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COVID-19 Front-line Workers: Strategies for Staying Healthy

To date worldwide, there have been more than 3 million people infected with COVID-19, over two hundred thousand deaths, and millions of others who have been impacted financially, and emotionally. Our frontline workers are tasked with continuing to go to work to provide for our public health needs and safety. During this unprecedented pandemic, frontline workers and healthcare staff are trying to take care of their patients and the general public while also coping with their own physical exhaustion, stress, worry, and anxiety. Below are a few tips, strategies, and mental health resources for staying emotionally healthy.
Strategies for Staying Emotionally Healthy


PHYSICAL HEALTH:

EAT REGULARLY- With an increased workload, variable work schedules, and psychological fatigue, it is very easy to skip a meal. Sometimes you may be too tired to cook, instead preferring to catch up on your sleep. If you don't have time or energy to cook, consider meal prepping, buying a healthy takeout meal, or choosing healthy frozen meal options. Although takeout and frozen foods may not be your top choice, it may be a better alternative to skipping meals or eating unhealthy snacks.

GET MOVING-
Even if you can't go to the gym or participate in a sport with your exercise buddies, consider engaging in physical activity at home like yoga, stretching, push-ups, hand weights or work out videos.

MEDICATIONS- Don't forget to take your medications if prescribed. Set reminder alarms or stick up post-it notes so that you don't miss any doses.

MENTAL TEMPERATURE CHECK:
Don't forget to self-assess daily! How are you coping with your stress? Are you feeling more detached or shut down? Are you more irritable or easily annoyed? Have you started to self-isolate, or are not answering calls or texts? Do you feel overwhelmed or a loss of control? Are you crying or feeling down? If you are experiencing any of the above, do not hesitate to talk to someone and get help.

UNPLUG:
Step back and breathe. Depending on job demands, it may be very difficult to stop and hit the reset button. However, being able to unplug temporarily is important to allow both your body and mind to recharge. Try not to constantly talk about work during your breaks or at lunch. When at home fully focus on your family and participate in bonding activities to help rejuvenate your mind and spirit. Consider engaging in meditation, spiritual, or religious activities depending on your beliefs.

BUDDY CHECK-IN:
Although you may be coping okay, that is not to say that your fellow coworkers are handling their stressors effectively. Look around you! As you walk through the hallway, pass an open office door, or chat in the staff lounge, look closely. Be on the lookout for any unexpected negative changes in appearance, hygiene, attitude, or mood with your coworkers. Consider doing a quick buddy check, by asking them how they are doing. Even if they may not open up at the time, remind them that help and resources are available.

STAFF RESOURCES:
Employers are encouraged to provide information to their staff on available resources including employee assistance programs, mental health providers and financial support. Consider highlighting available resources through continuous reminders on the company's webpage, weekly emails, Facebook postings, or informational bulletin boards.

NORMALIZE HELP-SEEKING BEHAVIOR:
Although it is important to get help, doing so still has sociological and cultural stigmas attached. Everyone can do their part in normalizing seeking mental health assistance. As a society, we don't think twice when a person talks about going to their medical doctor for medical issues. However, we all must be mindful in how we respond or comment when a person voices being stressed, overwhelmed or having problems coping. Let's make sure we aren't ridiculing, using negative language, gossiping, or minimizing the person's difficulties. Instead, be that voice of encouragement and empowerment!

REMEMBER THAT ASKING FOR HELP IS NOT A SIGN OF WEAKNESS BUT A SIGN OF COURAGE!

RESOURCES:

• National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
• The Crisis Text Line: Text TALK to 741741
• NAMI Helpline: 1-800-950-NAMI (1-800-950-6264)
• Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990
• Dial 211- visit 211.org if you need assistance finding food, paying housing bills accessing free childcare or other essential services.
• Military OneSource: Provides materials and information on programs for military parents.
Phone Numbers:
Toll-Free: 1-800-342-9647
En espaƱol Llame al: 1-800-342-9647
TTY/TTD: Dial 711 and give the toll-free number 1-800-342-9647
• Veterans Crisis Line (VA): Call 800-273-8255 or text 838255
• DoD/VA Suicide Outreach: http://www.suicideoutreach.org
• InTheRooms.com: Live AA/NA online meetings

MENTAL HEALTH SMARTPHONE APPS:
Moving Forward App
Life Armor app
Breathe2Relax app
Headspace (meditation app)
Insight Timer App

Copyright © Felecia D. Sheffield, PhD, HSP,. All Rights Reserved in All Media.

Author:

Dr Sheffield is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist with extensive clinical, treatment and program management experience with socioeconomically and ethnically diverse adults and youth. She consults domestically and internationally and has worked with non-profits, schools, hospitals, clinics and law enforcement. She has taught K-12, college and graduate students and psychiatry residents. Dr Sheffield has written over three dozen parenting and self-help articles for the general public. Her volunteer endeavours include being a part of Science Cheerleaders a national non-profit 501 (c)3 organization comprised of current and former NFL/NBA professional cheerleaders with STEM degrees who engage, encourage, and empower kids and young women to pursue science, technology, engineering and math careers.

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