The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically altered everyone’s life including the way people grieve over the loss of patients or their loved ones. The pandemic has created a new context for people to comprehend death and grief because so many people are dying in quite ‘disturbing’ ways. Given the rapid pace of the spread and deaths, often without warning or time to prepare, the situation somewhat feels like a ‘tsunami of losses’. Despite keeping up with all the safety measures such as the use of alcohol-based sanitizer, wearing masks, and practicing social distancing, the situation would keep threatening until vaccination is developed.
The stressful environment in the healthcare facilities, amplified by the limited resources and increase in the number of patients leads to cumulative grief that can negatively affect healthcare workers.
Below-mentioned is a few tips and general guidance to mitigate the impact of grief and maintain workforce efficiency:
Symptoms of Grief and Stress:
The first step to manage grief is to recognize the symptoms which more or less resemble stress. Although the extent will vary from person to person, the following are the commonly experienced symptoms:
· Sleep disturbances
· Change in appetite
· Lack of concentration
· Impaired decision-making
· Memory lapses
· Work performance issues
· Increased alcohol or other substance use
· Social isolation
· Guilt or shame
Focus on what’s Under Control
It’s important for healthcare workers to understand the fact that not all aspects of the pandemic can be controlled. So attention must be diverted to controlling what’s within the control. Here are some ways to go about it:
· Identify what is and what isn’t under your control and focus your efforts on the former
· Acknowledge grief as and when it happens and treat it as a normal response to the situation
· No matter the duration, schedule time to grieve and release your emotions
· Take short breaks and alternate between stressful and less stressful tasks
· Manage your thoughts by writing them down
· Find out ways to express gratitude, patience, and kindness
Prioritize Physical Health and Basic Needs:
Ensuring basic needs and health is the key to managing grief. It also helps you cope better with the situation. Here’s what you must do for the purpose:
Lack of sleep can lead to stress and restlessness. Make it a point to maintain a regular sleep schedule. Aim for 8 hours of cumulative bedtime over 24 hours. Talk with managers if rotations or shifts need to be changed to allow for proper sleep.
Take some time out to engage in the moderate-intensity workout for at least 30 minutes/day. Take rest in between and ensure hydration by consuming plenty of fluids. Do not sit at a place for long. Get yourself moving after every hour or so.
If you are not taking care of your eating habits, it’s time to set up an eating schedule. Set alarms for food breaks. Do not skip meals or delay them for long. Keep healthy snacks with you to munch in short 5-minute breaks.
Hygiene has gained all the more prominence in the pandemic that affected the world. Use liquid hand sanitizers, wear gloves and masks, etc. If your workplace has a shower facility for the staff, use your personal towels and toiletries.
Remember, you aren’t alone in the crisis. Lean on family, colleagues, and friends for support. Take care of your mental health and watch out for colleagues who might need emotional support. Being there for each other can be an armor to fight the battle.