mental health

Health Care Workers Cope With Mental Toll of Pandemic

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While the pandemic has put a strain on hospitals with doctors and nurses working around the clock to care for COVID-19 patients, health care workers say the new year brings new hope and an opportunity for change.

Like a lot of people, doctors are starting 2022 by turning the page and making resolutions after a few difficult years with many looking inward in hopes of making meaningful changes in the year ahead.

“It's been really tough for people who are caregivers,” said Dr. Aronica Cotton, a mother and psychiatrist with MedStar Health.

Health care workers have been hit hard by the pandemic with many struggling to leave the stress and sadness of their jobs at work.

“I used to just keep it all inside because I didn't want to bring all that stuff home to my family, my safe space,” Cotton said.

“It still leaked out into interactions that I was having with my loved ones because I was more distant,” she said.

Even medical professionals can benefit from the start of a new year by shifting their focus to make healthy changes, Cotton said.

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In 2022, many are looking inward. MedStar Health surveyed physicians nationwide and found 71% of doctors say their New Year’s resolution is to focus on their mental health.

“Before, you know, weight loss was probably at the top of that list,” Cotton said. “Now, more doctors are looking to spend more time on their mental health and focusing on their relationships.

Turning any resolution into reality starts with setting a specific, attainable goal, Cotton said.

“Cutting down the goal into smaller goals, once you've really identified why you're trying to reach this goal and your true motivation behind it, can be helpful to sustain change for the long term,” she said. “And writing it down or having someone who can help you be accountable for achieving this goal can also be helpful.”

Even as COVID caseloads climb, there’s still so much uncertainty and anxiety. Instead, focus on the things that can be controlled, Cotton said. She encourages people to practice mindfulness to help them heal.

“Whether that mindfulness practice is actually meditation, whether it's prayer, whether it's journaling, but taking time to check in with yourself,” she said.

“Other health care workers, even considering having a support group for folks in your hospital, may be beneficial,” she said.

Physicians have some of the highest burnout rates in the country, and the pandemic has only added to that.

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