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  • Writer's pictureRachel Ogilby

Keep Calm During COVID

Undoubtedly this has likely been one of the most stressful years the United States has seen in my lifetime. Not only did COVID-19 wreak havoc on our lives, we had a very tense presidential election, racism continues to run rampant through our nation, and many of us are still trying to make sense of it all. Our suicide and substance abuse rates have increased. Many people struggle to pay for food and shelter after the loss of jobs and/or family members. As a nurse, the pandemic may affect you in different ways – you might be burned out at work with low staffing, potentially caring for children or elderly at home, struggling with low energy, or tired of trying to convince people that the virus is real.

Pandemics certainly affect everyone differently. They can cause stress that leads to fear, worry, difficulty sleeping or concentrating, worsened physical and mental health, and increased used of harmful substances such as alcohol and tobacco. The CDC has put together a helpful list of ways to take care of your mental health, including numbers to call in a crisis. Some of their resources have been summarized below. Please feel free to share this resource with your family, friends, and patients!

For immediate help (source: CDC):

How to cope with stress in a healthy way:

  • Call or video chat loved ones to stay connected and reduce isolation and loneliness. I call my mom for 10 minutes every day on my way home from work!

  • Take care of your emotional health by allowing yourself space and permission to feel whatever emotions are surfacing. Know that whatever you are feeling is okay, and it too will pass.

  • Take breaks from watching or listening to the news – it is good to remove yourself from constantly hearing about the pandemic.

  • Care for your body by doing breathing exercises, meditating, or doing yoga. I like listening to The Honest Guys on YouTube when I want to meditate or relax. Headspace is also a great resource for mindfulness.

  • Continue regular exercise to regulate appetite, boost mood, and release endorphins. Give yourself enough rest – aim for seven to nine hours, and take a 20 minute nap if you need it.

  • Do things that bring you joy. Do you like to read, paint, listen to music, dance? Make time in your schedule, then treat it like an appointment with yourself.

  • Care for your soul by connecting to your community or faith – most churches are displaying their services live, and often community groups have a facebook page and are meeting virtually.

Identify your resources at work:

Talk to your colleagues, supervisors, and peers about job stress. Be open and honest about how it is affecting you. Know what resources you have at work for mental and emotional health. For example, you likely have an Employee Health Assistance program or other free counseling service.

You've likely heard the quote, “Grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” You might not be able to have control over your situation, but recognize that you are a crucial piece of fighting this pandemic! Acknowledge that you are doing the best you can with the resources you have.

Take breaks during your shift to check in with family, friends, and colleagues. Take a walk or run to the coffee shop to get off the unit for a few minutes to recharge. Stretch and rest!

Know the symptoms of stress:

These can include irritability, anger, denial, nervousness, anxiety, feeling powerless, lacking motivation, feeling overwhelmed, tired, or burnout out, feeling sad or depressed, and having trouble sleeping or concentrating.

If you start to have symptoms like those listed above, give yourself extra love and permission to take care of yourself. Get enough rest, fuel your body with high quality nutrition, let yourself feel whatever emotions come up, and don't judge them. Create time to do things you love even though the circumstances likely have changed. Try not to pass judgment on yourself, and just be aware of the feelings you have as they come and go. You are awesome!

Read the CDC's page for more information.

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