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Mental Health Tips for Healthcare Workers


Mental Health Tips for Healthcare Workers

The medical fraternity has been mourning for the last couple of days. Death visited and took one of us, the late Dr Fred Wambua by suicide. His death adds to six others that have died by suicide in the last two years, as reported by the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists, and Dentists Union. (KMPDU) We may not have the opportunity to hear from the seven on what might have led them down the path they found themselves in. But one thing that we can agree on is the worrying increase in mental illness cases among health care professionals. This is a silent epidemic that needs to be addressed to save the medical profession.

The health care industry is fast-paced and chaotic. This has made most health care workers not realize that their well-being needs attention until they hit a wall.

As a health care worker, you must take breaks and listen to your body to identify potential mental health conditions that need your attention. To continue delivering quality care to your patients, you need to take care of yourself as well.

Here are tips to help you to maintain and improve your mental health:

1. Take Intermittent Breaks

With an endless stream of patients at your place of work, it may seem impossible to step outside for ten minutes to catch fresh air. Be as it may, breaks are important in preventing burnout.

Stress can have an amplification effect - meaning, the more stressed you become, the more intensely any additional stressors will affect you. 

Taking a break of a few minutes of deep breathing, or sitting in silence with a cup of tea or coffee, can help reduce tension and get you focused and re-energized.

You can talk to your team at work and agree on a plan that will ensure you cover for each other while taking breaks.

In addition, consider scheduling time off throughout the year to relax and spend quality time with your loved ones.

2. Be Deliberate About Self-Care

When most people hear the word self-care, what comes to their mind is luxurious wellness retreats or indulgent spa days. Well, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Your self-care habits don’t have to dent your pocket or swallow an entire weekend. It’s more beneficial to incorporate daily self-care practices rather than wait until your next day off to ‘treat yourself’.

Self-care can be a phone call with a close friend, taking a ten-minute daily meditation, or enjoying a good book or bubble bath after a long hectic shift.

Whatever ‘drug’ works for you, take at least a few minutes daily to merrymaking. 

3. Get a Physical Activity You Enjoy

Perhaps, one of the reasons why you quit your last exercise routine is because you didn’t enjoy it. And just so that you may know, you are not alone in this.

Physical activity is important to your mental well-being. Regular exercise is linked to an improvement in mental health status, according to a study published in The Lancet.

Exercise releases serotonin and endorphins, which can help reduce the effect of stress and improve your mood.

So, whether it's weight-lifting, yoga, cycling or taking a walk around your neighbourhood, find a physical activity that you enjoy.

4. Seek Out Counselling/Therapy

Given the nature of our work as healthcare professionals, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder rank among the most prevalent mental illnesses. 

As such, whether you are feeling stressed, have endured a difficult situation with a patient, or are depressed, it’s helpful to talk to a professional counsellor or therapist.

While talking to trusted friends, colleagues, or family members is encouraged, a professional counsellor or therapist can offer unbiased advice to guide you in coping with the challenges and stressors you face at work, or in your life. 

You can also join Daktari Online’s community forum to connect and interact with other healthcare professionals. 
As a health care professional, you carry a lot on your shoulders, and it is not unusual to feel overwhelmed. Nonetheless, giving a blind eye to your stress is not a healthy way to cope.

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