by Melisse Ogilvie, Social Worker
I recently read an article titled “When this war is over, many of us will leave medicine.” In this article, the Emergency Room Doctor candidly shared her feelings of being scared while working on an elderly patient diagnosed with Covid-19. Dr Harper writes in the article, “I was scared, and I don’t get scared. Other doctors do, but not ER doctors. We don’t scare easily.” The article reminded me that while we have acknowledged that this pandemic and its requirements affect people’s mental health, we have neglected to focus on the well-being of the people who are on the battlefield.
Essential and frontline workers, if you are asked, “how you are really doing?” What would be your true response? For the last two months or more, you have been going through the motions and doing what comes as second nature to you. It’s your job; it’s what you get paid to do. You have had to make adjustments, like the rest of us. Yet, in this unprecedented time, you continue sacrificing for this nation.
I imagine that somewhere, during the National Salute last Friday, there was an essential worker feeling overwhelmed; not by the expression of gratitude, but by their own internal turmoil. This could have been brought on by the huge burden of responsibility; the sacrifices they are expected to make, coupled with the realities of the situation.
You may be scared. How do you continue to work while battling these feelings?
You may feel like you are expected to “keep it together,” and, therefore, you do not want to show any signs of “weakness.” So, you are busy doing what has to be done to the point that you have no downtime to confront your feelings. When do you reflect on how you are really doing?
Whichever way you answered the above questions to yourself, you might be experiencing physical and emotional symptoms of stress and anxiety, such as persistent headaches; chest and abdominal pain or discomfort; increased drinking or eating; irritability; mood changes, especially from high to low; and insomnia.
Because your families, your colleagues and the Nation need you to be physically and mentally healthy, here are some tips that will help you develop your own coping skills:
- Admit to yourself that you may be struggling. It is ok not to be ok!
- Find a trusted, non-judgemental person whose listening ear may be enough for you.
- Remember what motivated you to work in this field.
- Write down the things that you are grateful for and put in key places as reminders.
- Practice tuning off when you are away from work, by limiting the conversations about the situation and what is happening at work.
- Do something that will relax you, such as gardening, virtual meetups with friends, baking, having (responsible) sex, playing crossword puzzles, watching mindless television shows, exercising, reading, listening to music, meditating, praying.
- Please seek professional help, to address the persisting thoughts and emotions associated with the current situation.
You are doing so much for us, but the best thing you can do for us is to take care of yourself first.
You cannot give what you do not have.
Always remember that we appreciate you, and we value you. To all of you, essential and frontline workers, we say, thank you, and please, take care of yourself.
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