As healthcare workers, no matter the location, department, ward or staff group, we've all got used to living with a certain amount of stress. But there are things you can do right now to start to manage your stress levels and begin feeling more in control of your job, your relationships with colleagues and your overall health.
Sure, you’ve probably said ‘I’m so stressed’ a lot on shift, but stress isn’t just that feeling of pressure from deadlines, quotas, patients or management. In fact, there doesn’t have to be any one cause or symptom of stress, and it’s different for everyone. Symptoms of stress can include:
- Feeling helpless or out of control
- ‘Foggy’ thinking, unable to think of solutions to everyday problems, or making mistakes
- Feeling unusually emotional over small things
- A nagging sense of worry
- Being ‘snappy’ or aggressive (fight response)
- Finding yourself physically avoiding people or situations (flight response)
- Being unable to take decisions, putting off jobs, or procrastinating a lot (freeze response)
If you can identify with some of these, you might want to read on and learn how you could manage your stress.
- ‘It’s ok not to be ok’ – it’s true!
It’s really easy to feel lonely, neglected or isolated when we’re stressed. Especially so if we don’t feel like we ‘deserve’ help. You might think; ‘Everyone else here is under stress and they’re coping fine’ or, ‘I don’t have as stressful a job as X so I can’t really complain’…The truth is we all have different levels of how much stress we can cope with - feeling guilty is only going to make the situation worse, so the first step is recognising that you’re not ok. And that’s ok.
- Talk to someone. Anyone.
Most experts agree that talking about what you’re feeling and why can really help with stress management for healthcare workers. There are different ways to open up, so find one that works for you. Whether this means talking to a colleague who understands the situation, a loved one who knows you, or even a stranger who is completely outside the situation.
- Easier than it sounds, but…
We know that it’s often impossible to do so, but studies have shown that the best way to reduce stress is to take a break. Interrupting the intensity of your workload can really help to give you a new perspective. If at all possible, escape outside for 10 minutes, read a book or magazine for 15 minutes – or, if you can, simply book some time off in the near future. Either way, when you do take a break, make time to do something new or something you enjoy to take your mind off work.
- Find out what everyday changes you can make
People react differently to stress and there are a lot of little things that can help every day depending on your situation and your personality - unfortunately, this is a bit of trial and error. Try out everyday stress management techniques such as:
Download a mindfulness app
Keep a diary of positive things that have happened
Write ‘to do’ lists
- Look after your brain and it’ll look after you
There is a lot you can do to look after your mental health – some of these might seem obvious, like drinking sensibly. We often drink alcohol to change our mood, but the effect is only temporary and makes you feel worse once it’s worn off. Keep this in mind when reaching for the bottle. Another change you could make is simply doing something that you enjoy. What activities can you lose yourself in? What have you loved doing in the past? Doing an activity you enjoy probably means you’re good at it, and achieving something boosts your self-esteem.
At the end of the day, reading one article online isn’t going to banish your stress, but just by seeking help you’ve already made the first step on your way to managing it. Getting advice, whether from friends, family, colleagues, managers or specialist organisations is the next step. There are loads of resources available to you – even if you just want to read up on how other people have managed their stress levels:
The Bank Partners Academy
The Bank Partners Academy, a dedicated learning platform for all our employees in every trust we partner with, will soon be able to offer a 2 day course for people to attend who want to become a qualified mental health first aider. Sign up here if you'd like to find out more.