A brief “toolkit” to help oncology healthcare professionals manage stress and anxiety related to the COVID-19 pandemic was recently made available through a collaboration of a number of National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) member institutions.
With an emphasis on shifting the focus away from “what is out of our control” to those actions “within your power,” this resource provides guidance on facilitating self-care, managing the cognitive effects of stress, and creating and maintaining avenues of social support.
Beyond a healthy diet and regular exercise, recommended elements of self-care include trying to maintain a regular schedule of daily activities, scheduling brief relaxation breaks at work, and the importance of making time each day, however brief, for a joyful activity. In addition, scheduling appointments with a mental health provider and spiritual guidance were also mentioned as possible avenues of support.
“If you do not regularly see a mental health professional but feel doing so could be helpful at this time, many mental health providers are offering free sessions for health care workers,” the authors stated.
Limiting exposure to news, and seeking information from reliable sources, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), were recommended as approaches to limit the cognitive impacts of stress related to the COVID-19 crisis.
“Check in with and reframe anxiety-provoking statements to statements that better reflect the evidence. This can reduce stress and increase coping abilities. For example, reframe, ‘my family will get the virus and die’ to ‘the majority of people who get the virus recover’,” the authors advised.
Finally, the importance of meaningful social interactions with coworkers, family, and friends was emphasized.
Self-care and stress management during the COVID-19 crisis: Toolkit for oncology healthcare professionals. National Comprehensive Care Network. Accessed March 26, 2020. https://www.nccn.org/members/committees/bestpractices/files/Distress-Management-Clinician-COVID-19.pdf