3 Mindfulness Tips to Help Healthcare Workers Manage Grief Post Holiday Season

With the new year upon us, many of us are still riding the high of enjoying time off, visiting family and friends, and opening gifts. The holiday season can be a joyous time for so many, but it is important to remember that the silent nights of holiday bliss can also be the loudest, busiest, and most traumatic for our healthcare workers. Increased travel, cooler temperatures, and partying can lead to higher risks of injury and illness – often flooding doctors offices and hospitals. This leaves our healthcare workers with less time to enjoy the season for what it is, and more burnout to face when it is all over.

We often stand at the crossroads, feeling compelled to choose patient care over personal connections,” says Dr. Gail Gazelle, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard. The relentless demands, the weight of responsibility, can often leave us emotionally stretched, isolated – even resentful. As physicians, our reservoirs aren’t infinite.”

As the healthcare landscape grapples with the pervasive issue of healthcare burnout, there exists the unprocessed trauma and grief that healthcare workers carry from caring for patients. This burden, often lurking beneath the surface, can intensify during the holidays, exacerbating stress and contributing to burnout. With the adrenaline of the holiday season gone, healthcare workers are left in the aftermath of this grief.

With January being the time for New Year’s Resolutions, healthcare professionals often lack the energy to participate and instead spend their new year focusing on mindfulness, rest, and recovery. This is because they are processing unresolved trauma and grief on a depleted battery from a busy holiday season. While they were busy taking care of others, their own mental and physical wellbeing may have fallen to the wayside.

Dr. Gazelle’s book, “Mindful MD: 6 Ways Mindfulness Restores Your Autonomy and Cures Healthcare Burnout,” discusses the importance of healthcare workers practicing mindfulness as a tool to fill one’s cup in order to be able to care for others. In the new year, here are 3 tips she suggests on how mindfulness can be a transformative tool for healthcare providers to navigate and cope with hidden trauma that may be arising post holiday season.

Tip #1: Acknowledge Your Grief

After the whirlwind of the festive season, it’s essential for healthcare workers to acknowledge and honor their feelings of grief, especially if past losses are triggered during the holidays. Doctors, who often bear witness to patient loss, may carry a heavy emotional burden. This is particularly true given the level of deaths physicians and nurses witnessed during the pandemic. Mindfulness encourages healthcare professionals to recognize and make emotional space for their grief as a natural part of their experience. By doing so, they can release the emotional weight they carry, allowing themselves to heal and find solace in the face of grief that arises during and after the holidays.

Tip #2:Practice Self-Compassion

Healthcare providers are accustomed to caring for others, but after the holidays, it’s vital for them to extend that care to themselves. Mindfulness emphasizes self-compassion, encouraging healthcare workers to treat themselves with the same kindness and understanding they offer to patients. By practicing self-compassion, they can navigate the emotional toll of patient loss during the festive season more effectively. They can grant themselves the permission to grieve and prioritize their own well-being, ultimately reducing emotional burnout.

Tip #3:Writing Letters of Closure

Mindfulness can guide healthcare workers in writing letters of closure to their departed patients or colleagues. These letters can be a therapeutic way to express unspoken sentiments, regrets, and gratitude. While the letters may never be sent, the act of writing them can be incredibly healing, providing a sense of closure and allowing healthcare workers to move forward with a lighter heart.

While the busy season for healthcare workers may be coming to a close, these tools can be used throughout the year to reduce the impacts of burnout and lessen the emotional toll carried by healthcare workers.


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