All professionals working in the health field arefacing the challenges of an exceptional situation. The nature and magnitude of this virus is overwhelming, hence tiredness accumulates and the negative psychological consequences arise.
At the Colegio Profesional de Psicología we have the duty to help and care for all health professionals. We are also acutely aware of our role in this crisis and how we can help to reduce the emotional charge and prevent psychological problems.
The role of our professional body carries a high degree of responsibility and there is no doubt that your efforts, always key, now take a central and vital position. That is the rationale behind these guidelines with the aim to ameliorate the negative psychological impact of the COVID-19 crisis. We are sure that you already follow some of these recommendations and these may be useful to complement your efficient practice.
These guidelines are based on a survey carried out with health professionals from their real life experiences coming from individual practice and based in the community. Hence, a team of experts from Clinical Psychology and Psychology of Social Intervention (Community) Section have produced these guidelines.
1. Facing the feeling of emotional or physical vulnerability:
Allow yourself to get in touch with that feeling of vulnerability whilst you develop strategies to become fully aware of what you are doing at every moment, during your professional duty and across all areas of your life.
Try not to invest in efforts to control the emotion or avoid it; focus on your ability to continue behaving with that emotion, not against it. Acting with the negative emotion is going to strengthen you and ease your approach to other negative feelings.
2. Facing uncertainty and fear ofcontagion for yourself and loved ones:
Acceptthat you are in an exceptional situation with variables over which you have not control. However, you can focus on the huge amount of abilities and competences that you have which will make you more efficient, minimising the risks.
The possibility that your loved ones get infected exists, you must accept it and focus on actions leading to minimising the risks.
3. Facing fears of being unable to respond to the caring needs due to lack of resources or time:
Focus on what you can do efficiently; you are doing all you can do. Be aware that if you focus on what you haven’t been able to do, you will use your mental resources that could be better used to do your work more effectively. The feeling of self-efficiency will make you feel better and focus on what you do in a positive fashion.
4. Facing emotional exhaustion due to theoverwhelming workload in extreme conditions:
Consider to what extent theseissues is having an influence on your performance, sometimes it is more effective short stops to detach. That way we can focus on the work more efficiently.
During longer resting periods, it is essential that you value leisure and time shared with loved ones; focus on it and enjoy the moments and affectionate gestures from those closer to you.
5. Facing overload in stressful situations:
Direct your attention towards what you are doing in the moment. If the attention drifts to other difficult situations, come back gently or direct it towards those things that you are doing in the present. Recognise your limits as a human being. During your leisure time try to carry out fun activities not related to work.
At the beginning it may be unappealing to do things that you used to enjoy, but it is important that you do them. If your attention drifts to work related thoughts, try to continue focusing back on the leisure activity, without punishing yourself when your mind goes back to think about stressful situations.
6. Facing panic attack symptoms:
Panic attacks can occur in situations of intense stress. Some physiological functions that we can normally control at will can be triggered, usually accompanied by the feeling of loss of control. The feeling that a fatal outcome is going to occur or the thought that we are going to lose our mind. Things may seem unreal and we might even lose our sense of personal identity at times. It is important that you know that in those moments you do not have the capacity to control what is happening to you. The sensations that you would go through can be very unpleasant, but they are fleeting. The peak of panic attacks usually occurs between 10 and 20 minutes after noticing the first symptoms and can last up to two hours (although it is generally much shorter). A panic attack is like riding a roller coaster or a scary attraction. Once you are at the attraction you have to wait for it to finish before you can get off.
7. Facing feelings of depression
Try to understand these depressive feelings are based on the harsh circumstances you are experiencing. It is logical that in the face of significant efforts and a lack of leisure activities the mood is low and negative thoughts appear. Try not to fight these feelings. It can help you to keep doing things that are important to you, even if you don’t feel like it at the moment. Try to rest the necessary hours and, within the possibilities, do activities that are of interest to you, regardless of your mood.
8. Facing social interactions at work
Show with clear intention that you care about the people you are interacting with and frequently include in your sentences words such as “partner” and “team”. Acting collectively must prevail over individual actions. Mutual care actions must be intensified.
In the relationship between management teams and those in charge, mutual care actions must be designed, as well as promoting the sense of belonging and positive regard to performance. Guidance is more advisable than making judgments about performance.
In a crisis situation, decision making may lead to errors and in order to prevent blaming others, behave with honesty, sincerity and transparency.
9. Facing the interaction with people in our care:
Show clearly with your behaviors that you are listening to them. Realistically reassure them, avoiding to use phrases such as “everything will be fine” or “stay calm”, since they are not realistic or effective in this context; It is preferable to use phrases such as “”We are doing everything we can to offer the best care possible.”
10. Facing our self-evaluation as professionals.
An effective strategy that could help you compensate for the psychological impact of this situation is to become aware of the social recognition that the healthcare profession is having. As much asyour work is vitalin overcoming this crisis, anygesture of encouragement, each applause from a balcony, shows a global recognition of yourself and your work; Take several moments a day to consciously value this recognition and connect it with your actions.
Finally, it is important to highlight that the fact that you are not showing significant negative emotional charge is not related to your level of performance and effort.Each person has their own strengths and skills to manage emotions.