5 Tips to Improve Your Mental Wellbeing As A Healthcare Worker
Taking care of others during the COVID-19 pandemic can be very stressful. As a result, stress can affect your mental wellbeing leading to depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.
It’s important for you, as a healthcare worker, to be able to cope with these issues and strong emotions because they affect not only you but everyone around you – so your partner, friends, family members, and patients you take care of.
Improving your mental wellbeing gives you the tools to help you cope with stress and anxiety. It also makes you more aware of yourself and you’ll know when you need to seek professional help.
Symptoms Of Stress
Here is a list of symptoms of stress you may experience as a healthcare worker:
- Feeling powerless or helpless
- Lacking motivation
- Feeling burnt out, tired, and overwhelmed
- Feeling depressed and sad
- Feeling nervous and anxious
- Feeling denial, anger, and irritation
- Having trouble sleeping
- Experiencing an inability to focus and concentrate
Ways To Improve Your Mental Wellbeing
Improving your mental wellbeing could help you feel more confident and positive, all while being able to get the most out of life.
There are different practices and strategies that you can use in order to improve your mental wellbeing and be able to cope with stress better during this difficult time.
1) Try Mindfulness
Mindfulness means paying attention to your everyday life.
It helps you slow down and focus on every task you have instead of rushing through them. If you start practicing mindfulness on a daily basis, you’ll be able to manage your stress, combat anxiety, and become calm.
In order to incorporate mindfulness in your life, try the following:
- Yoga and meditation. These two practices are the most direct ways to approach mindfulness. Yoga and meditation help center your thoughts and reduce stress.
- Write down your goals. It’s a good habit to start your way by writing down your goals. This practice will help you prioritize the things you need to do and focus on the most important tasks.
- Go for a walk. Short walks every day will help increase endorphins — the hormones that make you feel happy. Focus on the scenery around you, instead of your phone.
- Give compliments. Greet people everywhere you go. It’s a great practice that helps you when you feel frustrated or annoyed. Taking a moment to wish someone a nice day will have a positive impact on your own mood.
- Limit phone time. Of course, there are some situations when using a phone is important. But on a daily basis, try to use your phone as little as possible.
- Consult a professional. Seeing a therapist may be helpful, even if you don’t have a clinical diagnosis. Consulting a therapist is especially helpful for those who have gone through a traumatic experience.
2) Connect With People
It’s important to be social and spend time with other people, not only coworkers and patients.
Spending time with people who support you will help you unwind and blow off steam. Meet a friend for coffee, watch a movie with your spouse, or meet a neighbor for a walk or bike ride. Bonding with others will elevate your mood.
Numerous studies have shown that spending time with family or people you love helps reduce stress and anxiety, and promotes a healthier lifestyle. For example, the results of a study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University showed that people use their family members and friends as a stress buffer, talking about the problems they are experiencing instead of using such negative coping mechanisms as alcohol, smoking, or drugs.
3) Make Sleep Your Main Priority
Sleeping is a basic human need, just like breathing, eating, or drinking.
Numerous studies have already proven that sleep deficiency can lead to serious health problems, including mental issues.
There’s a link between sleep deficiency and mood. If you had a sleepless night or slept less than 7 hours, you may be short-tempered, irritated, and more vulnerable to stress. Even partial sleep deprivation has a negative impact on your mood.
According to one study conducted by University of Pennsylvania researchers, people who were limited to 4.5 hours of sleep a night for one week felt more stressed, mentally exhausted, angry, and sad. But once they resumed a normal and healthy sleeping schedule, they reported a significant improvement in mood.
If you’re having problems with sleep, here is a list of healthy sleep tips that you may want to follow:
- Create a sleep-inducing bedroom. Your mission is to make your bedroom a place of relaxation and comfort. It may seem obvious to you, but it is often overlooked, which contributes to sleep issues. To create a bedroom you can’t wait to fall asleep in, use a high-performance mattress and pillow, choose quality bedding, avoid disruptive light, and close your door to drown out unnecessary noise.
- Optimize your sleep schedule. Try setting a fixed wake-up time, budgeting time for sleep, being careful with your naps throughout the day, and adjusting your sleep schedule gradually.
- Craft a pre-bed routine. Poor pre-bed habits can contribute to insomnia and other sleep issues. Changing these habits may take time, but it is definitely worth it. Try avoiding bright lights before going to bed, winding down for at least 30 minutes, and disconnecting from electronic devices for at least an hour before you hit the hay.
- Foster sleep-friendly habits during the day. The things that you can do during the day that can pave the way for better sleep at night include staying active during the day and working out daily, reducing your caffeine intake, and not eating late at night.
If you struggle with insomnia, there are also certain things you can try that can help you. You can try different relaxation techniques, keep a sleep diary or journal, or talk to your doctor.
4) Get Plenty of Sunlight
Sunlight is one of the best sources of Vitamin D. Our brain and body need this vitamin to function properly and remain healthy. It helps our brain release endorphins and serotonin that improve our mood. Studies have shown that people struggling with depression noticed a significant improvement in their symptoms after they started receiving Vitamin D supplements or spending more time outside. So go out in the sun as often as possible. A half an hour to two hours a day of sunlight is enough.
During the winter and fall season, many people feel depressed because of the lack of sunlight. It is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). If you struggle with this disorder, you can try using a special light therapy lamp that helps manage the symptoms and increase the level of Vitamin D.
5) Eat Healthy And Stay Hydrated
Nutrition is more than just food – it is also healthy fats, fiber, and vitamins that are important for the proper functioning of the body and brain. If you don’t eat well, your physical and mental health will be affected.
Here’s what you can do to make your diet more healthy:
- Add healthy fats. Make sure you consume plenty of healthy fats, such as avocados, olive oil, fish, seeds, and nuts.
- Reduce sodium. Too much salt is not good for your health. It increases blood pressure and risk of heart attack stroke. For most people, sodium should not exceed 2,300 mg per day.
- Get enough fiber. Fiber is good for you because it helps you feel full longer, controls blood sugar, and reduces cholesterol levels.
- Get a variety of colors onto your plate. Fruits and vegetables of all colors should be in your diet because they are loaded with vitamins and other nutrients.
Healthcare workers experience high levels of work stress every day, even under normal circumstances.
Not having good mental wellbeing often leads to depression, anxiety, sleep disorder, and other mental health issues that negatively affect work productivity, quality of life, and even physical health.
Today, there is also additional pressure on healthcare workers and the healthcare system because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Healthcare workers should prioritize their health and mental wellbeing to be more optimistic, productive, goal-oriented and more.
Trying mindfulness, staying connected with people, sleeping more and eating a healthy diet will all help you be at your best for your work and overall life.
If you are a mental health provider looking for work, or a practice that needs immediate coverage, simply fill out our form to speak with a staffing expert today!
More About Our Guest Contributor Dr. Jayasudha Gude:
Dr. Jayasudha Gude graduated from NTR University of Health Sciences in 2010 in India.
After graduating, she worked in India for about a year and then moved to the United states in 2012. Working as a research scholar for Stanford University, she gained extensive clinical experience in the fields of Medicine and Psychiatry. Currently, Dr. Gude is working as a research volunteer and is actively involved in crisis counseling. She is very passionate about psychiatry and looks forward to contributing more in this field.