The world around you is experiencing a time in history that is uncertain and terrifying. This is especially true for those that work in an intensive care unit, or ICU, caring for patients inflicted with the Covid-19 virus. These health care workers are vulnerable to stress and can burn out from their work quickly. Here are some ways to escape from the anxiety that you feel and improve your mental health.
1. Reach Out To Family and Friends
Although you must stay away from those you love, you need to make time to reach out to them and have conversations regularly. If they are knowledgeable enough to use video conferencing apps, schedule a time to talk online. Explore your different options such as Zoom or Facebook Messenger to find the one that is the easiest for both of you to use and will be the most efficient for the settings you are in.
Set aside time in your day that you can devote just to this to benefit your mental health. You can eat a meal together, watch a movie, or play a game by video if you would like to do more than talk and turn it into a family fun event. Take a few minutes to call an older family member. Send an email or write a letter. Text or message a friend so that you can chat. Communicating with your family and friends and telling them how much you love them can help reduce your anxiety at this difficult time, along with theirs. While it would be much better to physically hug someone right now, being able to see someone you care about, even if it is only on screen, can help you feel less lonely.
2. Eat Nutritious Foods
Between working many hours a day and enduring the stress that you are under while dealing with the pandemic, you might be tempted to grab something quick and less than healthy to eat on the go. Do your best to plan nutritious meals for yourself as much as you can and avoid fast food. Take nutrients to boost your immune system, such as vitamins, along with a hormone balance supplement to prevent hormonal imbalances.
Make a salad full of leafy vegetables, especially spinach, and add chicken for lean protein to energize yourself. Snack on fruits full of vitamin C, such as oranges and grapefruits. Adding spices such as garlic, ginger, and turmeric can give your body extra protection from getting ill. Preparing something as simple as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich can give you the protein you will need to get through the day. Drink plenty of water and try to avoid sugary drinks and those filled with caffeine. Taking care of yourself and making sure that you are eating foods that will keep you well while giving you clean-burning fuel to get you through the day will help you care for others to the best of your ability.
Photo by Gervyn Louis on Unsplash
3. Set Aside Time To Exercise
Time can be tight when you are working with critical patients. It can be difficult to find extra time for yourself between work and sleeping. Analyze your schedule and try to determine when you can get some exercise for yourself. This simple activity can reinforce your immune system while making you happier. If you like to run, attempt to get a mile or two before you leave home for your next shift. There are apps and videos that you can download that will walk you through a session of yoga, including a few moments of mediation. Doing this exercise will strengthen your body as well as reduce your stress. Even going on a walk for ten to fifteen minutes a day will help boost your spirits and energy levels. If fitting this into your day seems to be a problem, do your best to get some physical activity on your days off to keep your body strong. This is another way to keep yourself healthy and ready for the patients and loved ones who need you.
4. Enjoy the Outdoors
Serving in an ICU can keep you trapped indoors for hours on end. Getting outside in the fresh air can help improve your mood. If you find a chance during your lunch or on a break and the weather is favorable, slip out of the building and stand in the sun or the dark to enjoy the atmosphere. When you are off work, spend some time out in nature, even if it is outside on your porch or stoop. You can walk around your neighborhood as long as you wear a mask and practice social distancing. This works for a hike in the woods or a bike ride as well. If your time is limited and you need to make a meal, you can grill instead of cook indoors and take advantage of being out while you are busy. Being outside is great for your mental health and allows you to soak up extra vitamin D, which can help ward off the Covid-19 virus. Also, while you have to keep your distance, you see others having fun outside, which lets you share the experience with them. That little bit of human contact can make all the difference.
5. Inner Reflection and Mental Health
Mediation can help you relieve some of the anxiety that you might have held inside you. Play some soft music, then set a timer for yourself. There are also apps available that can do both of these for you. Find a comfortable place to sit, then do your best to clear your mind for that amount of time. Keep your breath slow, and even as you do this. You should feel a bit refreshed after you do this and ready to head into another day. You can also set aside time for prayer as well as practice a gratitude exercise. Find three things in your life that you are thankful for and list them. You can either speak these aloud to yourself or write them down. If you do write them down, consider doing so in a journal to look back at your list and smile as you read the things you are grateful for. Thinking about these people or items will improve your mood and remind yourself of what good you have in your life. If you have time, you can reach out to the people on your gratitude list and let them know how much they mean to you. This simple gesture will brighten your day as well as theirs.
