Many health care workers are  on the front lines of the fight against Covid-19.  In this crisis it’s not unusual to work back to back 12 to 16 hour shifts in extremely stressful environments. Everyday the front line workers risk contracting the virus themselves and/or taking it home to their families. Health Care workers are carrying an enormous amount of stress  and it can quickly become overwhelming. Implementing good self-care habits can help.

Sustained, high levels of stress poses a threat to the physical and emotional wellbeing of health care workers.   Practising or creating self-care routines during times like this is crucial to reducing both the short and long term impacts of stress.

Here are a few easy to implement self-care habits  you can add to you your day to release some of the physical, mental, and spiritual pressure you’re feeling:

Private prayer time is a great place to start looking at self-care:  Most of us understand the power of prayer for communication with God, but we tend to underestimate the impact it has on lowering our stress. We believe God is listening to us, wants what’s best for us, and loves us, BUT, in a crisis, it’s easy to justify not having the time or space for prayer. 

Scheduling time to pray every day puts you in contact with the creator of the universe and creates a space to unload everything you’re carrying for other people. Letting down your guard and speaking honestly about your fears and grief with God can significantly lighten your load.   Simply praying and saying “Father, I am scared, please help me through this day” can be enough to refresh your soul, provide peace, and start good self-care . 

Put your own oxygen mask on first, practicing good self-care taking with your physical needs :

Just like on a plane, when the flight attendant is walking you through the instructions should the cabin lose pressure, you put your oxygen mask on first BEFORE you help the person beside you. What does this mean to you? You can’t help people if you are physically burned out. You can’t do your best work if you never take a break, don’t eat nourishing foods, and don’t rest enough.
When managing crisis, it’s easy for our body to get caught up in the adrenaline response and push right past the normal eat, drink, rest cues.  Set timers to remind yourself when it’s time to meet your body’s physical needs. Make sure you have nourishing foods on hand that can be prepared and eaten quickly so you are less tempted to skip them.  It is imperative that you regularly check in with yourself and ask “How am I doing?”. This is something that you can do on a schedule. Set an alarm so that 3 times a day you are asking how am I doing, do I need food, water, sleep, or movement?  Do I need to run, do I need to create something? Do I need to punch a bag or whatever it is that you do to help your body to release the stress that you are carrying?

Acknowledge that your pain is real and important-

As first responders you may have the tendency to serve others first and put our own feelings off until a much later date. Sometimes we minimize our own pain because we see others’ suffering as “worse”. 

First, I want you to trust that your feelings are normal, valid, and perfectly OK. The way you walk through this season doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s journey. 

Second, I want you to know that you have a choice to what you do with those emotions.  You can choose to take those emotions and dump them out at the feet of Jesus during your prayer time.  Other ways to process the emotions that you are feeling could be writing in a journal, play with your pet, take a long hot relaxing bath or shower, listen to soothing music, read a book, whatever feels like it might provide you a healthy release for you.

Get help, no matter how busy you are : This is a stressful time. Healthcare workers and those in supporting roles are carrying a heavy burden for patients and their families. .  Under the added pressure it can be easy to try to stuff your emotions or put them off until ”later”. That’s easier said than done and emotions, especially complex ones like fear, agner, and grief, tend to demand our attention. If you don’t have a support system in place to work through those emotions, it can  be easy to turn to emotional eating, alcohol, and other coping strategies that further undermine your ability to handle crises. Often these are old habits that we don’t even realize we are doing to just cope with stress so it’s important to be attentive to how we process these complex emotions.

Not sure which one will work for you? Pick one that looks easy and try it today. If writing stresses you out then don’t grab a journal, instead crank up that favorite song of yours and belt it out at the top of your lungs! Not a pet person? Maybe a hot shower and a few moments of privacy and quiet will recharge you.   Or light a candle and just focus on a few moments of deep breathing.

There isn’t a right or a wrong way to do any of these techniques and these aren’t the only ways you can care for yourself. What’s most important is to find the way that works for you and make it a priority in your daily routine.

Please know that the MPFC team values you and the work that you do so much! We know the losses would be much greater without the incredible care  that you are providing during this health crisis. THANK YOU! We are praying for you.

May God Bless you and keep you and make His face shine upon you!