Nurse holding heart-shaped objectSelf-care is even more important during stressful times, especially for caregivers.

“With the pandemic, many of the strategies we have utilized in the past to cope with stress are no longer available to us,” said Barbara Lakatos, DNP, PMHCNS-BC, APRN, program director of the Psychiatric Nursing Resource Service. “We no longer can work out at the gym, have a night out at a restaurant and go to the movies, attend church, or spend the day at the spa or hair salon. There are a variety of emotions (anxiety, guilt, anger) that can be normal to experience during this stressful time.”

A few of the Brigham’s experts shared tips on how to decrease stress and anxiety and prioritize self-care during this challenging time.

  1. Try meditating for a few minutes a day. “Do a guided meditation, a walking meditation, a visualization or just take a few minutes to close your eyes, settle your thoughts and concentrate on your breathing,” says Laurie Rapson, BSN, RN, RYT, Ambulatory Obstetrics and Caritas Coach. Partners employees can use the “Headspace” and “Evermind” apps for free.
  2. Fuel yourself with filling snacks. “A combination of complex carbohydrates (fruit, whole grains, veggies), protein (lean meat, eggs, Greek yogurt, edamame, tofu) and healthy fats (nuts, nut butters, avocado) provide lasting energy to help you power through long days,” according to Emily Blake, MS, RD, LDN, clinical dietitian, Department of Nutrition. She suggests quick and easy snacks, like an apple with peanut butter, non-fat plain Greek yogurt with a teaspoon of jam, trail mix (nuts, dried fruit and dark chocolate) or reduced fat string cheese and whole grain crackers.
  3. Stay hydrated. “Aim for 64 ounces of fluid per day, and more if you’re sweating under personal protective equipment,” said Blake. “In order to make hydration easier and more manageable, try to drink water before coffee, while commuting to and from work, and with every meal. If you find water unappealing, try adding fresh lemon or lime juice to plain water, or drink flavored seltzer for a fizzy treat.”
  4. Make time for exercise and movement. “After shifting to working remotely, I was shocked to notice on many days that my Fitbit had less than 1,000 steps,” said Pam Cormier, MSN, RN, AHN-BC, professional development manager for Primary Care. “Scheduling in 15-minute walking breaks and maintaining my previous evening exercise routine has helped me get back on track.”
  5. Let yourself “feel the feelings.” “Don’t try to push away difficult or painful feelings, such as grief, anxiety and fear,” said Kristen Reed, BSN, RN, HN-BC, of the Neurosciences Intermediate Care Unit, and a certified health and wellness coach. “Acknowledge them, accept where you are, and don’t be too hard on yourself during this time.”
  6. Recognize early warning signs. “It’s essential to recognize when our stress level is too high,” said Lakatos. “This is the signal to take care of our own needs or pause long enough to reach out for support. Deep breathing exercises, reflection and fostering gratitude are a few techniques that we can learn to use to decrease stress, anxiety and depression. Don’t worry alone.”

Additional information and resources related to mental health and well-being for employees are available here.

Please note that the links in this article are accessible to Brigham employees only.