The COVID-19 pandemic may have taken the forefront when it comes to workplace stress and its effects on healthcare professionals, but there’s no denying that people in the medical field needed help to decompress before the pandemic and will continue to need help as it abates and also in a Post-COVID World.
One of the most important things to remember when you’re feeling stressed out or overwhelmed at work is that you are not alone. In a study from Mental Health America about the mental state of healthcare workers amid the pandemic, 92 percent of respondents said they felt stressed out, 86 percent said they were anxious, 76 percent said they were exhausted and 75 percent said they felt overwhelmed.
Stress has a tricky way of affecting people — so much so that it can show on our faces, making the need for products like hydrating face creams and firming eye creams all the more apparent.
Luckily, you can respond to healthcare industry stress with some tricks of your own even in a Post-COVID World.
1. Reconnect with Nature
If COVID has taught us anything, it’s that spending time outdoors is one of the best and healthiest ways to decompress. Take advantage of any outdoor space you have access to in a Post-COVID World, be it hiking trails, city streets or even your hospital or office’s outdoor grounds, and spend some time in the great outdoors.
Science actually backs up what many outdoor enthusiasts have long preached: that time spent outdoors is associated with a heightened sense of well-being. According to a 2019 study published by Nature Research’s Scientific Reports, people who spend at least 120 minutes (two hours) in nature per week appear to be significantly healthier and happier than those who don’t spend time outdoors.
- Quality Time with Friends and Family
With the health of virtually every person in the world being put at risk during the pandemic, there’s never been a better time to count your blessings and appreciate spending time with your loved ones.
People in the healthcare field often work grueling work weeks that can go up to 80 hours per week, so relaxation — when you’re off the clock — is extremely important for your health. While spending time alone is very important to leading a balanced life, making time to reconnect with friends and family is also an integral part of alleviating the ill effects of stress.
Humans are, by nature, social creatures. It’s important for us to build and nurture communities for our very survival, and in spite of living in our stressful, high-tech modern world, tending to the major emotional need of community is one of the most important things you can do to de-stress and take care of your mental health.
Whether you’re scheduling a family movie night, getting drinks with your girlfriends or just spending time relaxing with the people you love the most, your mind and body will thank you for making sure you spend quality time with your people.
- Stress-Reducing Foods
As nutrition research continues to expand, so too does our understanding of how food affects our minds alongside our bodies.
According to Dietitian Courtney Barth, who spoke to the Cleveland Clinic about foods that help with stress, adopting the Mediterranean diet is a good way to prevent and alleviate stress. If you’re not ready to fully commit to a new diet, however, you can incorporate some of these cortisol-reducing foods into your daily routine.
Foods that are high in specific nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B, magnesium and protein are all staples of the Mediterranean diet. These include eggs, organ meats, avocado, mackerel, salmon, bananas, pumpkin seeds, spinach and turkey breast. Finally, fermented foods that promote “gut health,” like kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi and Greek yogurt are all excellent ways to keep your mind and your tummy happy.
- Invest in a Massage
Have you ever felt tension in your neck and shoulders at the end of a long day and thought, “Wow, I could really use a massage”? Well, there’s no better time than the present!
While it may seem like an indulgence or unnecessary expense, massage has been used to reduce stress and promote wellness for millennia in many cultures around the world.
As the Mayo Clinic outlined, massage does indeed help reduce stress and anxiety — but it also has tons of other health benefits as well, including improving blood pressure and heart rate, increasing alertness and energy and improving immune function.
- Take Care of Your Mental Health
It’s very hard to pinpoint when exactly stress begins to “get to you” — but once you pass that point, it’s very hard to go back without help.
Luckily, there are lots and lots of mental health resources for healthcare workers, with more now than ever before.
Perhaps the first and most important step to taking care of your mental health while working in the healthcare field is admitting that it’s not wrong to ask for help. Whether talking to your friends, family members, HR coordinator or supervisor, communicating when you’re having problems is the first (and hardest) step on the path to working with stress rather than simply reacting to it.
Taking care of your mental health doesn’t just mean seeing a therapist or psychiatrist, either. There are lots of things you can do on your own to help improve your mental health — journaling, meditating, yoga and self-help literature are all great ways to get on the path of mental wellness that may feel less intimidating than immediately seeing a professional.