Stress-management tips to maintain health and maximize job performance
Whether you’re dealing with life-and-death situations on a daily basis, are overloaded with patients, or are feeling worn out from long hours, learning how to properly manage stress is vital to your healthcare career. Chronic stress can take a toll on both your mental and physical health, contributing to possible burnout. Though some level of stress is likely unavoidable in any position, ADVANCE has put together a list of helpful stress-managing strategies to protect your health and maximize your job performance. After all, if you’re not taking care of yourself, how will you care for others?
Be mindful of your particular stressors and responses.
Keep a journal for a week or two to identify the activities or situations that cause you stress and the ways you respond to them. Gary Brown, PhD, LMFT, FAPA, a licensed psychotherapist in Los Angeles who specializes in stress management for medical centers in Southern California, mentions some particular signs and symptoms of stress. These include fatigue, irritability, persistent intrusive images, sadness, calling in sick when you’re not, feeling demoralized or alone, disturbed sleep, self-numbing with abuse of alcohol and prescription or non-prescription drugs, street drugs, impaired short-term memory; and withdrawal from family, friends, and colleagues. Keeping a record of your stressors and responses will help you identify what helps to manage them.
Sometimes, something as simple as a messy office space or facility can cause stress. Maintain a sense of control and focus by making sure your work space is clean and organized. Use a calendar system to schedule upcoming events you may have and jot down a to-do list if you find yourself constantly dwelling on your responsibilities.
Establish work-life boundaries.
Set work-life boundaries for yourself, such as not checking your email right before bed or answering the phone after a set time. This may not be possible for positions requiring on-call availability, but when possible, take time to unplug from electronic devices and engage in an activity that you enjoy.
Take a break to recharge.
If allowed the opportunity, take time in your day to step away from work. Eat lunch away from your workplace, make a phone call to a friend, or go outside for a walk. Yoga, stretching, and deep-breathing are also often recommended to combat stress.
Your employer and managers care about your well-being. If you are experiencing overwhelming stress, talk with your supervisor to develop a plan to manage your stressors. This might include clarifying expectations, incorporating more colleague support, or identifying employer-sponsored resources that you can utilize.
Create a network of support.
You need other people. Confide in your family members, friends, or trusted colleagues to talk about your stressors and get support. It might also be helpful to establish a mentor who can guide you through stressful situations in the workplace.
Take care of your body.
The healthier you are, the better you will manage workplace stress. Take care of your body by getting enough sleep, eating healthful foods and exercising regularly.
Maintain a positive focus.
Sometimes much of the stress we face is self-imposed. Remember that nobody is perfect. Have realistic expectations — there is only so much you can do in one day. If you make a mistake, see it as an opportunity to improve. Don’t forget the value of humor! It might also help to keep a journal of positive things that happened during your day to maintain an optimistic perspective.
Know that you’re not alone.
Lastly, as Brown reminds, “Don’t stigmatize yourself by labeling yourself as ‘crazy.’ You are simply a normal person, having normal but unpleasant reactions to the impact of one or more stressors in your life. This is particularly true for healthcare providers who routinely deal with life-and-death situations.”