Managing Stress & Self-Care During COVID-19: Information for Nurses

Nurses make up the bulk of the healthcare workforce and are natural problem-solvers and innovators. We therefore stand out as indispensable at any time, but especially during a public health emergency. Prioritizing self-care becomes more crucial than ever during a time like this. Burnout significantly impacts your health and your ability to provide the best possible care. Taking steps to manage your stress and any anxiety is just as important as taking care of your physical health!

Tips for Managing Your Stress

Acknowledge and Understand Your Reactions

  • Appreciate that you will have reactions to the increased stressors you are encountering, such as lack of adequate rest, erratic eating schedules, information overload, increased work and personal responsibilities, and limited resources.
  • Exercise self-compassion and recognize that almost everyone impacted by an emergency will experience psychological distress. These reactions are by no means an indication of weakness.
  • Understand that anyone helping during this time is susceptible to secondary traumatic stress and, as a nurse, you are especially vulnerable.

Be Aware and Monitor Your Wellbeing

  • Check in with yourself and monitor for the common physical and mental symptoms of Secondary Traumatic Stress (see table to the right).
  • Contact a provider if these symptoms impact your ability to provide care to your patients and your family in the same way you did before the pandemic.
  • If you feel overwhelmed by sadness, depression, anxiety, or hopelessness, call 911 or 1-800-985-5990 (SAMHSA Disaster Distress Line), or text TalkWithUs to 66746.

Activate Your Parasympathetic Nervous System to Combat Stress

  • Practice breath awareness
  • Eat regularly scheduled meals and avoid foods that increase inflammation in the body.
  • Use a daily routine to prepare for bed in order to promote quality sleep.
  • Try a mind-body practice like yoga.
  • Maintain your social connections through the channels available to you.

Take Time for Your Mental Health

  • Take a break from media coverage around COVID-19.
  • Set aside time for you and your family to recover.
  • Make time for self-care such as talking with a friend, reading a book, journaling, or meditating.
Whole Health Begins with Mental Health

Important Reminders for Nurses

You will have reactions to the increased stressors you are encountering.

Exercise self-compassion - almost everyone impacted by an emergency will experience psychological distress.

Nurses are susceptible to secondary traumatic stress during this time. It is not a sign of weakness.

It is easy to play up the importance of self-care to our patients while downplaying it to ourselves. Resist that urge.

Help is available if symptoms you are experiencing impact your ability to provide care to your patients and your family in the same way you did before the pandemic.

Connect with your purpose: Acknowledge the crucial and noble work you are doing.

 

What is Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS)?

Also known as compassion fatigue, it is a natural and common by product of working with traumatized individuals. Health care workers such as nurses are especially susceptible to it. STS has observable symptoms and is treatable.

Common Symptoms of Secondary Traumatic Stress

Common Symptoms of Secondary Traumatic Stress

 

Sources
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children & Families (n.d.). Secondary traumatic stress. Retrieved from https://www.acf.hhs.gov/trauma-toolkit/secondary-traumatic-stress

Wei, Marlynn (2018, October 17). Self-care for the caregiver. Harvard health blog. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/self-care-for-the-caregiver-2018101715003
World Health Organization (2019, June 11). Mental health in emergencies. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mental-health-in-emergencies

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