A Message to Healthcare Providers During the COVID-19 Pandemic

April 23, 2020

By Dr. Keith Buhr, LP

The impact of COVID-19 is strong. We’re all feeling the effects of the pandemic now, but it’s even more intense for healthcare providers working long hours or rotating schedules resulting in less time with family. Healthcare professionals may find themselves with higher emotional stress and a need for more support.

Self-care is more important than ever. Our mental health is inextricably linked to our physical health. Take care of your body! Take baths and showers, groom, change your clothes, engage in physical therapy. Watch what you’re eating. Get outside on nice days. Go for a walk or jog. Do yoga or another type of exercise. It’s also important to take breaks. What destresses you? Is it listening to music? Dancing? Cooking? Watch a show that makes you laugh. Now may be the time to learn a new hobby, pick up a paintbrush, find something to occupy your hands, eyes and mind.

Take care of your spiritual health through practices that make you whole. Ground yourself, connect online with your community and pray. 

Regardless of your profession, we can all benefit from learning stress management skills. Retrain your breathing. Use guided imagery, spend time with pets, and shape your environment through landscaping, renovations, oragnizing, cleaning or gardening. Now is the time to reduce your unhealthy habits, like tobacco and vaping. Limit your alcohol use and avoid illegal substances and addictions such as gambling, sex and eating. For food, designate an area for eating and only eat at designated times.

Use this time of social distancing and isolation to reach out to people you have inadvertantly distanced over time and check in with them. You are not alone! We may know this mentally, but we need some form of social contact to feel it. Coworkers recently retired, on furlough, or moved away can understand the nature of your stress. Your supervisors and administrators have social needs as well, and could benefit from hearing from you even if they cannot change a situation.

This could mean learning new technology that allows you to meet online, stream, post videos, share photos and express affection. If you don’t have the technology for online engagement, increase your phone calls.

Within your household, create a routine of time together and individual pursuits. Each person in your home needs to find a balance that is a good fit or at least practical. Strive to include each person in some daily physical movement and leisure and mentally engaging activities. If we are intentional about this, we will create routines and rituals with loved ones that last beyond a pandemic and shape our lives together for the better.

If you are working from home, give yourself a designated work space and task list. Break up bigger projects into pieces. Discuss with your family the need to limit distractions; it may mean lessening restrictions for things like screen time. Let them know that limiting distractions now will allow for the reward of more family time later. 

But let’s be real. There will be some distractions, even if we have a set agenda for the day. Plus the routine tasks we must take care of on a daily basis. Plan for breaks. Communicate with your supervisor and let him or her know where you need help to increase productivity. Set an end time. You deserve to be rewarded!

Healthcare professionals, we see you and we are so grateful for you. The strength, dedication and devotion you show toward your patients is a credit to your character, and what you have done to reduce and treat infection in your communities has most certainly saved lives.

If you are feeling overstressed, overworked and anxious, allow us to help carry that burden. Call us at 800-992-6292 if you need to talk to someone. Prairie View is offering telehealth services throughout the COVID-19 crisis. Appointments are scheduled at your convenience and take place in your home through either a smart device, a personal computer with a web camera and telephone.

Check out www.prairieview.org for helpful resources. Your mental health is our top priority. We are here for you, and we are stronger together.