When you work for a healthcare organization dedicated to caring for others, you can sometimes lose sight of the things that help you care for yourself. Work, family, personal, and other commitments often get hectic, and stress can build up over time.
A small amount of stress is a normal reaction to the demands of everyday life. It can even be beneficial sometimes, driving you to stay engaged, alert, and productive at work. But severe or chronic stress can be harmful and put you at greater risk for mental and physical health problems. It’s important for you and your team to remember to care for yourselves as well as your patients.
Pay Attention to Signs of Stress
These red flags may indicate that you are experiencing long-term stress:
- Changes in appetite: Overeating or undereating, weight gain or loss, or digestive problems
- Sleep irregularities: Fatigue or insomnia
- Substance use: Increasing alcohol or nicotine intake
- Physical effects: Back or body pain, headaches, or digestive problems
- Mental effects: Irritability or problems concentrating or finishing tasks
Stress Management Strategies
Learning how to identify and manage stressors isn’t an overnight process. But with practice and support, you can become more aware of how you experience stress and which strategies are most helpful for managing it. Here are five simple exercises to help you get started.
- Breathe deeply.
Deep breathing exercises — like those used in mindfulness meditation — can help lower your heart rate and reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Try this simple exercise: close your eyes, and clear your mind. Take a deep breath for 10 seconds, holding it for 10, and exhaling for another 10. Repeat 10 times.
- Move often.
Short periods of physical activity can help manage anxiety and lower blood pressure and stress hormones. Get in the habit of incorporating small bursts of movement into each hour of your workday. Walk up and down a flight of stairs, or get some fresh air on a lap around the block to release endorphins and relieve stress.
- Laugh more.
That old adage, “Laughter is the best medicine” has some truth to it. Laughter can reduce stress hormones and boost your mood. Text a friend or chat with a coworker who shares your sense of humor, watch a funny video, or browse silly photos on your phone when you need a dose of laughter.
- Prioritize work-life balance.
Stress can turn into burnout if you don’t allow yourself time to recharge away from work. Regular breaks are essential to your physical and mental well-being. Use your vacation days, and carve out time each week to see loved ones and pursue hobbies and interests.
- Get support.
Feeling alone can compound stress. Reach out to people who care about you when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Talking to a trusted friend or family member can help you process stressors and frustrations. Many benefits plans also include mental health support, giving you the opportunity to speak with a counselor who can help you learn techniques to manage stress better.
We believe happier and healthier people are the biggest driver behind a thriving business. This blog is part of our Heart of the Business initiative and our ongoing commitment to delivering health and wellness content to support healthy employees, and in turn, healthy businesses.
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