Psychological Stress Among Frontline Workers

healthcare workers

Even during “normal” times, the stress felt by frontline workers can be tremendous. Now, during the coronavirus pandemic, the psychological stress among frontline workers has become a serious issue that needs to be addressed.

Unprecedented Pressure

During the COVID-19 pandemic, frontline workers are facing a level of pressure that is unprecedented. As they help others through the struggles of the virus, they are putting their own mental and physical well being at risk. Exposure to this type of excessive stress, coming from many different sources, for extended periods of time, can have harmful consequences.

The psychological stress among frontline workers can lead to:

  • Burnout
  • An onset of mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Frequent absences from work or reduced productivity and effectiveness at work
  • Unhealthy behaviors such as alcohol or drug use, leading to substance use disorders
  • An increased risk of suicide.

Conditions Compared to a War Zone

More frontline workers are experiencing the stress of their job, in addition to the fear and uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, leading to a serious situation at work that has been compared to that of a war zone. They are continuously witnessing the direct effects of the virus as it spreads throughout their community, and they are tasked with taking care of those individuals who have become ill or are dying from the disease.

A survey of over one thousand healthcare workers conducted between June 2020 and September 2020 revealed that:

  • 93% of healthcare workers were experiencing stress
  • 86% reported they were experiencing anxiety
  • 77% reported they were frustrated
  • 76% reported that they were exhausted and burned out
  • 75% said they felt overwhelmed.

Many were worried about exposing their loved ones to the virus because of their own exposure at work:

  • 76% of those with children were worried about exposing their son or daughter to the virus
  • Almost half were worried about exposing a partner or spouse
  • 47% were worried about exposing an older family member to COVID-19.

The survey found that frontline workers were also emotionally and physically exhausted:

  • 82% said they were feeling emotionally exhausted
  • 70% said they were having trouble sleeping
  • 68% were experiencing physical exhaustion
  • 63% were experiencing a sense of work-related dread
  • 57% said they’d had changes in appetite
  • 56% had physical symptoms of stress, including headaches and stomachaches
  • 55% were questioning their career path
  • 52% had compassion fatigue
  • 52% reported a heightened awareness or attention to being exposed to the virus.

Psychological stress among frontline workers was revealed in the survey as being partially a result of feeling as though they did not have adequate emotional support. Those with children also were struggling with parenting, with half reporting they lacked quality time or were unable to support their children appropriately as a present parent.

Coping with the Stress

The CDC suggests some strategies that can help frontline workers cope with the psychological stress and enhance their resilience. One of the first steps is for the frontline worker to remind themselves that this is an unusual situation and most people across the country are attempting to deal with it, often with limited resources.

Accepting that certain things are out of one’s control can also be an important step toward overcoming the effects of stress. There are areas of life that can be controlled by the individual, including getting enough sleep, eating healthy meals, and taking short breaks during the day. These can help improve physical health as well as mental health.

The frontline worker can take a few minutes to check in with supportive co-workers, friends, and family members to help alleviate their concern about the well-being of those they care about and to get some support for their work in return. These individuals are performing a critical role in helping fight the pandemic and it’s helpful for them to remind themselves that they are doing the best they can with what they have.

It’s important to stay informed, by consulting reliable sources, but it is equally important to take a break from the news frequently. Social media use can also add to stress levels. Stay offline to avoid additional exposure to posts and articles that can be upsetting and mentally exhausting.

Seeking out professional mental health treatment can be tremendously helpful in addressing the psychological stress among frontline workers. Particularly if the individual is experiencing signs of a substance use disorder, treatment for both conditions can significantly benefit their mental and physical health.

Outpatient Treatment for Professionals in Philadelphia

At Providence Treatment, we understand that healthcare professionals are under tremendous stress. When your stress leads to drug and alcohol use, it is time to get help for your mental and physical health. When you are ready to get outpatient addiction treatment in Philadelphia, we are ready to help you. Our expertise is in serving high-profile clients and licensed professionals like you.

Don’t let mental health issues or an addiction to drugs or alcohol take over your life. You can overcome addiction with outpatient treatments at Providence Treatment. If you need help getting clean, then contact us at 484.469.9592, and you can begin your recovery as soon as possible.

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