By Kellie Hale

COVID-19 cases have not gone down, unfortunately, and continues to rise across the nation. Hospitals are continuing to be overwhelmed with patients. Our frontline health care workers are continuing to experience multiple stressors with little relief during the COVID-19 pandemic. There is a constant fear amongst health care workers and facilities of running out of ventilators and necessary sup- plies. It is not only physical risks of COVID-19 that health care workers have to worry about but mental ones. With COVID-19 patients deteriorating, families could not be by loved one’s bedside, and it fell upon nurses and nursing assistants to help provide emotional support. Often forgoing breaks to stay by the patient’s side and hold their hand as they took their last breath. That is a significant toll for anyone to take on.

When stress is left untreated, it can lead to mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, psychosis, and thoughts of suicide can arise or self-harm. Health care workers and caregivers are vital to the global response to the pandemic. However, they are often overlooked as a highly vulnerable population when it comes to getting infected with the virus.

To help combat stress:

  • Know that it is okay to communicate with your supervisors and coworkers about the stress you are feeling.
  • Talk about how the pandemic is affecting you and your work, which can help identify the factors that are causing the stress and begin identifying solutions.
  • Ask if your workplace has any mental health resources.
  • Understand that you will not always have control over certain things and begin to accept that notion.
  • Keep reminding yourself that your role is essential and crucial in fighting this pandemic. Know that you are doing a good job and doing your best with the resources available for patients and staff.
  • Keep a daily routine notably similar to the schedule you had before the pandemic.
  • Get adequate sleep
  • Be sure to take the time to eat healthy meals: breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner.
  • Spend time outdoors to get some fresh air or take a walk. Find things to enjoy during non-working hours.
  • Use breathing exercises and mediation to help alleviate stress and anxiety.

The emotional and mental toll our frontline health care workers are experiencing may have a lasting toll for years to come. Nevertheless, health care workers will only become more vital in the battle to decrease COVID-19 cases and other viruses that will emerge in the years to come.