The medical community knows challenge well but admit they are feeling overwhelmed not just by demand and lack of preparedness. Uniquely, Covid-19 is a personal health risk for physicians and they are trying to manage psychosocial stressors just like the rest of the population, in a time of uncertain social change. As in all cases of staying stress proof and resilient, the evidence tells us to stick to what works and that is in my view, addressing 4 key areas. In my experience, adopt as a priority self-care in 3 of these areas and you are likely to last the distance and cope well. Actively neglect any part and you risk entering a zone of suboptimal resilience.
This means daily, acknowledging your state in a very mindful and conscious way rather than working on auto pilot. How is your body feeling? Emotionally are you overwhelmed or very anxious? Are you just coping and need to reach out for support? Do this practice for at least ten minutes in the morning and evening in a deliberate, quiet, reflective state. Choose a place that is soothing to you for this exercise. It is important to actively release negative emotions too in this time as they will accumulate with each stressful experience and contribute to burnout. For Muslim physicians, daily prayers in a present way will leave you charged and energised and certainly more balanced and grounded.
Maintain your mindset at work
Manage personal workload expectations and rationalise you can’t do it all. Support your team with humour and camaraderie. Ensure you feel safe at work to minimise anxiety-lobby for good equipment to protect you, do a sensible number of shifts and take breaks when you can.
Maintain physical stamina
Good diet is crucial to prevent burnout-evidence based tricks?
- Limiting caffeine and increasing slow burn carbs
- staying hydrated
- eating high energy giving snacks such as nuts throughout the day
- increasing organic turmeric intake can help resilience.
- At these times food planning is key, when you shop, make a healthy menu for the week, take it to work and follow it. Do not snack on high sugar foods-a medium- and long-term energy killer
- Do not over exercise when you are stressed -this can undermine resilience but do undertake some form of strength and therefore stamina building. An online HITS class for time sensitive maintenance of fitness or grounding yoga-Yin yoga in particular allows you to stretch and breathe and release negative knots built up in a tense working day.
Work life balance
Work life partitioning is key-don’t Whatsapp colleagues or Facebook about the situation when you are at home. Don’t answer emails-you need time to watch a comedy /chat to your children/listen to music or simply be present as you-not in medical helper mode. This approach will reinforce a sense of wholeness and receiving others energy instead of constantly giving and feeling drained. Usually we recommend maintaining long term goals so days do not slip away with work becoming life consuming but in such uncertain times-looking after mind, body and soul and staying strong is your goal
I hope this article has allowed you to find some simple ways to manage stress in your days and prevent escalation to the point of burnout. Valuing your own resilience will allow you to take manage workload and the demands of this time far more efficiently.
By Dr Asma Khan is an occupational health physician and stress management consultant.