock can be isolating as it becomes difficult to keep up with other people. But it's mandatory you try. Make friends in your workplace that you can chat with in between shifts. Sometimes just the thought that "we are all in this together" can keep you going on a rough day. Knowing that there are other people who know exactly what you are going through can be a comfort.
Spend breaks chatting with friends in person or on the phone. Use time off work to connect with friends and family. Social support is a strong pillar of good mental health.
Check-in with yourself
A check-in could be the difference between a break-down and a chance to step back. During the workday, incorporate the practice of checking in with yourself every hour. How am I feeling? Have I eaten? Am I worried about something? Do I feel mentally present and aware? These check-ins don't have to be a grand affair, you can do it while washing your hands, putting on protective gear, or during your lunch break.
Find time for your hobbies
Few things give more joy than indulging in things you really love. For professionals with hectic schedules, hobbies are even more important than for other people. They help to clear your mind off work and can be a good way to relax. So, it's important you find time for those things you love.
Keep your energy up
Your body needs fuel in the form of food, water, and exercise to work in top form. Stay hydrated by taking a water bottle with you to work, try to drink it all during the day. A water bottle with drinking indicators is a helpful tool for this.
Meals and energizing snacks are essential. Try to eat at least one filling, nutritious meal a day. If you are really busy, opt for fruit bars, granola bars, healthy biscuits, and smoothies that you can consume on the go and in a short time.
As a healthcare worker, it is important to take care of your physical and mental health to enable you to care for others. As the saying goes, "you can't pour from an empty cup". Please talk to friends, colleagues, supervisors, or a therapist if you find yourself overwhelmed with work and you can't seem to recover your footing.