Thousands of health care professionals are on the front lines working long, extended hours and risking their own health in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The uncertainty the virus brings, the risk of being exposed and making difficult decisions is creating extreme levels of anxiety and stress for those in the health care industry.
One of the ways to help manage the stress is to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is a type of meditation where individuals take in moment-to-moment experiences as they come. It’s about noticing your thoughts and feelings, without judgment and without reacting to them.
Mindfulness practices won’t stop the spread of COVID-19. They won’t reduce the amount of overtime, on-call days or patient inquiries. They won’t make groceries (or toilet paper) appear on shelves in local supermarkets. And they won’t give you the hug you need during a time of social distancing, but they can help in important ways.
Better stress management
Not surprisingly, stress is often amplified by work-related pressures — overwhelming workloads, long hours and not taking enough mental breaks. Nearly 80% of Americans say they experience stress during their daily lives, and that’s during “normal” times.
It may be difficult for health care professionals to slow down or take a break during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly for physicians and nurses. However, research does show incorporating mindfulness techniques can have a positive influence on stress. Encourage your colleagues and employees to do so as much as possible.
Improved mental and physical health
Along with an impact on stress levels, mindfulness can have a positive effect on other physical and mental health areas. Mindfulness techniques have been used to help:
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduce chronic pain
- Improve sleep
- Boost the immune system
- Treat depression
For example, yoga sessions are a quick and effective way to boost overall well-being.
Enhanced focus, memory and thinking skills
Health care professionals need the mental strength and resiliency to handle the unique situations they’re experiencing with COVID-19. Keeping intense focus, delivering efficient care and making meaningful connections with patients and residents while being at their best can be extremely challenging.
A main goal of mindfulness is to remain focused on the present and attempt to free our minds from past events or anxiety about the future. Practicing mindfulness helps achieve this and improves other cognitive functions, such as learning, attention, problem-solving and decision-making.
While they appreciate the great meaning of their work, particularly in a time like this, health care workers’ ability to disconnect and recharge is even more critical than it is for others when it comes to how they view work environments and feel as employees.