While our training in health care has helped us learn about how to handle acute medical emergencies, the challenges we will be facing with this pandemic have already presented higher than usual stress and anxiety. It is of utmost importance that we take time for ourselves in the midst of these changes. Here are coping tools to help us all keep optimal health.
When we have a sympathetic surge, we activate the Flight - Fight - Freeze response. And if we have sympathetic overload, burnout will quickly ensue.
Notice when you are feeling overwhelmed, such as if you are having trouble thinking or breathing. Take a quick momentary PAUSE.
Breathe: Feel cool air as you inhale, warm air as you exhale.
Come back to your Senses: Feel your feet on the floor, taste in your mouth, touch of your hands, describe the colors of what you see around you, and notice what you can hear from afar.
Count Backwards: Countdown as though at a New Year’s Eve party.
Move your body: Even small movements can help your body and mind can be helpful. Dig your heels into the ground, wiggle your toes, roll your shoulders, do neck rolls, twist side to side, sway in a circle.
Food and Water: When you are on a break, make sure you have enough food and water. It is easy to keep on a run and not make time to get nutrition. Try to avoid fast food and choose health options. Snacking on healthy vegetables, dried fruit and nuts instead of having sugar crashes.
Rest: Take breaks when you can. Allow enough time for sleep. Make sure your weekly schedule allows for time off for personal time. With social distancing, you can still see your friends and family with Facetime, Skype and Zoom. Hold birthday parties over the internet. See tips for Sleep Hygiene here.
Breathing Garden: When on a break from work, try to visit a designated space for decompression. Some hospital facilities have gardens or spaces designated for meditation or prayer. Take a walk outside in nature. Continue to use social distancing when outdoors.
News Break: Turn off the TV and computer, and stop scrolling your phone and social media. The world is changing a lot, and even in the morning there will be new changes. You can always get updated later in the day or the next morning.
If you are watching TV, turn on a funny comedy or cooking show.
Music: Bring headphones to work. Listen to soothing music. I recommend watching and listening to this Relaxation site on Youtube. Try and take note of the two tones in the music, and inhale on tone, filling the belly. Exhale on the other tone, letting the belly relax. I often close my eyes when listening to this, though the imagery is very entrancing as well.
Acupressure: Links to come with information on acupressure points you can do for stress relief. Some calming points include YinTang and Pericardium 6.
Communicate: Debrief after stressful events. Communicate to others that you need a break. Remember to smile and laugh to break the tension. Moreover, reach out to other mental health providers and make time for checking in, even through online with Zoom.
Bring some items from home that you can use to destress. Bring them in a plastic bag and keep them in a safe place for your own use only.
Coloring Books: Bring some coloring books and crayons or markers. Being create can free up our thinking minds.
Free Coloring Books can be found here.
Gratitude Journal: Write down 3-5 things you are grateful for, such as a cup of tea, your breath, laughing over the phone with a friend, the sunshine on your face. This may be helpful to do every day before or after work.
Memento: Bring an item such as a shell, rock, crystal, bead, postcard, picture. Holding this can serve as a reminder of more peaceful time.
Snacks: Chew on dried fruits or nuts and describe the flavors to yourself.
Essential Oils: You can put a drop inside your mask at the beginning of your shift. You can also place a few drops on a gauze and place on your chest while doing breathing exercises. Aromatherapy has been shown to stimulate your olfactory nerves and connect to the amygdala and hippocampus and decrease stress and anxiety. Read more about essential oils here.
Meditation Apps: There are many. Some to try include:
Headspace (currently free for healthcare providers with your NPI)
Insight Timer (free)
Calm (some free parts)
Podcasts: Again, there are many. Some to try include:
Tara Brach - RAIN meditation & Pandemic Care Resources
Yoga: Many choices are available on Youtube for free. Yoga is not about doing handstands and balancing twists. Try relaxing poses with Restorative Yoga or Yin Yoga.
Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress
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