By Richard Juman, PsyD, Director, TeamHealth Behavioral Health Policy and Regulations, Co-Chair, Clinician Resiliency Core Group
Earlier this month, we talked about how coming out of the pandemic will shift how we think about mental well-being and the ways that we will continue to grapple with the ongoing mental health effects of COVID-19. Now, we turn our attention to managing stress and emotional well-being on a daily basis. Here are some strategies and daily ways to cope with stress to support emotional well-being, during good times and bad.
Daily Tips to Cope with Stress
1. Keep an eye on your own emotional well-being.
No one was prepared to perform heroically for more than a year as the pandemic demanded. This is a marathon, not a sprint, and we must prioritize our own psychological equilibrium, physical well-being and healthy behavior. That means taking care of ourselves first since we know that we can only continue to help others and perform our roles at work and home if we stay strong. That means:
- Maintain a regular schedule.
- Get adequate sleep, healthy nutrition and vigorous, regular exercise.
- Take healthy breaks at work that focus exclusively on your own well-being. Examples are taking walks, going outdoors or doing meditation or breathing exercises in a quiet place.
- Finish your work at work, and at a reasonable time, so that you can return home ready to engage with your loved ones.
- Put a “transitional activity” between work and home. That might mean a nature walk, a trip to the gym or any activity that establishes a clear barrier between work and the rest of life.
- Create a “gratitude practice” in which you regularly and deliberately focus on things that are going well. You might write down three things each day that went well and the role you played in making it so. This practice, done regularly, raises the volume on the positive and builds resiliency over time.
2. Keep an eye on your co-workers.
Whether you work in a healthcare facility, an office or from your desk, you have the best vantage point on how your co-workers are doing with respect to emotional well-being. You know your colleagues at their baseline. So, you’re in the best position to notice when a co-worker becomes emotionally labile, distressed, “burned out,” disgruntled or depressed. When you notice these kinds of changes, let your co-worker know that you’re seeing a change and would like to help if you can.
3. Leaders should focus on the emotional well-being of their teams.
For leaders, getting to know your direct reports well is the first step toward being able to notice signs of deterioration. When you do identify people at-risk for psychological distress, impairment or burnout, work with them to brainstorm changes in scheduling, workload, task assignments or other areas that may prove helpful.
4. Take advantage of wellness resources and options that are available to those challenged by mental health issues.
Reach out to your employer to see what resources are available to you. For example, TeamHealth has created, over the course of the pandemic, a wide-ranging library of resources to help individual clinicians, leaders, clinical teams and other TeamHealth employees overcome well-being strategies. Free counseling is available through our EAP. We have also organized Peer-to-Peer Support services and wellness activities that can be brought directly into provider groups.
As individuals, many of us will continue to grapple with the trauma and stress of the past year. Moving forward beyond the pandemic, we know that communities need sustained support and resources. We hope these tips are helpful for coping with stress and managing your daily emotional well-being.
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