Corona Warriors//

The Healthy Daily Habits First Responders Need Right Now

The science says to start small.

Mint Images / Getty Images
Mint Images / Getty Images

This post was initially published on March 21, 2020 and updated on May 3, 2021.

With the pandemic crisis growing worse in India, the country’s frontline health workers are facing unprecedented challenges. The latest surge in cases has many experts warning about burnout among medical professionals. As South Delhi anaesthetist Dr. Arif Sohaib put it, “It has been more than a year of dealing with this. There was a time around February when we were quite psychologically uplifted — the number of cases were down, and we were receiving vaccines. But with things suddenly taking a sharp turn for the worse after that, people are exhausted now.” And with cases rising not just among the general population but also, as The Indian Express reports, among healthcare workers, it’s more essential than ever for frontline workers to do what they can to take care of themselves.

Whether you’re a home health aide, social worker, community health worker, nurse, or physician, building healthy habits around sleep, movement, nutrition, and hydration will help you mitigate stress, avoid burnout, strengthen your immune system, and meaningfully recharge while you navigate this crisis on the front lines. 

Healthy eating, for example, can help reduce depression and anxiety amongst first responders, according to a paper in the Journal of Emergency Medical Services. And research from the University of Tübingen in Germany found that sleep helps our immune system recover, which is, of course, essential for healthcare workers in India putting themselves at risk to serve communities being hit hard by the latest wave of the pandemic.

If your health routines could use a reboot, take comfort in the knowledge that building new healthy habits is simpler than you may think. In fact, behavior science, including research published in the British Journal of General Practice and Psychology, Health, & Medicine, tells us the most successful habits start with incredibly small steps. Here are three Microsteps — small, science-backed actions you can start taking immediately to build habits that significantly improve your life — that will help you reset and recharge: 

Take a one-minute stretch break whenever you can throughout the day.

You’re already moving a lot during the day and coping with a heavy physical load, but make sure to integrate brief stretch breaks to support your body. Stand up, change positions, stretch — anything to get your blood flowing. You can even lead your fellow workmates in a quick stretch in the break room.

Keep a water bottle at your station or in the break room.

You’ll avoid the temptation of soda and other sugary drinks. Plus, refilling your bottle throughout the day will provide you with much-needed micro-moments of rejuvenation.

Take a short nap, or close your eyes for a few minutes, if you worked an overnight shift or didn’t get the sleep you need. 

Resting and recharging for five or 10 minutes will boost your energy to be there for your next patients. 

With additional reporting from Mallory Stratton.

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