10 ways to address physician stress during Corona pandemic

Dr. A. Q. Jilani   |  


Photo Credit: For representational purpose only

During this pandemic and lockdown, while sometimes we get frustrated being inside all the time for days, Health care professionals might be dealing with the major stress than we could imagine. 

Generally, Health care professionals are always stressed but remain calm and 
well dressed. For them every task is an opportunity and challenge to be proved 
rather than a mere work.

The reasons why they choose to survive and excel in medical field because they 
have unique superb qualities and mental state to work under pressure.

They have developed abilities and qualities to fight the ongoing persistent stress and challenges till outcome. They have developed their own ways to keep 
themselves motivated and relaxed and have their hobbies and leisure activities 
to de-stress themselves.

Health Care profession is always helpful even in adverse situation like we are 
witnessing in this pandemic where they are working day and night to keep us 

But they can also be at the risk of developing mental health disorders. Among them most vulnerable are those on the front lines making sure their patients and the public are safe. Their situation can be imagined as of the Army on borders taking care for us, they are equivalent in the country to treat the sufferers.

They have the pressure of taking quick and rationale evidence-based decisions.
Those Health care professionals who are in quarantine lacks social support.
These include the first responders to Covid-19 such as Medical Health 
Professionals, Emergency Service Workers, Sanitation Workers and associated staff.


We should not forget that they are too a Human Being like us, and they also 
need mental peace and soothing listeners to hear them. They may be 
emotionally drained, may be mentally fatigued, struggling with “burnout” for a 
long period of time. They are at persistent risk for contacting infections. 
Sometimes they may feel pressurized due to their own moral values. They also may be indecisive in challenging situations.

In one survey conducted by JAMA Network on Mental Health Effects of Covid-19 on Healthcare Workers in China, among 1257 healthcare workers which include 39 % physicians, 61% nurses out of which majority are from 34 hospitals in Wuhan and other states, it was found that 50% of them have high rates of depression, 45% of them have anxiety, 34% of Insomnia and 72% cases of Distress. The respective intensities vary from mild (80-90%) to Moderate (10-20%) with females and nurses are the most common victims.

So, the question arises what can be done to reduce stress?

A positive outlook to the situation could be of some help. We can give our best 
to manage and save the lives as per standard evidence-based protocol.
We shouldn’t be disappointed by the consequences but agree to learn from 
experiences/ circumstances/outcomes.
Always believe we can only give our best but we are not God, hence we can’t
change the fate.

Read Also : IMA raises White Alarm , Docs to observe Black Day on 23rd April demanding Central Protection Law

When HCPs will be safe, Patients would be safer. Safe also means to be 
mentally calm composed, alert and sound to take prompt decisions. 
Also being physically fresh, and safe from getting hurt, getting infections etc.
A Good working styles also be of good help to some extent in coping with the 
stress during the pandemic. Following points should be considered:

  1.  Be safe and ensure the safety of team. 
  2. Ensure adequate hydration and meals.
  3. Proper arrangements or rest and sleep.
  4.  Arrangement for proper sanitation.
  5.  Dynamic and enthusiast team leader.
  6. Be a good listener and obedient to your team leader.
  7. Avoid conflicts during work/ if arises solve by good communication.
  8. Don’t be overwhelmed to work all the hours.
  9. Don’t be enthusiast to save all the patients: concept of triage.
  10. Even during designated work hour, try to keep yourself calm, composed and relaxed.Overworked and tired of professionals have reduced capacity to make decisions in the best of interests. 

Precaution: Taking extra precautions minimize chances of self-exposure.

• follow strict personal protective measures (e.g. mask. Gown, hand 
washing etc.)
• keep separate clothes for work/used disposable scrubs provided by 
Hospital to minimize transmission.
• considered every patient admitted to the hospital as having Covid-19 
infection until unless proved to be negative.
• read about covid-19, its prevention and mechanism of transmission.
• avoid going out in public places to minimize exposure from covid-19.
Individual coping style:
Self-relaxation, self-motivation is equally important to keep the spirit high in 
every battle. During Pandemic, you can:
• Involve in relaxation activities, e.g. involve in music, tv shows, exercise 
• chat with family and friends to relieve stress and obtain support.
• talk to yourself and motivate to face the covid-19 outbreak with positive 
• Share jokes or humor among colleagues.

During this critical time, Check the stress “thermometers”.
Ask yourself if you have signs of burnout or secondary traumatic stress. These include:

  • Sadness, depression or apathy.
  • Feeling easily frustrated.
  • Feeling isolated or disconnected from others.
  •  Feeling tired, exhausted or overwhelmed.
  •  Feeling like a failure or that nothing you can do will help.
  •  Excessive worry or fear about something bad happening.
  •  Being easily startled, or “on guard” all of the time.
  •  Having physical signs of stress (eg racing heart)
  •  Nightmares or recurrent thoughts about the traumatic situation.

During this critical time, the news and information regarding COVID
changes minute by minute. This can affect you many ways:

  • Stay in touch: in fact, you are also isolated but in infectious environment.

  • Get accurate information: don’t be overburdened.

  • Take a breather: stop, take a breath, calm down. Believe that the situation will pass away.

  • listen carefully and share experiences and feelings.

  •  encourage each other to take breaks. Share opportunities for stress relief (rest, routine sleep, exercise and deep breathing)

  • care for yourself as well as you care for others: helping others is getting helped.

  • get professional help.

  • Walk it off! Even a little exercise burns your stress.

  •  if you calm the tension in your body, you can calm tension in your mind.

  • give and get support from colleagues.

While it’s important to save the lives of others but for that you need to keep yourselves safe first. To serve others, we must be strong, determined and most important to keep ourselves motivated. This pandemic will soon be over.


About the author 

Dr. A. Q. Jilani is a senior mental health expert based in Lucknow . He has done DM in Geriatric Psychiatry from Lucknow's prestigious King George Medical University. Presently Dr. Jilani is working as a Professor in Psychiatry at Era's Lucknow Medical College & Hospital. He leads different initiatives to raise awareness regarding mental health in the country & is a life member of Indian Psychiatric Society. 

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