The healthcare sector is one of the biggest employers in the country – whether you are pursuing a career in internal medicine or working as a carer for senior citizens. In fact, it currently accounts for 14% of all U.S. workers. This is hardly surprising, as there are many benefits to working within healthcare, such as:
- The chance to make a real difference in your patients’ lives.
- A varied career where no two days are the same.
- Plenty of opportunities for career progression.
However, it would be naive to say that working in healthcare is not without its challenges. Long hours, sleepless nights, and emotional turmoil are often expected – and the COVID-19 pandemic put more pressure than ever on the shoulders of our healthcare staff.
Therefore, it’s vital that those who work in healthcare in any capacity, from administration to surgery, learn to take care of themselves too. This is easier said than done, given that they’ve dedicated their careers to caring for others – but it’s essential.
Without caring for yourself, you’re more likely to deal with burnout and stress. Not only will this stand in the way of your health and happiness, but it will also impact the level of care you’re able to offer your patients. With that in mind, here are some ways that you can start taking better care of yourself when working in healthcare.
Remember that your needs are valid. Doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals are trained to support patients no matter what – but caring for others should not come at the expense of stopping caring for yourself. Remember that your needs are valid and should be addressed on a daily basis – not slotted around your shifts when you have some extra time. Self-care in any capacity is not selfish, and we should all indulge in it a little more frequently.
Stay comfy. Working in healthcare means that you’re on your feet for large portions of the day. For example, on average, nurses work 12 to 13-hour shifts. As a result, it’s essential that you are as comfortable as possible during your shift – and there are many ways to achieve this goal. For example, you should invest in a comfortable pair of shoes and Uniform Advantage scrubs. These scrubs are perfect for anyone working in healthcare as they’re stylish, comfortable, and allow you to move around with ease. Buying the right scrubs can also lift your mood – especially if you choose a bright, fun color.
Keep your stress levels low. According to a recent study, ’almost all of those working in healthcare (95%) admit that stress has a tangible impact on their lives‘. As a result, it’s important that you find as many ways to keep your stress levels low throughout the day – whether you’re on your commute or trying to de–stress after work’. As we live in a society that is becoming increasingly enamored by self-care and relaxation (and rightfully so), there are (thankfully) more ways than ever to de-stress in your daily life. For example, you could find a hobby that keeps your interest and provides you with a healthy outlet for your emotions. Alternatively, you could try to spend more time outdoors.
Get more sleep. In order to be able to do your job to the best of your ability, you need to be well rested. After all, fatigue impacts your ability to focus and even make logical decisions. As a result, you should work on getting a better night’s sleep. To do this, you may want to look into sleeping aids such as black-out curtains, diffusers, or eye masks. However, many adults find that they are able to get more sleep if they stick to a consistent nighttime routine. That is, going to bed at the same time each evening as this ‘tricks’ your brain and body into beginning to tire naturally around this time, making it easier for you to get more consistent sleep. You should also avoid using your phone for at least an hour before going to bed.
Try to keep your mind positive. Changing your mindset can transform your life for the better, especially if it enables you to become more positive in your daily life. When your outlook is more optimistic, you’ll be able to stay focused at work and support yourself emotionally when doing so. While everyone could do with being a little more upbeat, it’s imperative in the healthcare sector, where you are faced with a lot of turmoil on a daily basis. As such, it’s crucial that you are able to take a step back from work whenever you clock out, as opposed to sitting at home and thinking about what is happening in the hospital or surgery. There are various ways to do this, such as meditation or other relaxing hobbies. If you find that your thoughts are trapped in a negative cycle, try to counter every negative thought with two or three positive ones. While this practice can take a little getting used to, you’d be surprised about just how impactful it can be.
Talk about how you are feeling. Opening up about how we are feeling can be difficult, but it’s an essential step toward taking better care of yourself. While this does not mean you should unload your emotions or vent to your patients, you do need to find people you can talk openly and honestly to about how you are feeling at work, sharing both the good and bad details. This could include your colleagues, friends or loved ones, or even a therapist.
Ask for time off when you need it. Many employees feel guilty about requesting time off from work, especially when the work they carry out is so essential (there will never be a time when healthcare positions aren’t in demand). But it’s important to remember that the necessity of your job doesn’t mean that you don’t deserve a break, in fact, it makes it even more essential. As a result, you should ensure that you ask for time off when you need it.
Put together a self-care routine. Putting together a self-care routine is another great way to start taking better care of yourself due to the fact that it shows you the benefits of putting yourself first from time to time. Remember that self-care means different things to different people. For example, some people focus on getting fit, while others prefer to listen to their favorite music or re-watch old comfort movies.
Think about your diet. Taking care of yourself means taking care of both your body and mind, which means that you should also watch your diet. While this does not mean you shouldn’t treat yourself to the occasional takeout or candy bar, you should try to eat as healthily as possible. This can be hard when you don’t have the time to cook an entire meal each night, but there are some ways to get around this. For example, you could meal-prep over the weekend (or during your time off). This way, you only need to reheat the food when you’re hungry, as opposed to having to prepare a meal from scratch every day.
Go for a daily walk. While this may not seem like an act of self-care, there are many well-documented benefits of going for a daily walk. For example, if you choose to walk in the morning, it can be a great way to fight off fatigue and ensure you’re prepared for all of the challenges the day will bring. However, spending more time outdoors is beneficial at any time in the day because it helps increase your body’s production of serotonin, which can reduce stress and leave you feeling much happier overall.
Remember that some things are beyond your control. When you first entered the healthcare profession, you likely did so because you want to help people – or, more specifically, save lives through your care. While this is a noble cause, it’s important to remember that sometimes there is only so much you can do. Dealing with death in any capacity is hard, but seeing it as part of your career can be frustrating and lead to a lot of guilt. But it’s important to remember that some things are beyond your control – and showing patients kindness and compassion is sometimes the best thing you can do. Whenever you do lose a patient, give yourself the time you need to process this and remind yourself you did your best.
In short, there are various steps you can take to start taking better care of yourself when working in healthcare. It’s vital that you implement these steps and tricks into your daily routine sooner rather than later, as you’ll find that it makes your day-to-day life much easier to deal with. This will enable you to relax and de-stress after work while also taking the next steps in your career. As a result, you’ll find that you reach important career milestones much sooner while maintaining a clear head.
Do you have things you do to help take care of your health? Tell us about them in the comments below.
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