Healthcare workers’ mental health in itself and the threats to which it has been exposed with particular intensity in recent years are clear examples of what may have occurred or be occurring in other professional sectors. This is probably more extreme, in a more hidden way, with more minor public repercussions or visibility.
Some measures might be considered not as band-aids but as first aid in psychological health at work. However, it is essential that the solutions are more structural and come from the companies’ responsibility and not only from each employee. This is why it is necessary to reflect on what is happening and how toprotect healthcare workers’ mental health as employees and as employers.
Healthcare workers’ mental health: stronger or poorer?
We have been talking about it for nearly two years now, and we have not found an answer that convinces us completely, probably because both options are in line with reality.
When we talk about healthcare workers’ mental health and how it has been affected as a result of the pandemic, an interesting debate opens up at a psychological level: to what extent does the succession of adversities and stressors strengthen us (what in technical language points to ideas such as resilience at work) and to what extent does the build-up of stressors undermine our resources, increasing our psychological discomfort and, in short, producing different versions of what is commonly known as burnout syndrome?
During the last two years, there have been talks of the psychosocial risks healthcare workers’ mental health has been exposed and the effective decline of this well-being.
The personal aspect is reflected at work
This issue is a clear example of how psychological distress affects a person’s health – with all that this implies – and has a clear correlation with their professional performance.
When things get complicated in the way we have experienced, motivation plummets as well as the employee’s commitment to their profession (their tasks, functions, responsibilities) and to the company or entity for which they work. Interpersonal relationships with co-workers also suffer, and problems arise in teams that have to do with personal and methodological issues.
Of course, for some people, the non-work aspects (leisure, family, partner, hobbies) represent islands of well-being, favoring rest and relatively adequate compensation for the purely professional strain. In other cases, these aspects are also affected since it is not always possible to differentiate between the different areas of an individual’s life: the person generalizes their discomfort and drags from one place to another what happens in the workplace. These cases have a worse prognosis, as the person’s counterweights, their protective factors, are diminished, and it is more challenging to regain tone.
Basic self-care measures for healthcare workers’ mental health
1. Avoid solitude
Asking for professional help and relying on one’ s social and family environment are always present among the first tips to take care of psychological well-being. Of course, they have been vital in protecting healthcare workers’ mental health.
Whether in formal or informal settings, asking for help and sharing what is happening to us with other people opens up the possibility of integrating the emotions we feel. It allows us to handle them and understand their meaning, cause, function, and expression in front of someone and obtain some practical support, instead of limiting ourselves to experiencing them in solitude.
2. Resting and not pushing yourself to the limit
Similarly, having a proper routine of breaks, rest, and free time is essential to take care of healthcare workers’ mental health and, ultimately, any employee.
Don’t miss our post on healthy habits at work.
Continuous exposure to tasks of maximum relevance to the lives of the people we care for generates enormous stress. If, in addition, they have to be carried out under conditions of added stress such as those encountered during the pandemic, the psychological strain increases significantly.
Therefore, to protect psychological well-being and buffer as an effect of work-related stressors, it is essential not to strain resources, push them to their limits, and familiarize ourselves with the nascent signs of fatigue or burnout. As recommended in times of high heat, “drink before you are thirsty,” i.e., stop even before necessary.
These recommendations are not always applicable in particular emergencies or systemic job insecurity. Still, it is crucial to keep them in mind to put them into practice, even at minimum levels: it will be better than nothing.
3. Taking personal and realistic responsibility
Trying to change reality from my small personal standpoint is motivating and has a natural effect even if it is not seen in the short term: that of “many people doing small things in many places…”. This helps channel certain disturbing emotions into productive action instead of letting them stagnate inside us in the form of unproductive reflections. It also brings a sense of realistic and localized control in the present.
On the contrary, entering into an all-out war against the cruel world, against evil humanity, against the predatory system, from a position of a victim of society (everyone is terrible, I am good, everyone is irresponsible, I am a good and suffering citizen) is a legitimate strategy but, of course, it leads to the vicious circle we are trying to avoid. It generates more tension because it takes a lot of energy to fight with all of humanity and try to change it. It causes more frustration because society always wins in the war between a person and society.
Thirdly, it generates more bewilderment, that is, a sense of disengagement from others, of not understanding why no one listens to our cry for help and why we cannot turn around a situation that, with a bit of thought, is entirely beyond our control.
Emotional well-being program for companies
At ifeel, we know that work should not disrupt people’s well-being. Our team of psychologists, experts in well-being at work, has created an emotional well-being program for companies that positively impacts talent retention, reduces absenteeism, and combats employee stress.
In our Resources section, you will find helpful material, such as podcasts, HR guides, or interviews with HR managers. In addition, we have a Psychosocial Risk Factors Template, which you can use to comply with the requirements of the Labor Inspection.
Thanks to our emotional well-being program, your company’s HR managers can receive personalized, data-driven advice on improving the psychological well-being of their teams. In addition, this program offers employees a 360° mental health care service structured at different levels according to their needs. Try our program today to see how it could help you.
We hope you found this post about healthcare workers’ mental health interesting. If you would like more information about our emotional well-being program for companies, request it, and we will contact your team as soon as possible.