Photo by Amy Hirschi on Unsplash
6. Talk To Someone
If you feel that anxiety and depression are getting the better of you, find someone to talk with about what is happening during your time in the ICU helping Covid-19 patients. You can reach out to a trusted friend or family member. However, you might have better success speaking to a therapist or another member of your staff. They will relate to what you are experiencing and offer advice to you that relates to your situation. You can ask your Human Resources department if they know of anyone you can make an appointment with or what they recommend. With social distancing in place now, most therapists will hold their appointments over a video conference instead of having you come in so that you will remain safe. You can also find apps on your phone that connect you with someone to talk to. These will fit better in your schedule, especially if you are working long days and can only contact someone at a late hour.
7. Limit Your Television and Social Media Time
Getting on your phone to check your social media accounts or turning on the television can be a great way to distract yourself. However, since the hot topic at hand is Covid-19 and the constant changes, it is difficult to get away from the virus. This media brings you back to what you are dealing with while you are in the ICU. Limit how much you spend on these to just a few minutes a day. Find other ways to keep up with your friends and family, whether by text or Messenger. Choose one method to check up on the news that day, then glance over the stories to see what is happening globally. You can download the app for this or bookmark the page in your search bar to find it easier when you need it. If you spend time on social media, choose a few pages and groups that work with hobbies, shows, or other things you are interested in and follow what they post. This will keep your time on these sites happy and pleasant while giving you a break from reading and hearing about the virus.
8. Find Entertainment That Will Make You Happy
Instead of turning on the news, find a favorite movie that will make you happy. You can look for a comedy that will make you laugh or a feel-good story that will give you hope. You can search the internet or streaming service for a comedian’s special if you want to hear jokes. Having a moment to laugh freely at something will make you feel better. That will increase your mental health and relax you as you take this moment for yourself. You can also look for episodes of a favorite television show to watch. If you want to get away from the screen, pick a book to read to keep your mind busy and exercise your imagination. If you need to find something to read, your local library might have ebooks that you can check out online just like you would a paperback book. This is also a great time to start a journal of your experiences or pick up a hobby you have put aside. Devoting time to a project and finishing it will give you a sense of accomplishment that will lift your spirits and make you feel good about yourself.
9. Ask For Help
While you are helping those sick in the ICU, you might have issues asking for assistance for yourself. This can be for you personally as well as for those your work with. When you request others to help you, this can alleviate some of the stress you are experiencing. This mental stress can come from an ever-changing situation at work with few supplies to keep your home life under control while you are away. You can ask friends and family with sewing experience to make cloth masks for you and your co-workers to keep your staff safe while you work. They can also donate other types of the necessary equipment as well if they have them on hand. If you have children, you can request someone to watch them if you are scheduled to be at the hospital late. You can see if a friend or family member would be willing to stop by the store to get a few groceries for you when they shop for their own. You can most of all reach out to those who love you to get encouragement as you work through this tough time. Their support can help you feel better about the situation and remind you that they will be there for you now and when this is all over.
10. Encourage Others
You can raise your own spirits by being there for others. Encouraging those on your staff that you are there for each other, and they are far from alone, will remind you of the same sentiment. Being a positive light for another person will make it difficult to be negative. You can bring in a small treat, a flower, or a note for someone struggling with everything that is happening. Doing something nice for someone else can help you beat the anxiety that you are currently experiencing. You can also look for ways to have fun with your co-workers while you are at work. Discover ways to make each other and those around you smile in a place that can be scary. Relying on each other to get through the day can make some of the stress go away. Working with Covid-19 patients in the ICU can cause a large amount of stress in an uneasy time in history. Taking care of yourself while you are providing for your patients and your family will make you a happier, healthier caregiver.
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