Over the past several years, people working in healthcare professions have seen it all. At the start of the pandemic, this sector of the workforce was cast into the new role of frontline hero, seemingly overnight. They have been working tirelessly to provide critical care when our nation needed it most, often without breaks and at the expense of their own personal lives and well-being. 

During this challenging era, many healthcare workers are dealing with severe levels of burnout and are struggling with their mental health, at large, while others are even considering leaving their jobs altogether in favor of less intense careers.

With these major shifts in mind, MetLife’s 19th annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study took a closer look at what these employees are saying about the state of their careers and their own personal well-being. The study found that healthcare workers are facing a greater decline in their mental health than employees from other sectors. Indeed, only 59 percent say theyfeel mentally healthy right now, compared to 68 percent of employees overall.

So, what does this mean for healthcare workers going forward? More and more, discussions about mental health are becoming normalized and encouraged, especially for employees in the healthcare profession. By addressing their own mental health first, healthcare workers will find that that they are more capable of handling the stress of their job, caring for patients, and most importantly, feeling in control of their own happiness. 

Below are three steps to get started: 

Step 1: Pinpoint your biggest stressors  

It’s no secret that healthcare professionals continue toexperience a myriad of pain points amid the ongoing pandemic.While issues like working overtime can have an obvious influence on mental health, for others, the impact is less pronounced. For instance, 86 percent of healthcare workersreport that finances have become a top source of stress. It may be easy to push financial health to the back burner, but with only half of healthcare workers feeling confident in their financesright now, making financial health a top priority today can really make a difference tomorrow.

Creating an emergency fund is a great place to start, even if that means placing only a few dollars into a separate account each month. Additional options include looking to employer-offered benefits, like FSAs and HSAs, as well as available financial wellness programs and tools, to help mitigate unforeseen out-of-pocket healthcare costs. It can seem overwhelming at first, buttaking these steps early can help address financial concerns and eventually alleviate stress in the long run, allowing for an all-around healthier “you.”

Step 2: Consider the importance of safety  

Over the course of the last year, 72 percent of healthcare workers say their safety and protection is more important now than ever before—and for good reason. There are many things toworry about while on the job; personal safety shouldn’t be one of them. Yet, one in three healthcare workers feel their employer could do more to help them feel protected at work. 

To safeguard their own protection in the workplace, healthcare employees can consider looking to their employers for bothproper safety equipment and available benefits that help to cover work-related injuries, like critical illness insurance. After all, it’s important to feel protected, especially when considering the immediate benefits that feeling physically safe has on reinforcing mental health.

Step 3: Seek out resources from your employer/workplace

Healthcare workers have dedicated their lives to helping others. But always putting others first actually may be impacting their ability to perform at their best. It’s been shown that employees who are struggling with their mental health are less likely to be productive and engaged at work, and when healthcare organizations lack engaged employees, they are over twice as likely to have dissatisfied customers/patients. On the other hand, when employees are engaged, there is a 64 percent decrease in employee safety incidents and a 58 percent decrease in patientsafety incidents. With the above in mind, it’s important to ask about mental health resources, like mental health programs andEAPs (employee assistance programs), that can help curb feelings of burnout and disengagement. 

The biggest takeaway is that well-being and mental healthshould never be a second, third or fourth priority—and especially not now. By focusing on improving financial health,prioritizing safety, and looking for resources from their employers, healthcare workers may find themselves less stressed, more focused on what matters, and most importantly, mentally strong to keep doing the job they love.