Trauma expert offers mental health strategies for work and home
Mental health is just as important as physical health, and that is especially crucial for healthcare workers right now.
Jon Jon Rivero, certified trauma practitioner at Qi Creative, says healthcare workers are facing extra pressure in the workplace. During the pandemic, they need to follow more safety procedures to keep patients safe, yet still need to get the same amount of work done.
Rivero adds, “Healthcare workers are in the giving profession. They’re more prone to receiving other people’s stress on top of the work.” He explains that healthcare workers can take on a patient’s own stress, verbally and non-verbally. “It’s hard not to take it personally.”
They can also be vulnerable to compassion fatigue. “It’s a term used when a caring individual doesn’t have the capacity to care for someone any longer.” This can happen when a patient has high needs, or when there’s no end in sight to the caregiving. “The needs surpass what someone is giving.”
Given the higher stress of the job, healthcare professionals should be aware of some red flags of trauma. One such sign is if you hate your work, even in general. Rivero says, “Ask, what parts of the job are triggering? Evaluate where you’re at.”
Another red flag is if work is significantly impacting personal relationships, and if it’s impossible to disconnect from work or turn off the work brain.
One more sign is you’re not engaging in self-care or leisure time.
“The important thing to know is that you’re not alone,” says Rivero. “It’s okay to be there, but not forever.”
Rivero offers some tips people can use everyday. First of all, be sure to take breaks. He suggests thinking about what would be rejuvenating in order to get to the end of the shift and build resilience. For example, some people may be more physical, while others respond better to visual stimulation or even to smell.
If you’re a visual person, look at pictures for inspiration. If you respond better to smell, aromatherapy might be a good solution. “It can help transition you to the next task to help you reset.”
“I like to focus mostly on the body,” says Rivero. He suggests doing light weight-bearing exercises. Physical activity is helpful both to the body and the mind. “Do a brisk walk, do high knee walking in place, hold a plank,” he suggests. Dancing and light stretches are also good.
From a mental standpoint, think about why you chose to work in the healthcare industry. “Connect with your why,” says Rivero. “Reaffirm yourself with reminders.”
He also suggests enjoying activities like watching a comedy. “Find things that will help you enjoy the moment. Remind yourself of positive things.”
Cultivating a practice of daily gratitude can also be helpful.
“Think of one or two things that went right, and what was positive or even caused less pain. Tell our conscious and subconscious brain what to focus on. When bad things happen, you can still go to a place of positivity.”
And of course, a supportive network matters. “Surround yourself with supportive people who have your best interests in mind.”
Mental health is always important, but even more so right now, says Rivero. “There’s a lot of negative information that can contribute to negativity, depression, or contribute to trauma. Be a guardian to your brain and what you let in.”
And be proactive about mental health. No one’s mental health is perfect, of course, but be aware of where you’re at. A stressful situation like this pandemic can bring pre-existing mental health challenges to the surface, whether or not you were aware of them.
Support is available for healthcare professionals and anyone else who may be struggling. That includes free resources, like walk-in centres for therapy, groups on social media, cohorts at work, trusted friends and family members. Other support may include group sessions or mental help therapists.
If you or someone else is in crisis, contact the Distress Line at 780.482.4357 or 211.