Supporting the Helpers
Welcome to the Weekly Well-Being Connection! Each week we will share advice from our clinical experts on ways to care for your mental health and well-being throughout COVID-19.
Being a helper during a pandemic is interesting, to say the least
Many systems spend considerable time and resources planning how to support the community during an incident like this, and there is often discussion about supporting the well-being of the helpers in these systems. At the same time, the reality of the pandemic is that we are in both a sprint and a marathon. People in helping professions need to respond to the urgent needs in front of them AND they need to keep doing this month after month. Another challenge is that as helpers, we are working to support others at the same time we are experiencing the same challenges and stress.
Helpers come in many different forms and roles
There are so many different folks who provide support to the community each and every day, it seemed like any list we tried to create would be incomplete. Regardless of how formal or informal your helping role is, thank you for all you do each and every day!
One of my biases is that I think the helpers in our communities benefit from support to keep helping. And…most helpers I know (myself included) are pretty horrible at taking our own advice. Because one of my personal passions is to help helpers access solid support systems, I am excited to share some of these tips:
Tips for Helpers
- Make sure you are meeting your basic needs – All too often helpers get pulled in multiple directions at the same time and it is easy to forget to or feel too busy to take breaks, eat properly, or drink enough water. In the end, this can become more harmful to our long-term functioning.
- Find time to laugh, practice gratitude, and experience joy – All too often in stressful situations we find ourselves thinking there is no place for laughter and joy. While we need to be mindful of our audience and our timing, finding moments to have these experiences is essential in helping us keep going.
- Check-in with your co-workers and be honest when they check-in with you – We are all tempted to say “I’m fine,” when someone asks how we are doing. If we can find the space and comfort to tell trusted others how we are really doing, we may find support in places we did not expect.
- Make time for connections with peers, family, and friends – These moments of connection, even if you are not discussing intense feelings, can recharge us and help us tap into our resiliency.
- Engage in healthy sleep habits – Check out our past post on sleep for some tips and reminders .
- Be mindful of your stress levels and take breaks or time off before burnout sets in – Your health and well-being is just as important as that of the people you support. If you are in a place of burnout, you won’t be an effective helper.
- Move and get outside – Not staying in one place for hours on end, going outside in the sunlight and getting fresh air helps us all. It is especially crucial in high stress times. You do not need to go for an hour long run or a half-day hike to reap benefits. A quick walk around the block can be impactful.
- Make time for the practices that recharge you and, as possible, say no to the activities that drain you – A co-worker once explained to me that she thought of her energy as a bank account. She could not make repeated withdrawals without making deposits too. Most helpers are making repeated “withdrawals” these days; we need to be mindful of those deposits too.
- Find calming practices you can effortlessly incorporate into your day – Breathing exercises and mindfulness practice are good examples of things that don’t create additional demands on our already limited time. We can engage in various tasks throughout our day in a mindful manner. We can take a few belly breaths as we switch tasks during our day.
- Consider if outside support might be beneficial – Many employers have Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) that can provide short-term support, including sessions with a behavioral health professional.
Healthcare Worker Well-Being Support Line
The same grant that funds the Colorado Spirit Program at AllHealth Network also funds the Healthcare Worker Well-Being Support Line – 303-724-2500 – through the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. This line provides text and call support and is open to any health care providers, hospital employees, public health workers, or medical support staff. If you work in one of these settings, please consider if reaching out for personalized support would be helpful.
Would speaking to someone help?
For information about other services at AllHealth Network or to get connected with ongoing behavioral health support, please call: 303-730-8858.
AllHealth Network is continuing to provide service via telehealth or by phone and our Crisis Walk-in Center remains open 24/7. To learn more about what other community mental health centers are doing, please visit The Colorado Behavioral Health Council COVID-19 website.
If you are experiencing a mental health crisis and are in need of immediate assistance, please call the Colorado Crisis Hotline at 1-844-493-TALK (8255) or text TALK to 38255