Hospital leaders seeking to provide help to physicians, nurses, and other healthcare workers dealing with the added stress of COVID-19 should keep certain elements in mind, says Jorge Palacios, MD, clinical researcher at SilverCloud Health, a digital mental health company.
Palacios says these techniques have been shown to help healthcare employees cope with the increased stress of COVID-19:
- Exercise. Physical activity has shown efficacy in reducing the stress brought on by many situations.1,2 Establishing a workout routine could help frontline healthcare workers through the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Cognitive reframing. This is a type of therapy in which the person is encouraged to reframe stressful situations. For example, an employee who is stressed about allegedly “losing freedoms” during quarantine can be encouraged to think of it as “not relinquishing your freedom, but rather doing something noble and necessary like protecting your friends and family.”
- Practicing empathy. This is about seeing something from someone else’s point of view. This encourages “emotion regulation,” which is the ability to take in the experience of others without feeling overwhelmed.
- Acknowledging a collective form of grief. Healthcare employees should be allowed to grieve in whatever way feels best for them. That may be crying, laughing at the absurdity of the situation, or feeling annoyed. “Healthcare workers are in it all the time, and the appreciation they may have felt when this was first raging might be dissipating, because we’re just all in it now,” Palacios says. “You don’t have to be the best version of yourself all the time. When people realize that, they can more readily accept help.”
- de Bruin EI, Formsma AR, Frijstein G, Bögels SM. Mindful2Work: Effects of combined physical exercise, yoga, and mindfulness meditations for stress relieve in employees. A proof of concept study. Mindfulness (N Y) 2017;8:204-217.
- Stonerock GL, Hoffman BM, Smith PJ, Blumenthal JA. Exercise as treatment for anxiety: Systematic review and analysis. Ann Behav Med 2015;49:542-556.