During these unprecedented times, it is critical that anyone working in health care – and especially those at the frontlines of this pandemic – never lose sight of the importance of taking care of oneself. Remember the old adage: Always put your own oxygen mask on first before you can assist the person next to you. You can’t help others if you are incapacitated because of poor physical, emotional, psychological, or spiritual health.
How can folks on the frontline take care of themselves when more than ever, they are being called upon to be so much to so many? Taking stock of your own health each day is critical. Here is a daily checklist you can use to keep tabs on your physical and mental wellbeing:
Eat regular meals with food that nourishes you. Let yourself have some treats, too – you’ve earned it. And remember to hydrate throughout the day.
Get enough sleep. Come down from the stress of a long shift by doing something that helps you relax before bed – read a good book, take a long bath, cuddle with a pet, etc. Avoid the news and any screens before bedtime.
Exercise when you can. Yoga, jogging, dancing, cardio – moving your body in ways that feel good will relieve stress and release healing endorphins. And even during social distancing, there are many ways to get in a great workout at home.
Make time to prioritize your mental health. Take advantage of free moments during work to find a quiet place and practice deep breathing and grounding techniques. Make meditation as normal a part of your day as eating and sleeping.
While life has changed in many ways, you still deserve to enjoy yours. Connect with friends and family via video chats. Binge your favorite TV show. Take up a new hobby or rediscover your passion for an old one. Never feel guilty for feeling good.
Understand that we are all grieving, and health care professionals are not immune to the psychological trauma of all this loss. Be as kind and patient with yourself as you are with the people you care for. You may be experiencing survivors’ guilt or feel unrealistically responsible for the suffering you are witnessing. Frontline workers are shouldering an incredibly heaven burden right now. Remember that you are doing your very best each day.
Monitor yourself for early signs of exhaustion, dehydration, depression, or anxiety. Identify the people in your life that you can talk to when things get tough. There is always someone to talk to when you’re overwhelmed. Please never hesitate to reach out to your family, friends, primary care provider, therapist, colleagues, or your supervisor if you feel like you need support.
We’re in this together, and together we will keep our communities healthy.