Support for the Frontline
Right now, there is an integral part of our community that needs our support.
When the pandemic began, we saw volunteer groups come together to support those in need. So many of us were touched by the support for our healthcare professionals and we smiled at the fun care packages we left on each other’s doorsteps. While all this was happening, there were individuals behind the scenes who we do not always think about. Often because they give so effortlessly and with a sense of pride that makes you feel like they can handle and do anything. As the world slowly opens up and we plan trips and social events I worry that these individuals who give, often at a cost to themselves, will see higher rates of burnout and compassion fatigue. It is not during difficult events that we see the full cost to individuals in our communities, it is often after the calm where we learn the true impact of living in and supporting each other through these events.
Take a moment and think about your life or someone you love and care about. Are you seeing instances of irritability, exhaustion, avoidance of simple work tasks (ex. emails, filing, returning phone calls), changes in diet, decrease in socialization, less effort to exercise, an avoidance of activities and people that bring joy, a pull towards negativity, nightmares, thinking about work in personal time, and/or a decreasing lack of hope? These are all signs of burnout (taken from Gentry and Monson’s professional resilience workbook) and as a community it is important to care about each other’s mental well-being.
Emily Nagoski wrote, “To be ‘well’ is not to live in a state of perpetual safety and calm, but to move fluidly from a state of adversity, risk, adventure, or excitement, back to safety and calm, and out again” in her book called Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle (a highly recommended read). For those who dedicate their lives to helping others this is an important and difficult skill to develop. When life throws us challenging events, our workload increases, and stress is high our minds tend to perceive threat. This is not a threat of physical danger but rather a worry that we are not doing enough to help, that we do not have the skills or information to stay on top of what is needed in our workplaces, or in exhaustion of not being able to help with everything that others are demanding of us. This tends to lead to a constant state of fight, flight, or freeze having our sympathetic nervous systems working in overdrive when they are meant for short periods of time. Sustaining this for long periods of time unfortunately leads to exhaustion and often burnout.
Check in with your healthcare professional friends, teachers, first responders, retail staff, social service providers, local and provincial government, anyone who is working with humans in a supportive role right now. How are they really doing? Are they doing okay? Could they use a little extra kindness right now? If you want to show your support for the frontline workers in our community consider checking out an amazing awareness campaign called Beat the Burn (letsbeattheburn.com) drawing attention to the mental well-being of those who give. You can purchase a pin that can be a personal reminder to check in with yourself about your well-being or wear it in support of your friends who may need some extra love and kindness. This site also provides resources for those in need, including information on burnout and how to be resilient.
The content provided in this article is for information purposes only. It is not meant as a substitute for professional medical or psychological advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you find yourself in distress, please reach out to your local physician who can provide mental health resources in your community.