The current pandemic placed heavy strain on everything from work to personal relationships. In these unprecedented and challenging times, it is important to recognize that our mental health is just as important as our physical health. Adjusting to life during this pandemic is not easy, and for many,“pandemic fatigue” is a serious and real condition. Psychologist Rachel Goldman, PhD defines pandemic fatigue as the intense tiredness and weariness that many people feel and the irritability and disorientation of not knowing which day of the week it is. Sound familiar?
While this may be a new phenomenon for some, physicians have been experiencing burnout like this for years. Anesthesiologist Lynette Charity speaks out about physician burnout, expressing that “the stress of long hours, no sleep, poor eating, inadequate protection, the fear of contaminating loved ones, the fear of dying and seeing patients die no matter what you do, the disrespect by hospital administrators and the fear of being fired, all remain the reality for those who are in the thick of things.” While these were all issues before doctors were overwhelmed with the COVID-19 pandemic, it is now more critical than ever to make sure that first responders are healthy physically and mentally. However, healing a physician’s mental health proves to be more difficult than healing a broken bone. Some argue that the only way to truly resolve this epidemic is by bringing together hospital administrators and physicians to discuss root causes.
Whether you’re a physician or not, there are several steps anyone can (and should!) take to cope with pandemic fatigue. Some of the therapies psychologists recommend are:
• Focus on what you do have control over, especially considering your behaviors and reactions
• Keep key health behaviors in check: do you need sleep, water, physical activity, or stress management?
• Unplug: disengage from news and media for a little if you can which may add to stress levels
The main message: check in with yourself. You know what you need better than anyone else, so take some time to replenish and recharge periodically. No one should feel guilty for taking some time out of their day to engage in self-care. Even when it might seem silly or even a waste of time if you have a long list of tasks to do, self-care is the key to avoiding burnout and maintaining a healthy mental space that fuels productivity.
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