Health care workers are among the least healthy people in the workforce. It’s not as though health professionals don’t know how to eat healthy, sleep, or take care of their bodies, it’s that they routinely sacrifice their health for their patients. Health professionals exhaust themselves with 60-hour work weeks, overcommit their time and energy, and suffer from burnout, depression, and weakened immune systems as a result.
Health professionals are missing self-care from their routines, or the daily activities that keep the mind and body strong. While health workers may not be able to control heavy workloads, patient loss, or long shifts, they can control how they care for their physical and emotional wellbeing.
If you aren’t already, follow these self-care tips to see an improvement in patient care, job satisfaction, and health:
1. Carve Out “Me Time”
Everyone needs time to recharge, reset, and just be. As a health worker, it’s hard to separate yourself from your profession, especially since work hours tend to bleed into personal hours. The incorporation of patient care technology into the health field is making it possible to give patients more specialized care. Unfortunately, it can also make it virtually impossible for health workers to escape from the office.
It takes self-discipline to allow yourself “me time” away from work. If your job allows it, take at least an hour a day sans phone, email, or paperwork and do something for yourself. Do something you enjoy and that helps you destress, like taking a walk, soaking in the tub, or playing with your dog. Don’t feel guilty for taking time to yourself! Health workers who practice self-care take better care of their patients and are less likely to struggle with depression, substance abuse, and burnout.
2. Schedule Short Breaks Throughout the Day
Set an alarm on your phone or Google Calendar to take a 10-minute break every couple of hours on the job. Contrary to widespread belief, taking short breaks are a minimally disruptive way to increase productivity and keep your sanity throughout the work day. Taking a quick walk around the building, stretching, or meditating are all activities that you can do quickly to destress and increase energy.
Health workers are often so busy that they forget to take breaks. Others feel like they can’t stop – even for a few minutes – or something important won’t get done. That’s why it’s important to schedule breaks throughout the day and set reminders.
3. Channel Your Inner Park Ranger
Give yourself time to step outside as often as possible. The sunshine is a welcome break from fluorescent office lights and can increase serotonin levels and reduce work-related stress. Taking breaks outdoors recharges the body and mind and creates a sense of well-being.
Many professionals recommend that health workers find time to hike, run, or explore trails outdoors to trigger endorphins and reduce stress. Health workers are among the most susceptible to chronic depression, so it’s especially important that they expose themselves to the natural elements often.
4. Practice Meditation
Meditation has been so overhyped in the press that many people write it off as a trendy, new-age health craze. All skepticism aside, meditation is a valuable practice for anyone trying to reduce stress and anxiety, and it is increasingly common in the workplace.
Spending time alone listening to your body and practicing breathing is vital to health professionals who are bombarded with patients and data and blinking machinery. The best part about meditation is that you can feel the benefits of it whether you practice for five minutes or a full hour.
So, find a quiet space to meditate mid-day and reap the benefits of improved concentration, reduced stress, and self-awareness.
5. Get Your Zzzzzz’s
More than a third of health care workers admit to getting less than 6 hours of sleep a night. Long and irregular hours make it difficult for health workers to sleep, and economic pressures may push them to work extra shifts. People need 7-9 hours of sleep per night to feel rested, and health workers who get less are prone to burnout and are more likely to make mistakes that affect patient safety.
Try these sleep tips to get as much rest as you can during off hours:
- Keep away from your phone and computer an hour before bedtime
- Cut out caffeine and alcohol in the evenings
- Exercise throughout the day
- Consult a sleep specialist for insomnia
Getting enough rest is a key ingredient to self-care. Make it a priority to get a good night’s sleep – for your own good and your patients’.
Ready, Set, Self-Care!
Health workers are the unsung heroes of the workforce. They sacrifice their time and energy to care for others’ health and wellbeing. But, health workers need to focus on their professional and personal self-care if they are going to be and feel their best on the job.
Becoming aware of areas where you are lacking care, whether in your physical, intellectual, emotional, or social sphere, is a big step in achieving self-care. And, when you take care of yourself, you can feel healthier, happier, and better able to care for others.