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How frontline workers can take care of their mental health, avoid burnout | Your Best Life

Medical professionals have been on the front lines to fight COVID-19 for almost a year. According to multiple studies, it has taken a toll on people's mental health

TEMPLE, Texas — Medical professionals have been on the front lines to fight COVID-19 for almost a year. According to multiple studies, it has taken a toll on people's mental health. In this week's "Your Best Life," 6 News Anchor Leslie Draffin spoke with a Dallas-based clinical psychologist about how to combat burnout and stress, especially if you're a frontline worker.

According to a mental health survey of healthcare workers who help fight COVID-19 right now, 93% are stressed, 86% are experiencing anxiety, 77% report frustration, 76% are exhausted and burned out and 75% are overwhelmed.

"We're not usually part of the story,” said Dr. Kevin Gilliland, a Dallas-based clinical psychologist. “There are times in our life that we're going through something similar to our patients. But now, everybody that comes in, we're all part of the same stories. We're all wrestling with some of the same issues and so that really starts to take a toll on us because those are the conversations that we have every day at work, and then we go home and have the same conversation so it's like we don't get away from it."

Dr. Gilliland has helped clients battle burnout during the pandemic. He said, "It's always physical and it's always psychological. It doesn't matter what you do for a living. The symptoms look the same."

So what are those symptoms? 

According to Dr. Gilliland, "Sleep has been the number one thing that gets disrupted, especially in the midst of COVID-19, so we'll see it in sleep. We'll see our energy level, like the things that we enjoy doing and used to enjoy doing it's like we just can't get the energy to get it going. Psychologically we get frustrated easier, we might be irritable, our mood might be a little down not depressed, but just down, or we find ourselves getting hung up on a subject that we're worrying about. Even when we've found something we enjoy doing it's like it's taking us longer, we're not as efficient, our concentration and attention is not as good. So those are some of the things that we start to see when, when work is taking a greater toll than it's ever taken on us."

To combat burnout, Dr. Gilliland suggested you spen a little time every day to recharge your battery instead of waiting for weekends or vacations. 

"Don't expect to burn a lot of jet fuel Monday through Friday and catch up on the weekends. Our bodies and our immune systems aren't built like that," he said.

One great way to do that is to find a hobby that requires your total focus, like reading.

"What we're doing when we read is we paint a picture, we make a movie. And so it requires me to be really in it or else I got to read that paragraph again, whereas TV, I can worry, and watch the TV and same time. That's not good. So, look for activities that really require you to be fully present, and allow your mind and body to settle," he said.

If you're a healthcare worker concerned about your mental health there's a 24-hour crisis center you can call or text. The number is 1-800-273-TALK or text MHA to 741741 to reach a trained crisis counselor anytime day or night.

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