Self-care for Essential Personnel during the COVID-19 pandemic

Essential personnel are employees whose jobs are necessary for King County to continue operating. Many of you – including staff from Metro, DAJD, FMD, Roads, the Criminal Defense system, and others – have jobs that cannot be performed at home, and so you continue to report to work each day during this pandemic. King County is grateful for your continued dedication to our community.

Balanced You knows this is a difficult and stressful time for you. We are here to support essential personnel in reducing stress and caring for your well-being. Below, you will find tips and resources you can use as you respond, professionally and personally, to coronavirus.

Be safe

  • Safety: Follow County guidance for how to keep you and those around you safe from infection as you perform your essential function. If you have questions or concerns, reach out to your supervisor or Human Resources Manager.

Nurture your physical health

Be gentle with yourself. Your normal routine may be hard right now. Consider developing a modified routine, so you can nurture your physical health and enjoy downtime.

  • Sleep: Aim for 7-9 hours. Remember to keep your sleeping space cool, dark, quiet, and without bright screens. If sleep is difficult, try winding-down before bed with a meditation.
  • Exercise: Moving your body each day will help you release stress and sleep better. Remember, exercise does not have to be done at once. It can be done in 5 -10-minute increments throughout the day. For inspiration, try Balanced You’s videos of easy desk stretches and exercises that can be done anywhere.
  • Nutrition: Check out this Balanced You blog post on healthy eating during coronavirus. Cooking in large batches and freezing leftovers can save time and money, and new recipes can be a source of fun.
  • Hydration: Try to limit caffeine and alcohol. Remember to drink water or herbal tea, 6-8 cups per day, if possible.
  • Online programs: If you’re looking for more support, consider joining one of Balanced You’s online programs for supporting long-term health. The programs, Omada and Living Well, are group-based and offered at no charge to employees.

Reduce your stress

Stress levels are understandably high right now and the emotions you have in response can range from numbness to sadness to anger. Here are some techniques you can practice to help manage stress during this time:

  • Mindfulness videos: Integrate Balanced You’s short on-demand mindfulness videos into your day, whenever and wherever they work for you.
  • Buddy system: Pair up with someone at work and check-in on each other. Learn each other’s interests, workloads, and points of stress. Encourage breaks and self-care.
  • Journal: Write about what you are experiencing. Label your feelings and describe them. Remember, whatever you are feeling is valid.
  • Coping skills: We all have things we do to help manage our stress; some of us clean, some of us exercise, some of us watch funny T.V. or play video games, some of us call friends. Use the skills that work for you and be careful not to focus too strongly on only one. Moderation is important, even in coping skills.

Connect socially and have fun

Add in one to two steps each day to connect with someone, within the parameters of social distancing, and to have fun. Get creative! Here are some ideas:

  • Phone calls and video chats: Reach out to friends and family via phone or video-chat. Do a one-on-one call or coordinate a group gathering via Zoom. Talk about your experiences or try something fun like a dance or karaoke party.
  • Hobbies: Take some time to hone a skill or develop a new one, such as a musical instrument, cooking style, game, or foreign language. There are many classes available online for free.
  • Books and movies: Limit your news intake and try a funny book or movie instead. Seattle Public Library and King County Library both offer free electronic book downloads and movie/TV series streaming.

Additional resources

If you would like additional support in caring for your health and well-being, the following resources are available to you:

  • Mental or physical healthcare via telehealth:Regence and Kaiser therapists and other healthcare providers, including doctors and physical therapists, can be accessed from your home, via telehealth. If you have a provider, ask them if telehealth is available. If you don’t have a certain type of provider and would like one, contact your insurance company.
  • Making Life Easier and Employee Assistance Program: Making Life Easier (MLE) provides many services, including free counseling and referrals, credit and legal consultations, mortgage assistance, and childcare resources and referrals. The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provides free counseling to help King County employees navigate workplace stress. Read this blog article for advice from EAP to frontline workers during the pandemic.

Do you have other healthy practices while serving as an essential personnel? We would love to hear them. For questions or more information, contact or 206-263-9626.

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