Prioritising the Mental Health and Well-being of Healthcare Workers

How to improve your mental health while sitting at the workplace

Tanjina Ashraf Khan Mou

Tanjina Ashraf Khan Mou

More about Author

Tanjina Ashraf Khan Mou is an award winning, certified mental health professional, writer, entrepreneur and CEO of one of the leading private psychology centers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. As an integrative therapist, she possesses a solid foundation in a wide variety of theoretical approaches and over time has developed her own way of working as a result. Tanjina specializes in positive psychology methods, resilience training, behavior analysis, mindfulness based therapies and has been actively advocating mental health and well-being for the past 4 years worldwide. Tanjina is an empathic and warm individual. She has been featured in prestigious platforms like FORBES, COSMOPOLITAN, The New Indian Express etc.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an extraordinary+- effect on the physical, mental and emotional health of the frontline healthcare workers across the globe. While discussions are on the rise, actions, particularly in regard to the mental health and well-being of healthcare professionals at the forefront, is still in its infancy. In recent years, mental health requirements of healthcare workers and professionals have drawn attention as a major global issue and it has also been talked about by the World Health Organization (WHO). These problems are projected to get worse as a result of the global pandemic or endemic response as they keep dealing with unprecedented challenges day in and day out. This article talks about three simple, every-day self-care strategies — gratitude, mindfuless that healthcare professionals can learn in order to minimise the potential risks to their mental health in their daily work life.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had tremendous effect on health systems in the majority of the world's nations, particularly in regard to the mental health and well-being of healthcare professionals working at the forefront of the pandemic response on a regular basis. Prior to the pandemic, topics related to the emotional and mental health of healthcare professionals were rarely addressed in appropriate depth. Healthcare professionals' mental health requirements have recently drawn attention as a significant concern and a challenge to the delivery of high-quality care. While awareness is better than it used to be, the measures taken to effectively address this issue are still not near operate in an environment that exposes them to a variety of stressors, which can have adverse effects on their physical, mental, and emotional health. Anxiety has been reported to be a common symptom among this population as reported by the WHO in the year 2021. It estimates that by 2030, there will be a predicted shortage of 18 million health workers, primarily in low- and lowermiddle income nations. Hence, it is safe to predict that the workload in this sector will be on the rise in the coming years. Such issues are also evident at present, almost everywhere and whether all nations are well-equipped to combat these challenges are debatable. Now is a good time to talk about the detrimental impacts of this scenario on the mental health of these healthcare professionals.

Even before the pandemic, health workers were affected by stress, burnout, emotional discomfort, and other mental health problems, but this was not given the needed attention and was left at seasonal workshop level. We are all well-aware in this sector that healthcare professionals in many communities do not have easy access to mental health resources especially the ones working in remote areas. Also the long working hours leave no room for counselling, interventions or relaxation activities. While discussing the problems they are having may be simple, it is vital to rather concentrate on the solutions. The aim of this article to bring forth some simple but beneficial self-help activities that every professional must be wellequipped with in today’s world.

By examining the benefits of employing evidence-based self-care techniques, we need to find feasible solutions for overcoming these risks to their mental health. As a psychologist myself, the three most essential self-care skills that all professionals must possess include: skill of practising mindfulness as a method of relaxation; gratitude reflection in order to maintain a positive mindset; and resilience in order to combat unpredicted situations.

Here are three quick activities to improve one’s mental health right away that has been tested in the CMMB mental health programme. These methods were created with psychologists and tested among midwives and nurses at a Peruvian healthcare facility supported by CMMB. These methods were also utilised and implemented among a team of psychologists and counsellors at MentCouch Psychology Centre based in Kuala Lumpur for a period on 3 months.

1. Mindfulness meditation and reflection method

Among the many effective solutions for stress, anxiety and burnout in healthcare settings, the practice of mindfulness has countless applications and proven benefits. For nurses, doctors and other providers, mindfulness eases such symptoms of stress, while improving the ability to navigate difficult conversations with patients, self and to feel more empathy. It also helps to not get too drained thinking about past or future situations and stay present in the work environment.

Every day after reaching office and before stepping out of office, set aside some time to reflect on the questions listed below. Each contemplation should be finished with a long inhale and exhale. Pausing for Ten seconds is a recommended time-frame after each question, after which one may proceed to the next question:

• What can I hope for today that would make me a little happy?
• What am I willing to give others today?
• What aspect of my job currently makes me happy?
• What can I learn today?
- Can I aim to greet everyone with a smile today? / Can I aim to enjoy my lunch today?

At the end of day, repeat the same exercise with the following questions:

• What did I enjoy most today?
• What have I given and received?
• Why was today a good day despite all?
• What did I learn?
• What small win can I celebrate today?

2. Gratitude reflection

According to a team of researchers at the Indiana University, the more one focuses on that which they feel grateful for, the more one will notice to feel grateful for.

If one feels down, overwhelmed, or stressed, it is a good practice to remind one’s self by quietly repeating in head that they are thankful, that they have accomplished a lot, and that they are capable of doing great things. Once done, it is recommended to sit quietly and say “thank you” to all the good people around. It is also important to thank own self for not giving up and thank whoever has contributed to the current good life. One can also be thankful for having a family, having good food, clean water, safe shelter, a job, public transport, the skillset to help others etc. Such reminders are powerful set of tools and this exercise must be done at least once a day.

3. Resilience: Turn anxiety into progress by reframing thoughts

Resilience is an essential lifeskill and adaptive behaviour to combat difficult situations and change. Resilience, like most self-care strategies, can be learnt, developed and improved over time. Most would have never experienced change so significantly as we have in the last two years during the COVID-19 pandemic. Healthcare establishments and workforce have coped differently but majority have learnt the importance of this skill. Now, as we get back to new normal phase, it is important to acquire this skill as a normal coping mechanism. Resilience heavily emphasises the importance of finding significance in one's surroundings (Buettner, 2005). People with a strong sense of purpose are thought to be more resilient (Boyle et. al, 2012). The protection of the brain from the damaging effects of stress provided by a sense of purpose in life helps to promote resilience. A crucial component of resilience is finding meaning in one's experiences, especially while dealing with difficulties.

Our brain’s plasticity is what trains is to be resilient during difficult times and to reassess situations in order to calm down and have a more positive perspective of something. Consider the below to reassess thoughts to something more meaningful:

ANGER can either hinder our capacity to focus and perform OR it can act as a reminder of what's important.

FEAR could trigger memories of past failures or future anxieties; OR it can make us more cautious when making decisions. It can also help us reflect and make positive changes by being extra prepared.

SADNESS could demotivate us, OR it could help us reprioritise. It could also be reminder that break is needed.

WORRY could hinder our progress, OR it could assist in fine-tuning our aim and help us become more realistic and goaloriented.

FRUSTRATION could give rise to emotional turmoil, OR it could challenge us to do better than before.

These comparisons may seem easy and simple, but regular practice along with self-talk can lead to tangible outcomes.


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