Bedroom for quarantine for patient infected with Covid 19 virus in hospital.

What can I do to take care of myself?

A factsheet for healthcare providers

Coping strategies can help you manage stress and assist with healing. Unfortunately, the pandemic has created obstacles for health care providers’ access to resources, like limited time off work and COVID-19 related restrictions (closed gyms, etc.).

It can be hard to find the energy to engage in coping strategies, so having a few go-to tools can be very helpful. Here are some you can begin to put in place right away:

  • Set and keep routines that help with work-life balance. Focus on a healthy diet, enough sleep, exercise, and time with friends and family.
  • Pick up a hobby that gives you pleasure.
  • Set small goals for yourself. These will give you a sense of accomplishment, and signal that you are taking care of yourself.
  • Practice deep breathing. Inhale for four counts, exhale for four counts, practice for four minutes. Deep breathing sends oxygen to the brain and helps relax the body.
  • Positive self-talk. Redirect negative thoughts by reframing them.
  • Visualization. Pay attention to all senses and visualize positive images. For example, imagine the sounds, smells, and sights of a calming scene.
  • Self-care. Go for a walk, engage with your religion/spirituality, journal, read a book, take a nap or bath, listen to music. Do something that feels good!
  • Self-compassion. Show yourself the same kindness you would to a friend who is struggling. Find guided self-compassion exercises here.
  • Mental Health Continuum Model. This tool (below) helps identify your current mental health status and provides relevant resources.
Close up of exhausted nurse in office looking on camera wearing ppe suit

What is the Mental Health Continuum Model?

The Mental Health Continuum Model is a self-assessment tool that checks your mental health status. By giving you the ability to identify changes in your mental health, this tool can increase resilience, reduce stigma, and improve well-being.

Once you’ve used the tool to check-in with yourself, it will show your place on the continuum, and direct you to helpful resources.

Published with the permission of the Canadian Armed Forces.

In the model, you’ll notice four colour blocks:

Green means you’re healthy

Yellow means you’re reacting

Orange means you’re injured

Red means you’re ill

The table below illustrates the Mental Health Continuum Model, and includes some of the thoughts and feelings people might have in each of its colour blocks.

Use the guided self-assessment provided below to help you identify which colour block best represents your current mental health.

Remember, mental health is always changing so you can return to the scale again to see how you have moved on the Continuum.

Note: Signs and indicators in the yellow block of the continuum are normal responses to stress and trauma that can be expected to resolve over time.

The Mental Health Continuum Model: signs and indicators

  • Normal mood fluctuations
  • Calm/confident
  • Good sense of humour
  • Takes things in stride
  • Can concentrate/focus
  • Consistent performance
  • Normal sleep patterns
  • Energetic, physically well, stable weight
  • Physically and socially active
  • Performing well
  • Limited alcohol consumption, no binge drinking
  • Limited/no addictive behaviours
  • No trouble/impact due to substance use
  • Nervousness, irritability
  • Sadness, overwhelmed
  • Displaced sarcasm
  • Distracted, loss of focus
  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Trouble sleeping, low energy
  • Changes in eating patterns, some weight gain/loss
  • Decreased social activity
  • Procrastination
  • Regular to frequent alcohol consumption, limited binge drinking
  • Some-to-regular addictive behaviours
  • Limited-to-some trouble/impact due to substance use
  • Anxiety, anger, pervasive sadness, hopelessness
  • Negative attitude
  • Recurrent intrusive thoughts/images
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Restless, disturbed sleep
  • Increased fatigue, aches, and pain
  • Fluctuations in weight
  • Avoidance, tardiness, decreased performance
  • Frequent alcohol consumption, binge drinking
  • Struggle to control addictive behaviours
  • Increased trouble/impact due to substance use
  • Excessive anxiety, panic attacks, easily enraged, aggressive
  • Depressed mood, numb
  • Non-compliant
  • Cannot concentrate, loss of cognitive ability
  • Suicidal thoughts/intent
  • Cannot fall asleep/stay asleep
  • Constant fatigue, illness
  • Extreme weight fluctuations
  • Withdrawal, absenteeism
  • Can’t perform duties
  • Regular-to-frequent binge drinking
  • Addiction
  • Significant trouble/impact due to substance use

Actions to take at each phase of the Continuum

  • Focus on task at hand
  • Break problems into manageable tasks
  • Controlled, deep breathing
  • Nurture a support system
  • Recognize limits, take breaks
  • Get enough rest, food, exercise
  • Reduce barriers to help-seeking
  • Identify and resolve problems early
  • Example of personal accountability
  • Talk to someone, ask for help
  • Tune into own signs of distress
  • Make self-care a priority
  • Get help sooner, not later
  • Maintain social contact, don’t withdraw
  • Follow care recommendations
  • Seek consultation as needed
  • Respect confidentiality
  • Know resources and how to access them

The big four

Goal settingVisualizationSelf-talkTactical breathing
  • Specific: your behaviour
  • Measurable: see progress
  • Attainable: challenging and realistic
  • Relevant: want it or need it
  • Time-bound: set finish time
  • Be calm and relaxed
  • Use all senses
  • See positive mental images
  • Keep it simple
  • Use movement
  • Become aware of self-talk
  • Stop the negative messages
  • Replace with positive
  • Practice thought stopping:
    • * “I can do this
    • * “I am trained and ready
    • * “I will focus on what I can do
  • Rule of four:
    • * Inhale to count of four
    • * Exhale for count of four
    • * Practice for four minutes
  • Breathe into the diaphragm

If you are concerned about signs of poor or declining mental health in yourself or a buddy, get it checked out.

Resources include:

  • Buddies
  • Mental health team
  • Chaplains
  • Leaders/supervisors
  • Crisis or help lines
  • Community mental health services
  • Family doctor