Although working in healthcare is highly rewarding and fulfilling, it’s undoubtedly a high-pressure job. In fact, 78% of Australian nurses report experiencing compassion satisfaction and average levels of compassion fatigue, while an average of 53% report experiencing burnout, a study in International Emergency Nursing reveals. Learning how to manage work-related stress is key to protecting your mental and physical health and achieving peak work performance and job satisfaction.
Prevent compassion fatigue
Compassion fatigue can be a common occurrence when healthcare professionals treat and connect with patients who are suffering on a regular basis; they begin to empathetically experience the same emotions their patients are feeling. Compassion fatigue can result in difficulty concentrating, low self-esteem, sleeplessness, and feelings of anxiety, nervousness, or pessimism. Preventing compassion fatigue requires a holistic approach including increased social support from friends and family, establishing emotional boundaries, and practicing healthy coping measures like counseling, journaling, discussion with others, hobbies, meditation, and spiritual practice. Reducing work stress where possible is also important whether that means taking time off, adjusting patient volume, and taking on different responsibilities to create greater balance and job satisfaction.
Track your stressors
Tracking your stressors in a journal can help you get a better idea of the specific work situations that generate stress and how you handle them. For at least one or two weeks, make a note of relevant situations, your thoughts and feelings, and your reactions (for example, did you eat chocolate or go for a walk afterwards?). You can then work on practising healthy coping strategies for stress. Exercise, in particular, is a great stress reliever. Also making time for pleasurable activities like socialising and hobbies is essential for effective stress management.
Relax and recharge
Regularly “switching off” from work so you can rest and restore helps avoid chronic stress and burn out. This is an essential recovery process that involves lengths of time you’re not at work, not performing work-related activities, and, just as importantly, also not thinking about work. Whether it’s during your vacation time or the weekend, let yourself fully relax and unwind, so you’re able to return to work refreshed and perform your best. In particular, meditation and deep breathing techniques are a great way to clear your mind and center yourself. Even deciding to not look at social media or your phone after work lets you disconnect and mentally recharge for brief periods.
Kindness initiatives are becoming increasingly common across departments and hospitals in order to support Australian healthcare workers. These initiatives are focused on improving individual well-being with proven strategies like mindfulness and exercise, sleep, and nutrition guidance. Healthcare workers are also being provided with valuable coaching and training in a number of developmental areas, such as: career development and work-life balance, related issues like poor confidence and imposter syndrome, and developing and strengthening leadership and management skills.
Managing stress while working in healthcare isn’t just important for work performance, it also protects your mental and physical health. While you can’t always avoid tensions at work, you can make sure you respond to them in the healthiest ways possible.