Managing Stress as a Healthcare Worker
Do you feel like your job as a healthcare worker sometimes affects your mental health and well-being? Working in healthcare, you're trained to prioritise the safety and well-being of your patients. The meticulous use of gloves, masks, and other protective equipment is a routine part of your day. But how often do you think about your own mental safety and well-being? Emotional and psychological protection is imperative, especially in high-pressure healthcare environments.
Emotional PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) is about arming yourself with tools and strategies to guard against emotional burnout, fatigue, and stress. Let's explore some specific techniques you can adopt:
Begin with Self-awareness
Recognise your emotional state at the start of each shift. Use simple mood tracking apps or a journal to note how you're feeling. Awareness is the first step to addressing potential stressors.
Brief Moments of Mindfulness
Even if you only have a few minutes, grounding exercises can help. Focus on your breathing, and try the 4-7-8 method: inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds, and exhale for 8 seconds. This can calm the mind and reduce anxiety.
While your profession involves care and empathy, it's vital to set emotional boundaries. This doesn't mean distancing from patients, but rather recognising you can't shoulder all their burdens. Remember that it is okay to seek support when a case affects you profoundly.
On breaks, avoid diving into social media or news. Utilise this time to do activities that help you to detach and rejuvenate. Listening to calming music or engaging in light conversation can offer a mental reprieve.
Seek Peer Support
Sometimes, only a fellow healthcare worker can truly understand your challenges. Build relationships with colleagues and create a safe space to share, vent, and uplift each other.
Keep personal mementos, like family photos or inspirational quotes, in your locker or workspace. These can serve as reminders of the world outside and the reasons you pursued this career.
Advocate for or participate in regular debriefing sessions where teams can discuss challenging cases in a supportive environment.
Limit Continuous Shifts
While sometimes unavoidable, try to avoid numerous continuous shifts. Extended hours not only lead to physical exhaustion but can also make one more susceptible to emotional fatigue.
Engage in Physical Activity
Even a short walk around the facility or some stretching exercises can help release built-up tension. Physical activity releases endorphins in the body that elevate mood and reduce stress.
Seek Professional Support
Consider engaging with a therapist who has experience in dealing with workplace stress or trauma. Having an avenue for this dialogue can offer perspective and coping strategies.
In conclusion, just as you wouldn't neglect wearing a mask or gloves in a high-risk environment, don't overlook the need for emotional PPE. Your mental well-being is paramount, not only for effective patient care but for your own quality of life.