NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on all of us, especially on health care workers who have had to deal with life-and-death issues for the past 18 months.

We now know that working on the front lines has taken quite a mental health toll on those workers. CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez has more on a new study that uses technology to monitor stress among doctors and nurses.

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Dr. James Marion, of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, is a renowned gastroenterologist, but when the first wave of COVID devastated New York, he was asked to help the sickest patients.

“They wanted me to run a 14-bed COVID unit. The hospital was filling up pretty rapidly,” Marion said.

He was one of thousands of health care workers coping with stress of long hours, PPE shortages, and the worry of catching COVID.

“I think my biggest fear was that I’d bring it home to my family,” Marion said.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

Researchers at Mount Sinai are studying the psychological effects of the pandemic on front-line health care workers. In what they call the “Warrior Watch” study, doctors and nurses wear Apple Watches to monitor their heartrate and fill out surveys to measure stress, resilience, emotional support, and quality of life.

“Health care workers, we’re finding, have increasing rates of burnout, anxiety, are at risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder, and have ongoing long-term effects from the stress,” the Icahn School of Medicine’s Dr. Robert P. Hirten said.

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They also found health care workers who could overcome stress and had strong emotional support were protected.

“There are multiple ways you could build resilience. It all relates to lifestyle. Your exercise, improve your sleep patterns, and learn how to do breathing exercises to be able to deal with things when they come to face you,” Icahn’s Dr. Zahi Fayad said.

COVID VACCINE

Marion took part in the research, which he said helped motivate him.

“It has totally changed my relationship with exercise and with staying fit. I was running before, but now I’m doing pacing. I’m doing interval training,” Marion said.

We’re all exposed to stress, pandemic-related and other types. It’s how we perceive and deal with it that impacts our health, both mental and physical. Exercise helps burn off those stress hormones that are so damaging.

Dr. Max Gomez