Being a healthcare worker is among the most rewarding yet challenging professions. Caring for others can be incredibly fulfilling, but it can also affect your mental and physical health. That’s why self-care is so vital for healthcare workers. When you take care of yourself, you’re better able to take care of your patients and provide them with the high-quality care they deserve.
Here are a few essential self-care tips for healthcare workers:
1. Recognize the Causes of Stress:
Of course, you’re stressed. Constant exposure to life-and-death situations, long hours, and demanding patients can all take a toll. But it’s essential to try to identify the specific causes of your stress so you can address them head-on.
Is it your workload? A particular patient? The hospital politics?
Once you know what’s causing your stress, you can handle it in a more mindful way.
If it’s the workload, talking to your supervisor may help. Similarly, if a patient is giving you extra anxiety, you can talk to your team about how to best care for them.
2. Make Smart Choices:
Some healthcare providers choose to pursue a degree alongside their full-time job. But, honestly, this can lead to burnout.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it may be best to table your degree until you have more time and energy. However, if you’re aspiring to a higher position in your organization, you may need to push through the tough times. Online degrees and certifications offer a more flexible way to learn so that you can study at your own pace. And they pay off so well. For instance, with an online post master’s certificate nurse practitioner can earn an average salary of $110,930 per year.
3. Acknowledge Your Challenges:
Healthcare workers have heaps of responsibility and are constantly surrounded by suffering. Therefore, it’s important to acknowledge your pain and give yourself time to grieve. If you bottle up your emotions, they’ll eventually explode.
Crying it out might not make the pain go away, but it will help you release some of the built-up tension.
Other ways to process your emotions and suffering include journaling, talking to a therapist, or spending time in nature.
4. Find Alternative Solutions for your Sleep:
There are many ways to improve your sleep if you’re not getting enough. Consider taking short naps throughout the day, drinking chamomile tea before bed, and establishing a bedtime routine.
Exercise can also help you sleep better by tiring out your body and releasing endorphins that promote feelings of well-being. Just make certain you aren’t working out too close to bedtime. It can make falling asleep harder.
If you struggle despite trying these tips, talk to your doctor. They may be able to prescribe medication or refer you to a sleep specialist.
5. Create Healthy Boundaries:
One of the most beneficial things you can do for your mental health is to create healthy boundaries. It means mastering the art of saying “no” and setting limits with your patients, colleagues, and superiors.
Saying “no” can be difficult, but it’s essential for protecting your time and energy. Remember that you can’t be everything to everyone, and that’s okay.
There are polite ways to say “no” without burning bridges. For example, you can say, “I’m sorry, but I’m not available. Maybe someone else can help you.”
6. Make Time for Yourself:
Where do you put yourself on your list of priorities? We are confident you’re bottoming that list. Making time for yourself is paramount for your mental and physical health.
You don’t have to do anything grandiose or expensive. Set aside a few minutes each day to do something you enjoy, even if it’s only 10 or 15.
Maybe enjoy the sunset each evening, cook your favorite meals on your days off (if you enjoy cooking), or read that book you’ve wanted to start.
7. Find a Support System:
No one understands the challenges of being a healthcare worker like a fellow healthcare worker. So, when you’re considering your support system, look to your colleagues first. They may be able to help in multiple ways. For instance, they can help you with your workload if you feel overwhelmed. Or, if the workplace politics are stressing you out, they can provide advice or be a sounding board.
It’s important to have a diverse support system. For example, your family can be a great source of emotional support, and your friends can help you relax and have fun.
8. Schedule Time for Exercise:
Moving your muscles reduces stress and improves your overall health. So even if you can only squeeze in a 30-minute walk a few times per week, it will make a difference.
If you have the time and energy for more, consider signing up for a yoga or dance class, swimming, or playing a sport.
Some healthcare facilities offer on-site gyms or exercise classes. If yours doesn’t, see if you can start a group to work out together. Or how about a cycling or running club?
9. Eat a Healthy Diet:
As a part of your role, you probably see firsthand the effects of poor diet choices. So, you know how important it is to eat healthy foods. While protein, healthy fats, and complex carbs are essential for everyone, there are certain nutrients that healthcare workers need to pay extra attention to.
For example, vitamin C helps boost immunity, while omega-3 fatty acids can improve cognitive function and lower stress levels. You can get these nutrients from citrus fruits, fatty fish, nuts and seeds, and dark leafy greens.
There are also foods you must steer clear of, such as those high in sugar and refined carbs. These foods can lead to spikes in blood sugar levels, which can cause fatigue and irritability.
10. Practice Acupressure and Meditation:
Acupressure is an ancient Chinese healing practice that involves applying pressure to specific points on the body. It helps to relieve pain and tension and can improve sleep, digestion, and immunity.
There are many pressure points on the body, but a few that are particularly good for healthcare workers are:
- Union valley point: This point is located between the thumb and index finger. It’s used to relieve fatigue, headaches, and stress.
- Shoulder well point: This point is located on the muscle between the neck and shoulder. It helps to relieve tension headaches, neck pain, and fatigue.
- Three-yin intersection point: You can find this point inside the ankle. It helps to improve sleep and ease stress.
Meditation is another great way to reduce stress. It involves focusing on your breath and letting go of all other thoughts. If you’re new to meditation, there are many apps and websites that can guide you through the process. Or, you can find a local meditation group to join.
As a healthcare provider, you have much on your plate. From caring for patients to managing the politics of the healthcare system, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. But, if you put yourself on the back burner during the process, you’re not doing anyone any favors. Instead, by taking steps to care for your health, you’ll be better equipped to handle whatever comes your way.
So, don’t forget to schedule time for exercise, eat a healthy diet, and make time for relaxation.