Much like the rest of the Healthcare industry, the COVID-19 crisis has transformed the lives and practices of psychologists and has revealed the need for time-efficient selfcare. The anxiety among psychologists is universal—nearly every psychologist worldwide is experiencing some negative impact on their mental health. We at eMedEvents created this post to offer 6 research-supported, practitioner-friendly methods of self-care to manage anxiety and maintain optimal performance, to continue to help your clients and yourself through these difficult times.
Connect everyday with your support system- Social distancing, staying home, working remotely, and lengthy quarantining begin to surface feelings of isolation. The natural self-care corrective is social support. “Caring relationships have been proven to be effective and popular self-care remedies in psychotherapist research. Across multiple studies, more than 90% of mental health professionals say that they seek support from family, friends, and peers1. In research, increased use of helping relationships correlates positively with psychotherapist well-being. Expectedly, psychologists find helping relationships to be both satisfying and efficacious for themselves. Without getting too technical, helping relationships or social support exercise a threefold effect on work stressor”. According to the meta-analyses (John C. Norcross & Colleen M. Phillips, 2020). Social support: (1) reduces the actual strains experienced, (2) buffers or mitigates the stressors of work, and (3) moderates that stressor–strain association. In other words, nourishing relationships protect us from the ravages of our impossible profession in multiple ways. We need to take care while giving care. We need to nurture ourselves while nurturing others. Thus, accept and give that support to friends, family, pets, neighbors, and colleagues. This is where social media emerges as a genuine asset during the current crisis (provided the social media is supportive and healthy). Take a few minutes daily to connect meaningfully with someone other than your clients1.
Maintain a schedule or routine- Psychologists more than most people crave routine and structure. Now more than ever that structure is needed, as it will help you maintain a sense of normalcy and give you a semblance of reassuring structure and activity. When you’re not working on patient consultations, avoid the temptation of becoming lazy. Keep your mind active, make sure every minute of the day has a purpose. Decades of research demonstrates that those with declared goals and a definite schedule prove more effective (and less anxious)2.
Commit to a healthy diet- Stress can adversely affect both your eating habits and your metabolism. The best way to combat stress or emotional eating is to be mindful of what triggers stress eating and to be ready to fight the urge. “If you are someone who is prone to emotional eating, know your triggers, know what stresses you out and be prepared,” says Clinical psychologist Amy Sullivan, PsyD, ABPP. Keeping healthy snacks on hand will help nourish your body, arming yourself nutritionally to better deal with your stress. “Helping to regulate your blood sugar throughout the day is going to keep your body stable and your emotions on a much better playing field2”.
Rest is essential- The stress of helping your clients deal with their own mental health struggles, coupled with the fact that the world is experiencing a pandemic, can create a lot of mental challenges, which is amplified when you don’t get enough sleep. Receiving the appropriate amount of sleep allows you to stay focused throughout the day. Researchers recommend avoiding stimulants like alcohol, caffeine and nicotine before bed.
Regularly exercise- With the pandemic forcing many gyms to be closed down, and strict social distancing guidelines being enforced, you find yourself wondering how you can get a good workout in. Aerobic activity is one area of exercise that shouldn’t be affected by the pandemic. Exercises like walking, running, hiking or swimming can help release endorphins (natural substances that help you feel better and maintain a positive attitude). There are also plenty of exercises you can perform in the comfort of your own home, such as yoga. Exercising and clearing your mind, will not only relax and comfort you, but help you remain fresh and sharp once you start interacting with your clients again.
Limit news consumption- While it is important to stay informed with the latest news headlines, research has shown 24-hour COVID coverage, can lead to depression and high levels of stress. Take a break from social media, especially if you find yourself worrying about the latest news developments. Set an alarm for when you plan to check the news and use a timer to limit how long you can spend on news sites. Find other activities you enjoy instead: immersing yourself in a work project, is a great example of a productive time-consuming project that will help keep your mind focused on your clients, and not focused on the negativity the outside world produces.
- John C. Norcross & Colleen M Phillips; May, 2020 Psychologist Self-Care During the Pandemic: Now More Than Ever National Register of Health Service Psychologists 2020
- Chu, P. S., Saucier, D. A., & Hafner, E. (2010). Meta-analysis of the relationships between social support and well-being in children and adolescents. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 29, 624–645.