Frontline workers have become the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the global health crisis continues to overwhelm hospitals, medical facilities, entire healthcare systems, and other essential facilities, both medical professionals and essential workers are under immense pressure to safeguard people’s lives.
With so much going on around us, it isn’t a surprise to see that many of our frontline workers are experiencing excessive stress and anxiety during this pandemic and, if left unchecked, could lead to a mental health crisis in its wake. This can lead to the reduced effectiveness of medical and other essential services, new waves of affected patients, and another downturn in the global economy.
While it’s the responsibility of health administrators, managers, organizations, and other appropriate authorities to care for their workers and help them find ways to reduce their stress and anxiety, frontline workers can also take action to cope with what they’re feeling amid the pandemic.
Before that, it’s important to know what factors may be causing post-pandemic stress and burnout for medical professionals and essential workers.
Factors Causing Excessive Stress to Frontline Workers
The Possibility of Another Surge
Despite cases falling over the past few weeks and vaccination programs taking place, there may still be danger ahead. As more restaurants, stores, and other public facilities open up, it could spell disaster for medical professionals if people stop following the proper health and safety protocols set by the World Health Organization (WHO). Some people might start holding bigger parties, going out to bars and restaurants, and taking part in “super spreader events” that can put many people at risk of contracting and spreading the virus.
These kinds of incidents are a frontline worker’s worst nightmare. If people continue to be irresponsible with their mask use and not properly follow safety regulations, the chances are that they can start rising again.
Simply put, crisis fatigue is similar to burnout in that it’s caused by excessive stress that takes place over long periods of time. This stress is often caused by crises like wars, economic depressions, and pandemics, among other things, and can take a toll on the body. These prolonged periods of stress followed by a lack of time to relax can make people feel anxious, depressed, physically and mentally exhausted, and can even affect sleep patterns.
When workers are worried about their safety in the company, both health-wise and career-wise, they won’t work as effectively and efficiently as they usually would. And at a time when companies are furloughing employees left and right, it can be difficult for workers to feel secure. After all, these people are supporting themselves and their families. With this in mind, managers and health administrators need to take care of workers and ensure their safety and security at the workplace.
With the excessive stress that many frontline workers experience, a basic support system can keep workers motivated. However, with the policies and health regulations surrounding COVID-19, social support systems aren’t as readily available as they used to be. In between working a job that increases the risk of getting the virus and experiencing social isolation due to health and safety protocols, this can increase the chances of workers suffering from post-traumatic stress symptoms.
How Frontline Workers Can Cope with Post-pandemic Stress and Burnout
Stay Informed, But Don’t Take It All In
Staying updated with the latest news and information during the pandemic is important. Still, with so many resources on the internet, it can be hard to determine what’s accurate and what isn’t. To avoid misinformation, remember to use reliable sources like local health authorities and WHO for topics about staying safe in the pandemic.
It’s also important to avoid information overload by limiting your use of social media and only consuming what you need and what you can handle.
Take a Step Back When You Need to
Having many responsibilities at work and home can take a toll on one’s mental and physical health. Whenever you start to feel overwhelmed, take a breather, and use that break to evaluate what tasks need to be done first and go from there.
If you find yourself unable to cope, try to talk to your supervisor or a close family member about what you’re feeling and how you can ease the burden.
No one wants to get sick, but at a time when the virus is as contagious as ever, you need to prepare for the worst-case scenario and get yourself insured. If you get infected, you won’t be able to do your work, and that can be difficult if you’re providing for your loved ones.
Consider getting disability insurance which allows you to receive benefits if you find yourself unable to work due to an illness or injury. Fortunately, there are disability insurance specialists for physicians and other essential workers that can help you be prepared for any illness and injury during these uncertain times.
Have a Healthier Lifestyle
Staying hydrated, getting exercise, and maintaining a healthy diet are the keys to strengthening your immune system and improving your general well-being. It’s also important to get some rest during downtime and get enough sleep before starting the day.
Put Things into Perspective
In these difficult and uncertain times, it’s important to remember that there are some things that you can’t control. Instead of looking at the negative side of things, try to count your small wins and achievements every day and try to find reasons to look forward to the future.
Stay Connected with Those Close to You
With social distancing rules in place, it can sometimes feel more like social isolation. Don’t allow the pandemic to affect your relationships. Consider scheduling regular video conferences with family and friends or even simply calling them up to check on them and catch up.
No one knows when this global health crisis will end, but as frontline workers continue to take action to protect the public, what people can do now is to make things easier for them. This can be done by following the proper health and safety protocols. Doing this will not only allow us to protect ourselves and others during the pandemic but help frontline workers avoid the mental health crisis that may emerge should the number of those affected continue to rise.