by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMay 11, 2020 doctors and suicide, health care coworkers and coronavirus, pandemic and self care for doctors0 comments
Health Care workers are among the most vulnerable populations right now with the Coronavirus impact. It is not what we initially think, but those who are battling the epidemic and caring for our sick are also some of the most vulnerable. Particularly those who are front line workers who are exposed to those who have or could have Covid-19 infections. With concerns about the well-being of the front line workers, this piece focuses on their emotional and mental health needs right now. Please keep in mind, even prior to Covid-19, there is a slightly higher than average suicide rate for medical professionals. What makes medical workers especially vulnerable is that they are less likely to seek mental health support, they are less likely to acknowledge their own emotional needs or self care needs such as sleep and nourishment, and they are often overworked. All of these things make them a population of special concern during Covid-19.
Coronavirus has impacted health care workers with the omnipresence of the needs of patients that may or may not be able to be helped. To be on the front lines dealing with gravely ill individuals and to not be able to offer them more than palliative care is stressful for medical professionals. Additionally, many hospital centers are not equipped with personal protection equipment which allows providers to feel safe in their delivery of care for others. This adds a layer of helplessness when personal exposure can result in disease and death of themselves and their family members. All of these factors together create the perfect storm for increased stress, fatigue, anxiety, burnout, depression and the onset of other mental health concerns.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is defined as an emotional response to a sudden and unexpected event such as an accident or natural disaster. Commons symptoms are uncontrolled emotions, flashbacks, strained relationships, and nightmares. Corona Virus and its impact has been traumatic for most people and most especially our front line workers, there will be variability in those who recover from the traumatic nature of this event with resiliency, rebounding quickly to a full recovery, versus those who experience lingering symptoms for months or years to come.
One important thing that we can do for ourselves and others to enhance our mental and emotional health is to acknowledge how difficult this has been, mentally, emotionally, and physically. It is normal to be stressed, frustrated, and overwhelmed during a pandemic crises. To be realistic, the health care workers should check in with supervisors and try to reduce their work load right now and minimize other stresses to prevent the overall impact from complicating in greater ways.
If any health care worker is noticing that they are feeling heightened fatigue, hypersomnia or insomnia, changes in weight or appetite, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, anxiety, depression, or thoughts of self harm they should immediately talk with a mental health professional, employee assistance program, or call a crises hotline in the event of thoughts of self harm. In times of crises, absolute burn out can come on quickly and been all encompassing before one even realizes what they are experiencing. It is normal to have limitations and important to acknowledge ones own mental, emotional, and psychological needs.Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJuly 1, 2019 anticipatory grief, burn out, caregiver fatigue, grieving the loss of a parent, self care during grief, terminally ill0 comments
12 Ways to Take Care of Yourself when your Parent is Terminally Ill
If your parent is facing terminal illness, you as their child may be encountering some of the greatest stress of your life. The mounds of grief will have presented themselves long before the end of their life comes and while caring for yourself is likely the last thing on your mind, it is the most important thing you should do in these days, weeks, and even years. Here are 12 ways to care for yourself when your parent is terminally ill.
- Be aware of your own guilt, guilt has a way of creeping into everything that surrounds illness, death, and even contributes to complicated grief. If your parent is in the hospital very ill, you may feel guilty to do anything other than sit by their side so compulsively you will stay with them to avoid the burden of your guilt. The thing is with this kind of irrational guilt, nothing you do will ever be enough to stop it from effecting you. You must label your feeling as irrational guilt and accept your need for some balance and self-care in the rush of your parent’s illness.
- Practice mindfulness. One of the ways that our emotions become very unmanageable is the we often want to repress or avoid them. We become so busy with the act of doing that we dismiss the great segment of our humanness that is always feeling. Noticing our feelings and the way the effect our bodies, our breathing, our thinking, is a huge asset especially in difficult moments. Even as simple as observing, “I am angry, I am sad’ can help to reinforce our wellness and prevent us from acting out unconsciously.
- Become versed in grief and learn about anticipatory grief, the actual human tendency to begin grieving the loss of someone we love long before their life reaches its end. Anticipatory grief is one of many kinds of grief that you may notice if caring for a terminally ill loved one.
- Sadness related to bereavement and grief has a way of reordering our priorities to be more aware of what is important. Take advantage of this tendency to make use of it, for instance, the petty grievances that you might feel for a loved one fade aware in the dusk of their mortality and what remains is often love. Trimming the lawn to perfection or finishing the next race may seem less important and what takes center stage is often being with and appreciating others.
- Make sleep a priority, even when your schedule is crumbling and your heart is heavy having good sleep hygiene and making it to your own bed to rest will always be one of the best ways to keep yourself strong, healthy, and emotionally balanced.
- Understand what compassion fatigue, caregiver fatigue and burnout are and how they may be effecting you greatly in this time of immense hurt and stress.
- Eat a balanced diet, if you are rushing around in the hospital or caring for your parent in your home you may not feel you have the time to prepare healthy meals. Make time for them anyways, by fueling your body with nourishing foods you will be stronger and more vital to care for those around you in this difficult time.
- Find acceptance, it is sometimes hard to see that your parent is in the process of dying, instead we may react with denial and anger which make the emotional toll even harder on you as the individual. By stating to yourself that this is in fact the final process of your parent’s life you will be better able to readjust your approach to be sensible and supportive.
- Spend some time in nature. The outdoors from the trees to the grass and the leaves are wonderful teachers when it comes to the spectrum of life, ever watch a small bud unfurl from the soil and see a dry crumbled leaf next to it? That is everything we ever need to know about life.
- Anticipate that stress and sickness often bring out the worst in families, if there are at least a couple of people in your family tree who are notorious for being aggressive, addicted, selfish, or any other socially uncomfortable thing, this will likely present in heightened state. Armor yourself with anticipation and your best efforts for detachment as they visit your parent’s bedside.
- Activate your social supports, let people know what is happening in your life so that they can help. Sometimes we fear burdening other’s so we become silent in our grief. You might find that if you talk to others about what is happening and how you are feeling you will be supported and the sense of connection will help you.
- Make time for exercise, even if you are not a fitness guru, it is a great time to start walking or jogging. Exercise is an immediate help in releasing stress. You will benefit from better sleep and calmer mood if you activate this wellness skill.
Remember that the most important time for self care isn’t when you are bored but when you are busiest and feel that you can’t possibly find a minute in your day as these our the times when we need care the most.Learn More