Health Care Professionals: Recognize the Early Signs of Stress and Prevent Burnout

Stress is our bodies’ normal reaction to difficulty, change, or demand. Many of us have become dependent on a unique recipe for coping with stress, mostly because it has worked well for us in the past. However, witnessing or caretaking through a long-term traumatic event can leave an undeniable impact. This impact requires that we learn new techniques for ensuring our psychological and physical well being.

During a traumatic or first-time event such as the COVID-19 pandemic, you may not recognize that your body is undergoing a stress response. In fact, it may feel like just another stressful day in the care arena. However, your unique coping recipe may not seem to cut it when it comes to long-term trauma. So, how can you know if you’re coping well with all the chaos? How can you tell if your coping strategy is falling short? It may help to try to identify the physical and psychological signs of stress.

Recognizing Stress

Conduct an honest self-evaluation. How many of the following symptoms are you experiencing?

  • Nervousness or anxiousness (non-specific irritation)
  • Upset stomach
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble concentrating at work or home
  • Mind-wandering, a lack of focus
  • Feeling overwhelmed, sad, or depressed

If you identify with these signs of stress, you may be tempted to ignore them. After all, you’re too busy to work on self-care, right?

Wrong. Even though stress is normal, you must cope with it healthily. But how?

A Healthy Response to Stress

During this pandemic, contact and conversation are crucial. Remind yourself to stay connected. Talk with friends and co-workers. Talk with family. Be honest with yourself, and ask for help if you need it. Eat well. Try to get an optimal amount of sleep. Think about decreasing social media time and replace it with increased time outside. Breathe!

Lastly, recognize yourself for being a critical link in fighting this virus and saving lives.

Remind yourself that you are responding. You are on the job. You are a hero!

Want more resources?

  • CDC  24/7
  • APA PsycNet
  • The Cleveland Clinic