What is psychological PPE (personal protective equipment)?

Mental Health

A: We all know that personal protective equipment (like masks) is important during the COVID-19 pandemic. But psychological PPE is important too!

Psychological PPE include individual and systems-wide actions that can be taken to protect your mental health and the mental health of those around you, and to protect against burnout.

As the pandemic continues, many people are experiencing burnout or emotional distress. Burnout can be occupational (involving your job or work) or non-occupational (like in parenting or caregiving). People who are experiencing burnout feel low energy or exhausted, have negative feelings about one’s job or role, and experience reduced personal efficacy. Unfortunately, burnout is also super common. Psychological PPE are actions that people can take to build a psychological protective armor and reduce the risk of burnout and emotional distress. Psychological PPE was originally a concept for healthcare workers, but it really applies to everyone!

Here are a few ideas from the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and others for personal psychological PPE:

• Take a day off and have some space between work and home life. It’s ok to take some time to breathe and decompress.

• Have a news diet. Avoid going down the rabbit hole of COVID-19 media and social media coverage when you are feeling overwhelmed. Have a trusted resource to avoid misinformation and reduce that unnecessary stressor!

• Find opportunities to show gratitude. In positive psychology research, gratitude is consistently associated with increased happiness and decreased burnout. Even little things count and go a long way!

• Reframe negative experiences. Find the positive in that experience and try not to dwell on what was not so good.

• Identify peers who can be a support system. The “buddy system” never goes out of style!

• Prioritize. There is only so much time and energy in one day. Pick what matters most and let the little things slide.

• Ask for and get help during mental health crises or struggles. Please see the Mental Health posts on our website for resources on this one!

• Be kind to yourself. Be aware of when things feel off. It’s ok not to be ok.

We Nerdy Girls would love to hear about your psychological PPE! What do you do and what has worked for you?

If you are experiencing burnout, there are resources and strategies to help you through it. Check out:

Job Burnout Information

Caregiver burnout information

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