Front Line Workers, Do You Have Self Care Rituals?

Our healthcare workers on the frontline of this pandemic are facing challenges they didn’t sign up for when they chose to work in the medical arena. They didn’t expect to be putting their own life and the lives of their families in jeopardy. They didn’t expect to be faced with the sense of failure resulting from multiple deaths a shift.

There are many ways to support our healthcare people and I’m sure when this pandemic is under control support will be offered. BUT self care now is important. What can nurses and doctors do at the end of each shift that can ease the burdens they are carrying? Here are a couple of simple ideas for self care:

  • The need to have a safe person to “download” your feelings and fears with. At the end of the shift talk, share stories, happenings, before you go home or find one person who will be a listener and each day “download” with them. Remember, not just anyone can be a good listener or will have the aptitude to understand. Healthcare workers living in this crisis time, seeing death many times a shift, dealing with their own energy levels in crisis mode have to “get it out” or those experiences will be carried forever.
  • Create a closure ritual for yourself. At the end of the day you want a ritual that releases what has occurred. Whatever happened is not yours to carry.
    • Maybe when you are in the shower, before you get out, in your mind’s eye wash all the day's energy and happenings down the drain. Imagine the water beginning at your head and taking all of the day with it as it glides over your body and down the drain. See yourself as sparkling as you step out of the shower.
    • Consider creating a simple, special place, for example, with a flower and a candle. As you light the candle bless your day, the good you offered and then blow out the candle as you release the work day.

These are just a couple of ideas. Create your own ritual. How will you let go of the day’s activities so you can start afresh tomorrow?

During this time of crisis work it is hard to remember to take care of yourself. There doesn’t seem time for that but if you don’t at least try to put “your own oxygen mask on” you will not get the essentials you need to continue. You are carrying fear for yourself (whether realized or not), excess adrenaline just to meet the shift needs (which brings a sense of exhaustion when the shift is over), and non stop 8, 10, 12 work hours, so sleep for you is vital. Don’t neglect the basics, food, sleep, and a release of each day.

When this is over we will all have life adjusting to do. For some of us it will be harder than others. Basic self care now is one of the factors that will allow us to continue to care for others in the future.

Something more... about Front Line Workers, Do You Have Self Care Rituals?

My DVD kit, Care for the Professional Caregiver includes the 28 minute video and the booklet, You Need Care Too: Self Care for the Professional Caregiver. They are intended for anyone who is immersed in the responsibilities of supporting, educating, and guiding a person and their family through the dying experience including nurses, social workers, nurse’s aides, chaplains, physicians, end of life doulas, Eleventh Hour volunteers... It offers suggestions for creating a fulfilling work environment, staying balanced and healthy amid constant sadness, and maintaining a happy, engaged personal life.

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This is such valuable content. It should be essential reading for everyone to help them prepare to help a sick and dying loved one and to prepare for their own eventual death.
In my life I have had a lot of experience of being present with dying, and dead, loved ones and also dozens of patients during my nursing career.
I wish such clear and compassionate information had been available to me back then.

Kirk Bitton

One of my self-care rituals has always been music. Raised in the 70s, Rock and Roll was my escape mechanism/therapy for my youth. As I’ve gotten older my tastes have changed, but the effect music has on me still remains. Everything from classical to heavy metal can take me to different places and helps me “compartmentalize.” It’s an escape for me, gives me a chance to regroup and reenergize. Different music for different moods!

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