Essential workers, especially those in jobs directly related to COVID, were more than put to the test during the apex of the pandemic.

Grocers, food suppliers, healthcare workers, transportation industry professionals, and many more were overworked and often in the face of danger.

Both short-term effects and long-term effects of stress and trauma are possible without treatment, and everyone owes to these essential workers to understand their situations and help them prioritize their mental health in the wake of the pandemic. 

Here is a look at how you can help truly thank essential workers by better understanding their situation:

What Are They Experiencing?

Long hours, high stress, immeasurable uncertainty, and, for a long time, no way to know when it all would end.

Essential workers experienced many different things that contribute to traumatic experiences, and ultimately cause things like PTSD, substance abuse, weight fluctuation, decreased happiness, and other issues with mental health. 

According to the APA, 3 in 4 essential workers said they could have used more emotional support than they received at the height of the pandemic, and 1 in 3 individuals said they had noticeable declines in their mental health

Sleep is also a major attribute to keeping stress levels at bay and dealing with mental health issues. A staggering 80% of essential workers said they did not get enough sleep during the pandemic’s height. In addition, more than 39% of those surveyed by the APA also said they had an uptick in the amount of alcohol they consumed. 

Alcohol, a lack of sleep, no emotional support, and overworking are all contributors to more long-term effects of stress if not remedied, and the time to help essential workers do all of these things is now. 

What Can Help Them?

As more data comes out about the increased levels of mental health issues among COVID essential workers, it falls heavily on their employers to be the first line of defense.

Opening a dialogue to see what each employee is experiencing and helping them find a path to mental stability should be the primary goal of any manager of individuals who went through the proverbial gauntlet during the peak of the pandemic.

Increasing flexibility as numbers begin to drop can help them settle back into a semblance of normalcy, and encouraging days of rest and extra sleep is recommended. 

Friends of social workers can do the most by being open and listening to the needs of their friends. If some of the issues above seem to be a little more past “dealing with high stress levels” (especially drinking), you may want to discuss it with them and help them find alternatives. 

For simply helping social workers as a member of society, realize their COVID experiences were probably even worse than yours, and be kind and understanding with individuals who work in essential positions.  

How Can Essential Workers Help Themselves?

Asking for help is an important step in preventing long-term effects, but for those who like to try to help themselves first, here are a few stress management tips:

  • Eat Healthy. For many essential workers, time just wouldn’t allow for a steady or healthy diet, and bad habits became a necessity when trying to keep up with their overworked schedule. Now that there is hopefully a little more time on the proverbial plate, healthier food can be put on the real one!
  • Exercise. Another thing that was difficult to do with a busy schedule, adding exercise back into your schedule can help reduce stress. 
  • Sleep. Find ways to get back into a steady sleep regimen

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