5 ways Healthcare Professionals can manage stress

Three things are on your mind now: Pick your six-year-old from school in ten minutes, drop him off for a haircut while you shop for groceries.

Your Intensive Care Unit patient crosses your mind. You have to get adequate rest in readiness for the pediatric Clinic scheduled for the next day which almost always lasts a whole day.

Your head spins with that familiar mild headache as you catch sight of the traffic jam in your direction. The thought of tomorrow’s early morning shift hits you, deep down wishing you could catch a break.

You know right away.

You are feeling stressed.

Why are Healthcare workers prone to Stress?

A Taiwanese study showed the occurrence of depression was significantly and positively correlated to job stress experienced by the nurses . Healthcare providers in a hospital set-up usually work under high pressure. This job requires you to make accurate, timely decisions which affect human life daily. This can be overwhelming, coming with a level of stress.

Stress levels differ from person to person. Sustained high levels of stress when not well managed may lead to undesirable health effects, by altering physical and mental health.

Causes of Stress

Causes are usually day-to-day issues, financial pressures, school, relationship issues and, a considerable number of cases are work-related.

Signs of stress can vary from irritability, anxiety, feelings of frustration, weight changes to behavioral changes such as stress-eating.

High levels of stress have a great impact on the health of the individual. The body perceives the change as a threat and reacts by releasing certain hormones like adrenaline and cortisol which increase the heart rate, slows down digestion thereby giving one a burst of energy.

How does Stress Affect Healthcare Professionals?

A study done by Marsland .et al(2002) shows the impact of stress on lowering immune function, thereby exposing one to diseases. Chronically stressed people have an impaired ability to mount a strong immune response with a resultant increase in morbidity.

Research has shown that the stress inherent to health care occupations can lead to depression, reduced job satisfaction, psychological distress, and disruptions to personal relationships.

Several conditions could result from chronic stress. These include ulcers, anxiety disorder, heart disease, obesity among others.

Memory and attention are directly affected by the stress of a healthcare provider, leading to diminished quality of services in terms of patient care and safety.

Therefore, knowing how to manage stress is of utmost importance to Healthcare providers to prevent burnout and its related incompetence.

Let’s look at ways to reduce Stress.

1.Recognize the source of your stress

Be on the lookout for tell-tale signs of stress such as feelings of fear, irritability, nail-biting, or restlessness to be able to pinpoint the events leading up to it.

If for instance your mood changes only at work, you know there’s an issue you are sweeping under the rug. Identifying it enables you to deal with it and stop stress at an early stage.

2.Practice work boundaries

Maintain a work-life balance, don’t overextend yourself at the expense of your social life. Let your catching up with assignments and reports at home not be an option for you.

Sometimes it may be as innocent as inquiring about that patient you dealt with earlier whose family would like you to be solely responsible for, even though they are aware your plate is full. You need to be firm and disciplined with this step.

3.Set apart 10-minute exercise breaks for every hour shift

During work hours, be sure to have short sessions where you stretch, move around, or even take a walk to the cafeteria to get your blood circulating and energized.

Exercise of any kind lightens the mood, breaks down the work hours into short sessions in between the surge of energy.

Exercise also releases the feel-good hormone, dopamine.

4.Reduce Junk, incorporate healthier, nutritious foods in your Diet

Minimizing sugar in your diet can significantly improve mental health and reduce stress. This is because the more anxious you are, the more likely you will use sugar to self-soothe  to get the sugar rush.

Make a point of replacing highly processed foods from the supermarket ( generally higher in sodium, unsaturated fats and added sugar) with the complex starches such as sweet potatoes, cassava, pumpkins etc.

 Additionally, sugar has been linked to emotional disorders for example anxiety and depression.

5.Plan and prioritize activities

Healthcare profession is characterized by high workloads, round the clock shifts, daily ward rounds with patients always tugging at you for one thing or another. This can easily overwhelm you and feel like you are in the middle of a circus.

To deal with all of it more efficiently, categorize your tasks as urgent/Important to declutter your mind. This can favorably change how you view your day as you feel more organized and in control of your schedules.

Benefits of relieved stress

With these tips, health care professionals can improve their coping skills brought on by the demands and challenges of the work environment and reduce their stress levels.

These stress management tips can boost their productivity, improve objectivity and judgment, and as a result, increase job satisfaction and personal accomplishment.

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