The job of an essential worker is difficult even under normal conditions. You could even say essential workers are continuously in environments that are almost designed to promote Acute Stress Disorder and PTSD. For many including medical assisting staff, doctors, nurses, therapists, and paramedics, EMT’s, LEO’s, and firefighters, the stress built-into the job exacts a toll on mental health and is associated with anxiety, depression, trauma, and stress.
It is difficult to admit (or even recognize) challenges to their emotional health. After all, their professional attention is always directed towards helping others. When essential workers choose to not get treatment, the emotional challenges don’t just go away. Too often, vulnerable men and women can slide into numbing behaviors like overeating and substance abuse to mask their pain. Frequent numbing to unwind from traumatic events increases the risk of developing anxiety, depression, and substance abuse.
Stress and trauma-related disorders for essential workers
Those exposed to the most devastating effects of the pandemic can develop post-traumatic stress or acute stress disorder. PTSD and acute stress disorder have similar symptoms. Unlike PTSD, acute stress disorder is brief (symptoms persist for up to one month after experiencing a stressful or traumatic event). For many people, PTSD is a response to the accumulation of exposure to many traumatic events over a long period. Once symptoms do appear, you may experience flashbacks to events from prior years.
If you are struggling with PTSD, you are even more vulnerable tomental health problems and substance abuse. If you experience flashbacks or nightmares, alcohol is one way of responding with self-medicating. Here at Eastside Center for Family, we are committed to finding uniquely tailored therapeutic solutions for you to overcome your difficulties.
How do the coronavirus and massive fires affect us?
The coronavirus has upped the ante for essential workers. One physician described feeling like he was experiencing combat during the most intense periods of the pandemic. Healthcare workers and other first responders are extra stressed by concerns about becoming infected or of bringing the virus home to infect their spouse, children, or parents.
Essential workers also experience extra physical strains imposed by Covid-19. Wearing PPE can lead to dehydration or heat exhaustion. The stress of constant vigilance to avoid infection adds to stress. The cumulative effect of the massive fires that we have experienced means that many of us have been exposed to more traumatic events and are at even greater risk for developing both substance abuse and mental health problems.
What can you do?
Self-care is not optional! Taking care of yourself is a must if you are to be able to take care of others.
- Address your own physical needs.
- Regularly check-in with colleagues, friends, or family.
- Take brief breaks for relaxation. Even brief breaks will help you control your stress. Even just a few long, deep breaths can be effective in calming your nervous system.
- Focus on the factors that you can control. Learn to accept that there are factors, and outcomes, you cannot control.
- Reach out for help from a therapist who understands your world and can provide appropriate care for your needs.
What can I expect in therapy/treatment?
Here at Eastside Center for Family, our therapists are experienced with those on the front lines, and you can expect empathy as well as evidence-based therapy to help you work through compassion fatigue, ongoing stress and integrate coping skills to manage ongoing stress on the job andany past trauma that you may want to work through. You will learn to recognize triggers and build tools to avoid slipping into anxiety, depression or substance abuse.
We understand the tendency to avoid people and isolate when feeling pain and sometimes drinking or overeating helps numb and self soothe after experiencing a traumatic event. This is where food, alcohol, and other outlets do reduce stress, dull anxiety, and can encourage bondingwith others. In therapy, you will get the tools to manage your feelings without slipping into numbing behaviors such as alcohol abuse, Netflix binges, and overspending.
With therapy or treatment tailored to the needs of essential workers, you can get on the road to recovery and continue serving the community. Contact us today if you or a loved one needs help.