We all hear so much about having a healthier lifestyle, but what about those who are directly involved in the business of providing healthcare? It is something that surprisingly there is very little information about. So many healthcare professionals, much like the police or the fire service, need to look after their health. They spend so much of their time caring for others that they can neglect looking after themselves. But if we’re trying to figure out ways to be healthier ourselves, we have to ensure that the people taking care of us are also taking care of themselves. This is why it’s worth taking inspiration from some of the ways healthcare workers can and should look after themselves, including the following:
Minimizing Traumatic Stress
Stress is one of the most common sensations any emergency responder or healthcare worker can face, and it is vital for anybody within the healthcare sector to realize that reducing stress is the best way to look after health in a holistic manner. Healthcare professionals need to understand that the industry itself is replete with stressful situations that, over time, can build up and become incredibly triggering or overwhelming.
It’s not just those on the front line, but anybody in any walk of life can find themselves pressing down on those stressful situations rather than openly acknowledging their existence. Even in less obvious healthcare departments, the benefit of being able to offload or outsource pressures to someone else can make a massive difference. Even in terms of running businesses, the concept of outsourcing has long been a great way to reduce overall stress, and in the medical industry, outsourcing to a healthcare marketing agency to reduce those in-house pressures can make a massive difference in the stress levels of any organization. Stress is something that everybody is exposed to in their lives, but while stress in small doses can be an amazing motivator, it’s that prolonged exposure that increases cortisol levels.
While cortisol has had a bad rep, there are benefits to having it in our system. However, when we are constantly experiencing that fight-or-flight response because we are burning out or experiencing stress reactions and symptoms due to exposure to someone else’s dramatic experiences, which is very common in the healthcare profession, having a number of coping techniques can reduce traumatic stress. It’s critical that in life, we recognize the signs of these conditions in ourselves so we can address those needs directly. There are so many signs of burnout, including:
- Getting easily frustrated.
- Feeling disconnected or isolated.
- Feeling like a failure or needing reassurance because you don’t feel like you’re doing anything well.
- Feeling irritable or apathetic.
- Feelings of depression or sadness.
We can all feel like this for numerous reasons in life, and when we look at how the healthcare profession deals with burnout or, in some cases, does not, we have to start addressing ways to cope with stress or switch off our stress response. The video below is full of amazing tools to help turn off that fear response, which is pivotal to helping everybody deal with stressful situations.
Preparing for a Situation
This is something that healthcare workers and indeed anybody in life can benefit from. The whole topic of being able to look after yourself is not about diving headlong into the unknown at every turn. There is certainly a lot to be said for overcoming your fears, but you should also be aware of how to gauge a situation before you dive into it. In terms of managing our stress, which is arguably the most important aspect of our health, we should recognize how we can prepare for any given situation. As tough as it can be to prepare for the unknown, we should learn as much as possible about an unknown situation. This means that we’re getting the benefits of being ready for the situation while also having that confidence that should be part and parcel of trying something new.
In life, we can all feel like there is something unknown at every turn, which means that the stress response is at an all-time high. But we have to be aware that when it comes to looking after our health, there is something very important about learning to deal with the unknown and embracing a sense of discomfort. It’s about making sure that we are not overly comfortable but not overly uncomfortable.
There are things that we could do on a regular basis that can help to turn off that fear response. For example, doing something very stressful before you begin your day. A fantastic example is a cold shower. This is something that is not just brilliant for our health, but it can teach us a lot about ourselves because every time we step under that cold water, we slowly turn off the sensations in our body that are telling us to run away from situations, which is so important for our overall self-care.
When we are preparing ourselves for a situation, either by arming ourselves with as much knowledge as possible or using tactics to turn off that fear response, we can over time ensure that we are being far more open versions of ourselves.
It is something that healthcare professionals should be doing, but instead, they are focusing so much on delivering support to other people that they, over time, neglect themselves. Self-care is something that we should all incorporate into our lives, and in the healthcare sector, there are things that first responders can do, including:
- Understanding the importance of drawing boundaries and saying “no.”
- Practicing relaxation techniques, for example, bearing down, which is something that paramedics will tell people when they are going through labor. This is also known as the Valsalva maneuver and is a great way to return an abnormal heart rhythm to a normal pace.
- Minimizing stimulants and not relying on them to get through the day. These would include things like caffeine and alcohol, ensuring that we stick to the right limit for us.
- Limiting working hours and ensuring that we don’t do too much, which is something that we should all be practicing in life.
- Reminding ourselves that we are as important as those who are fighting for survival and remembering that overworking does not result in us giving our best.
There are many people who thrive on responding to emergency situations, and as rewarding as it could be, it is incredibly stressful. So many of us can feel that sense of boredom in life, that we need to be doing something exciting that stimulates us. It’s important to remember that choosing a way of life that is incredibly stimulating can, over time, have negative effects because of the precarious nature of the situation. This is why many freedivers and mountain climbers are constantly searching for that thrill because, arguably, they may have a very high threshold for dopamine, the brain’s reward system.
In terms of self-care, we should be recognizing the importance of not being in that so-called danger zone all of the time, because over time, we can’t switch this off, and healthcare professionals can find themselves constantly in that mindset where they need to be on the go. The problem we all have is that in life, we feel like we need to be on the go constantly, otherwise, when we stop, this is when we get sick. We must start incorporating these self-care tactics into our lives because we then feel the benefits of not just listening to our body when we require regulating, but we don’t expose ourselves to that stress over time that will be detrimental in the long run.
Becoming Better Aware of Your Emotions
A key part of taking care of ourselves better is about self-management and being aware of our emotions. We could all feel like we are being triggered from time to time. Perhaps you have been through a very stressful time recently, and if you hit an emotional trigger, the emotions take over, and you can start having some of the following symptoms:
- Lashing out at someone.
- Feeling emotionally overwhelmed by something incredibly minor.
- Taking things out of proportion, for example, being angry at an inanimate object.
We could all feel like this from time to time, and one of the best things we could do is to shift our emotional state towards being calm, for example, by deep breathing or using music to shift this emotional state, and only focusing on what’s right in front of you, literally and emotionally. This can help you replace those unsolvable problems with something more actionable, resulting in satisfaction and a great sense of relief as you accomplish them. It’s also important to be compassionate and remember the fundamentals of exercise, good nutrition, and sleep, as well as your support network.
When it comes to looking after our health, we have to remember that there is always going to be someone going through something much more stressful, and they may seemingly have the abilities to deal with it effortlessly, whereas we’re not able to cope with something far less stressful. This is why we should be looking at how healthcare workers look after themselves and taking some bits of advice from them.