Working in the healthcare industry is noble, exciting, and fast-paced. No two days are the same, which can give you a lot of energy and motivation to go to work each day.
However, no matter your position in the industry, it’s safe to say that healthcare is high stress. It’s exciting, but there are a lot of demands placed on your shoulders every day. That can take a massive toll on your physical and mental health.
Healthcare workers are especially susceptible to more stress in uncertain times and chaotic situations. Through the COVID-19 pandemic, 93% of healthcare workers were experiencing stress, while 83% were more anxious, and 75% were overwhelmed.
Feeling stressed at your job can cause you to experience burnout. That often leads to a lack of motivation at work, but it can also put you and your patients in danger.
Let’s take a closer look at why properly mitigating stress in the healthcare field is so important and a few ways you can make stress management a priority.
The Importance of Stress Management
As a healthcare worker, you spend most of your days putting the well-being of others before yourself. Unfortunately, when your mental and physical health takes a back seat, you could end up doing more long-term harm than you initially realize.
Some of the most serious issues associated with excess stress include
- High blood pressure
- Body aches
- Digestive issues
- Difficulty sleeping
- Increased risk of anxiety and depression
Too much stress can even be harmful to your skin. Stress can impact your immune system and your skin’s ability to heal. You’ll be more susceptible to irritants and allergens, and when you’re hyper focused on how irritated and itchy your skin feels, it will contribute to even more stress, perpetuating the endless cycle.
Finally, it can impact the way you feel about your job. You might love what you do, but if you’re straddling the line of burnout, you could start resenting your job, especially if you don’t have a healthy work-life balance. Not only will that impact your mental state, but it can cause you to become a risk to your co-workers and patients since it’s harder to focus and concentrate.
Outside of work, the physical and mental toll of stress can impact your relationships and social life. You might feel like you don’t have enough time to spend with your family and friends, or the pressure of too much stress might cause you to become irritable with those closest to you.
The Dangers of Negative Coping Habits
If you know you’re stressed, but you feel like you don’t “have time” to properly deal with it, you could also be putting yourself at risk for developing unhealthy coping habits. Yes, even healthcare workers knowingly do things that can cause harm. One of the most common in the industry is substance abuse. Studies have shown that 10-15% of healthcare professionals will misuse substances at some point. Some of the most common signs of this type of abuse include
- Shortness of breath
- Frequent nausea
- Difficulty concentrating
- Arriving to work late
- Difficulty performing on the job
Whether it’s drugs, alcohol, risky behaviors, or overeating, there are plenty of negative and potentially harmful ways to cope with stress. Unfortunately, they could put your career at risk, and wreak havoc on your health. That’s why it’s essential to know how to mitigate stress in healthy, effective ways through coping mechanisms that don’t cause harm.
How to Manage Stress the Right Way
Now that you know how important it is to manage your stress in the world of healthcare, how can you do it? We know, it might often feel easier said than done when you’re working 12-hour shifts and dealing with countless patients who need help.
However, your well-being needs to be your top priority. If you don’t take proper care of yourself, you won’t be able to effectively care for others.
Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to mitigate stress daily. The best part? They don’t have to take up a ton of time. Small changes in your daily routine can make a big difference. Some of the easiest and most effective ways to manage stress are
- Prioritizing sleep
- Eating a healthy diet
- Deep breathing exercises (mindfulness and meditation)
If you’re really struggling with stress and you’re worried about developing anxiety or depression, don’t hesitate to talk to someone. It’s not always easy for those in the healthcare field to reach out to other professionals for help, but it’s sometimes necessary. Working with a therapist, counselor, or attending group therapy can help you get to the root cause of your stress while making it easier to establish healthy coping techniques to work through it.
By choosing to prioritize your health and manage your stress now, you can enjoy a long, fulfilling career in healthcare for years to come. However, you’ll also have a better experience outside of work, enjoying a healthier work-life balance, more time focused on your friends and family, and a deep dedication to self-care.
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Katie Brenneman is a passionate writer specializing in lifestyle, mental health, activism-related content. When she isn’t writing, you can find her with her nose buried in a book or hiking with her dog, Charlie. To connect with Katie, you can follow her on Twitter.
Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.