Caregivers on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic may be at risk for stress-related problems that can fuel post-traumatic stress disorder. But several proactive measures can help forestall problems before they escalate, according to a new report.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a chronic condition of functional impairment that can arise after repeated exposure to adverse situations. To catch what can become a cascading problem early on, clinicians can draw from the military’s experience, Patricia Watson, Ph.D., recently told Medical News Today.

Watson is from the National Center for PTSD, part of the United States Department of Veteran Affairs. She recommends that individuals perform “stress first aid” using a combination of five evidence-based options to help address situations as they arise. These include safety, calming, self-efficacy, social connectedness, and hope.

The more of these factors in one’s stress-relieving arsenal, the better the chances of recovery from a variety of adverse experiences, Watson reported. Individuals should ask themselves what they need each day and then reach out to release frustration. This could include calling a hotline, or venting to a friend for a few minutes, for example. Clinical teams can likewise incorporate creative solutions that benefit everyone, she suggested.

In one real-world case, a hospital’s clinical team developed a system to ensure that any team member who was struggling wouldn’t fall through the cracks. Team members who were feeling good on a particular day wrote their name on a white board. Team members who needed support could check the white board and approach that team member, Watson told the news outlet.

Providers who are reaching the “red zone” of PTSD danger, including no longer feeling like themselves and experiencing a loss of control, should consider reaching out for professional help, Watson added. There are known treatments that work for PTSD and some aren’t lengthy, she said. 

“Some are just five sessions, where a person can learn strategies to deal with their symptoms, feel less distressed, and function better,” she said.

The full report is available here.