Introduction Healthcare workers usually deal with several risk factors that make them prone to some psychological problems, such as anxiety, depression, burnout, or even PSTD. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this situation worsened, so many studies were conducted to highlight the impact of the pandemic on healthcare professionals’ mental health. However, just a few of them focused on vulnerability and protective factors. The present study aimed to explore the role of emotion regulation processes on healthcare workers’ mental health.
Methods A longitudinal study was conducted with Spanish healthcare workers sample (n=57). Data were collected two times: t1 was assessed during the first wave of COVID-19 in Spain (April-May, 2020), and t2, two months later. Symptoms of depression, PSTD, and emotional exhaustion were assessed as symptomatology, whereas demographics, job conditions, and trait and state emotion regulation variables were collected as predictive factors.
Results Regression analyses showed that participants with dysfunctional beliefs about sharing and expressing emotions, higher self-criticism, suppression, negative emotions, lower levels of self-acceptance and reassuring toward themselves, and a lack of the ability to relax in their leisure time in t1 experienced higher levels of depression, PSTD and emotional exhaustion in t2, controlling for baseline levels. Moreover, results also pointed out a significant decrease over time in self-support and reappraisal and a significant increase in lack of empathy and having a distant attitude toward others.
Discussion Our results suggest that some emotion regulation processes, such as acceptance, self-reassuring, and being able to relax in leisure time could be relevant in the prevention of psychological problems among healthcare professionals. Practical implications of the results will be discussed as these results may help to design psychological intervention programs and promote healthy job conditions that enhance better mental health not only in a critical context but also in their daily work.
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