Self-care for Caregivers

Managing Stress & Mental Health During COVID-19

Last updated: 10/8/2020


The well-being and emotional resilience of healthcare workers are key components of not only maintaining essential healthcare services during COVID-19, but also maintaining a healthy personal life. Self-care for healthcare workers can be complex and challenging, given that those in these roles may prioritize the needs of others over their own needs, but in order to properly take care of others, they have to take care of themselves first. Therefore, a proper self-care strategy is recommended.

Recognize the symptoms of stress you may be experiencing:

  • Feeling irritation, anger, or in denial
  • Feeling uncertain, nervous, or anxious
  • Lacking motivation
  • Feeling tired, overwhelmed, or burned out
  • Feeling sad or depressed
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Having trouble concentrating

Here are some tips to consider to help you manage stress:

  • Increase your sense of control by developing a consistent daily routine when possible — ideally one that is similar to your schedule before the pandemic
  • Stay hydrated and maintain a healthy eating schedule with well-balanced meals
  • Keep a regular sleep schedule
  • Take brief relaxation/stress management breaks to take deep breaths, stretch, move your body, or check in with your colleagues, family, and friends
  • Spend time outdoors, either being physically active or relaxing, while social distancing
  • Do things you enjoy during non-work hours
  • Talk with people you trust about your concerns, how you are feeling, or how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting you
  • Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media
  • Regularly seek out accurate information and mentoring to assist in making decisions
  • Do your best to maintain helpful self-talk and avoid overgeneralizing fears. Foster a spirit of fortitude, patience, tolerance, and hope
  • Focus your efforts on what is within your power. Accept situations you cannot change (for example, if your client tests positive for COVID-19). Remind yourself that everyone is in an unusual situation

At the same time, avoid:

  • Feeling that you are not doing enough
  • Excessive intake of sweets and caffeine
  • Engaging in self-talk and negative perceptions to self-care, such as:
    • “It would be selfish to take time to rest.”
    • “Others are working around the clock, so should I.”
    • “The needs of survivors are more important than the needs of caregivers.”
    • “I can contribute the most by working all the time.”

Ongoing stress can manifest itself in a host of physical and psychological symptoms, including headaches, sleep disturbances, poor concentration, and depression. Research suggests that high stress levels may impair the immune system. Learning to handle stress is critical to managing your well-being, the well-being of those you care about, and your healthcare career.

Mental Health Resources

CDC Coronavirus (COVID-19) Stress and Coping

American Psychological Association

National Alliance on Mental Illness

COVID-19 Resources

NIOSH Workplace Safety and Health Topic

CDC COVID-19

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