Canadian Medical Association

COVID-19 has brought even more stress to the medical profession, which was already dealing with high rates of burnout. (Burnout affects close to 1 in 3 physicians and residents.)

COVID-19-related stress is affecting physicians’ mental, physical and financial well-being.

Factors may include:

  • Physical isolation
  • A surge in care demands
  • Scarcity of personal protective equipment and other critical resources
  • Ongoing risk of infection
  • Financial hardship or worry 

Dealing with the mental and physical impacts of COVID-19-related stress

Built-up stress can leave health care providers feeling overwhelmed and battling extreme exhaustion — also known as burnout. Signs of burnout include: 

  • Feeling sad or depressed, or having a sense of failure, helplessness or apathy
  • Becoming easily frustrated and blaming others
  • Feeling generally irritable 

While physicians and other health care professionals can’t control all their workplace and environmental factors — especially during a pandemic — a number of personal strategies can be adopted to help with fatigue, stress and uncertainty. Key tips include:

Meet your basic needs
Eat, drink and sleep regularly. Avoid negative coping strategies such as excessive intake of caffeine, sugar, alcohol or drugs.

Take control of the pace of your life. Use the “transition points” within your day as cues to reflect on your feelings:

  • Going to work. Take some time to get ahead of any anxious thoughts. Ask yourself what you want to feel today. What can you bring that would be helpful to your team? Is there anything you’re scared of — and is there something you can do with those feelings right now?
  • During the workday. When you move from one task to another during your shift, take a moment to notice if you’re feeling distracted or anxious, or if you need a mental break. Taking a pause can reduce your stress and ensure you have enough bandwidth for the jobs you need to do.
  • Returning home. Take advantage of your commute to process the day. If you live with others, get their help transitioning mentally and emotionally. Let them know if you want to vent about your day or would rather be left alone for 15 minutes when you get home. Having those conversations can help your long-term recovery.

How to get help with the financial impacts of COVID-19 

As a result of the pandemic, many Canadian physicians have experienced financial issues. Several programs can help. For more information, refer to the Financial guidance for physicians page.

Are you in distress? Get help now. 

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