Stress is a normal part of life. In moderation, stress can be good for you! It affects everyone, no matter what your profession, if you are on the job or at home. According to a study printed in a National Institute of Health (NIH) publication, healthcare professions are among the most stressful professions. Healthcare professionals are responsible for the care given to many generations of patients from birth to geriatrics. There are many decisions to be made while giving that care, and the actions (or lack of actions) taken by clinicians can have life-changing effects on their patients. Definitely stress inducing!
Although work stress is common, your reaction to worry and anxiety can determine the effect it has on the quality of your life both on and off the job. As a healthcare professional, you know that when stress is not managed effectively, it can have a negative impact on your physical and mental health. Workplace anxiety from staffing issues, ethical dilemmas and patient demands can potentially bleed over into the home front, causing friction in personal and professional relationships or even a weakened immune system that can lead to chronic illnesses (Mental Health America).
Many people, from colleagues to well-meaning friends, may give you suggestions about coping with work-related pressures. When stressed out, it may be more difficult to mentally accept or process their well-meant recommendations. Therefore, some tricks to managing the effects of stress can be finding strategies to cope with its negative consequences and practice them before you become overly stressed, irritable, cranky, or just plain pessimistic.
Here are some simple and effective methods to try:
- Be Flexible
Recognize what you can and cannot control. Many times, stress becomes unmanageable when we cannot control what is happening around us. Control is an illusion – so try to “go with the flow” even when it is hard to do.
- Be Realistic when Setting Goals for the Day
Making long lists of tasks to accomplish can lead to disgruntlement when patient needs pull you away from your goals for the day. Keeping your daily “to do” list as manageable as possible may prevent you from feeling like you are not accomplishing anything.
- Take a Quick Break
Even a few minutes away from your work environment can help you regain your composure and lift your spirits. Quieting your mind, even for a few minutes, can help release stress. Head down to the cafeteria for a cup of tea, step outside for a breath of fresh air or do a quick run up and down a flight of stairs.
- Find Something to Make You Smile
Laughing can increase our ability to handle what comes our way. Whether it’s a good conversation with a coworker or a video of dogs eating peanut butter – having something that puts a smile on your face can sometimes be the leverage you need to relieve some built up stress.
- Be Grateful
If your day did not go the way you hoped, try to change your perspective and find some things that were good in the day. A nice word from a colleague? A positive prognosis for one of your patients? Those positive thoughts can pull you from your negativity and help you return to a balanced state.
- Take Care of Yourself First
Eat right and try to get enough sleep. Remember what the airline industry says, “Don the oxygen mask before giving to your children and others.” If you are not physically well, you will not be able to take care of your loved ones.
- Don’t Over-commit
You do not have to be superman/superwoman. It is okay to just say “No, I can’t do that today.” It is important to put limits on your time and your energy so that you can decrease the stress of the day. Watching a movie with your children may be a better choice rather than going out for dinner.
- Talk to your Friends and Family
Get the support you need. Sometimes, feeling like someone hears what you are saying is enough to decrease your anxiety.
- Disconnect from the Noise
Have a few moments of quiet where there are no electronics, no work emails or talk of work. Just be. Breathe deeply or meditate.
- Stay Active
Exercise is known to reduce stress, depression and anxiety. Small breaks of exercise can be helpful even if you don’t have much time.
Finding that balance between stress and relaxation is not an easy task. When stressed, people tend to be harder on themselves and cling to unrealistic expectations. By implementing some of these tips, you might be kinder to yourself and give yourself the space to relieve some of the tensions of the day and create a more balanced approach to life’s unexpected stressors and circumstances.