Self-care is even more important now
You can keep stress in check with a few tips
As we continue through this unprecedented time, the information pouring in from our organizations, agencies, news outlets and social media is overwhelming. Nurses caring for at-risk and diagnosed COVID-19 patients are meeting their responsibilities and oaths as caregivers while managing fear, anxiety, risk to personal health and safety, and disruptions to their personal lives.
By Lesly Kelly, PhD, RN, FAAN
Increased stress comes from witnessing human suffering, fear and risk of coming into harm, worrying about and separation from loved ones, and intense workloads. Healthcare professionals should know the signs and symptoms to acknowledge and address burnout and secondary traumatic stress.
Stressors at every turn
1. Create your own personalized menu of self-care needs and ensure that at least one is happening each day.
While it may seem impossible during this time, it is important to recharge in a way that works for you. Whether it is ensuring a set number of hours of sleep, exercising, calling a family member or making time to play with pets, use that time of
as a grounding activity to recharge.
2. Practice breathing and relaxation.
Even if you have never tried this before, take moments to quiet your mind and slow your breath through deep breathing. Even just a couple of minutes can support a calming physical and emotional response.
3. Use the buddy system.
Many concerned individuals may check in on you, but they may not understand the stress of your job. Identify a buddy who understands your situation and can support your emotional well-being. Having a buddy supports stress management, debriefing and coping.
4. Recognize information overload.
Identify how you respond to information and know your capacity. Take breaks from news and social media as needed.
5. When the situation is dire, it might seem hard to focus on the good.
Take a moment in the day to say aloud or write down three good things to focus on for a moment to create optimism and build resilience.
6. Use employee assistance programs or psychological support resources.
We have never experienced a crisis like this, and the challenges are unprecedented. Use resources you’re offered, including debriefing after high stress and traumatic events, taking frequent and adequate pauses to acknowledge the high emotional toll of the situation and frequently checking in with yourself.
You are a vital and extremely valued healthcare team member that is being asked to respond during an extraordinary time. We do not know how the crisis will continue to unfold, but the world recognizes your selflessness in caring for others and is grateful.
About the Author
Lesly Kelly, PhD, RN, FAAN, is a nurse researcher with a background in burnout, resilience, and well-being. She is a nurse scientist for CommonSpirit Health and associate clinical professor for the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation at Arizona State University in Phoenix. Read
her article on how leaders can help their staff deal with nurse burnout
Watch our video on how coronavirus spreads
Now more than ever, it is important to recognize and understand the physical and emotional toll of caring for others and, even though it might seem impossible, prioritize your own well-being.
Six strategies to follow amid times of crisis
Without a doubt, the most important action to address stress and burnout is meeting the essential needs of healthcare professionals and creating a healthy work environment. Not having enough personal protective equipment, adequate staffing or resources to support the basic needs of employees away from their families are big issues that should be addressed.

Our leaders face challenges never seen before, in addition to the traumatic stress mounting against their workforce. Maintaining a sense of optimism and hope in the face of crisis is difficult.

During a response, nurses can take small actions to support their psychological and emotional needs and mitigate secondary traumatic stress. Even though they are simple actions, these practices can help balance out the times of high stress.
What is it?
What are signs and symptoms?
Feelings of extreme emotional and physical exhaustion
Sadness, frustration, irritability, apathy, exhaustion, feelings of failure
Secondary traumatic stress
Feelings of distress related to exposure to a traumatic event
Feelings of worry, being “on guard," physical symptoms of stress, nightmares
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