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Healthcare Workers

How to Stay Healthy as a Healthcare Worker

Treyvon Kurr
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Around the world, everyone is feeling the impact of the past 2.5 years. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, cases of anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns have skyrocketed alongside physical ailments.  

These numbers are also rising among those entrusted to help care for sick patients. According to one recent study, 93% of healthcare workers report feeling stressed, 86% feel anxious, and 76% feel exhausted and burned out. 

Are you nodding your head in agreement? If you’re a healthcare employee, you know all too well how strenuous and debilitating the work can be on both your mind and body. When you’re stretched too thin mentally, it strains your immune system, which puts you at a higher risk of contracting an illness or infection. 

Healthcare workers need to know real, actionable ways to prioritize their well-being, especially as they continue to work in what’s often described as a war zone. Today, we’re sharing practical tips to help you cope with stress, build your resilience, and optimize your whole-body health.  

Take Advantage of Employer Resources 

The World Health Organization (WHO) mandates that all governments have the legal and moral responsibility to ensure the health and safety of their medical workers. If you’re in this field, then your employer must have occupational health and safety practices in place to protect you.  

This can include a range of different resources, such as: 

  • Training programs that help you establish health and safety skills in the workplace 
  • Staff testing procedures for early identification of illnesses 
  • Staff illness protocols to protect others in the workforce 
  • Safe return-to-work policies 
  • A culture of zero tolerance for violence against health workers 
  • Policies that include fair working hours, rest breaks, and minimal administrative burdens  
  • Insurance coverage for work-related risks 

Learn about all of the plans and programs that are in place to support your physical and mental health. If you aren’t sure which ones are available to you, ask your employer. There are tools that can help you stay safe and protected at work and it’s important to leverage them. 

Recognize and Control the Signs of Stress 

Stress might be common among healthcare officials, but that doesn’t mean it has to be your everyday norm. If you’re feeling especially anxious, frustrated, or overwhelmed, there are steps you can take to minimize these feelings of discomfort.  

Common Signs of Stress 

First, you must be able to recognize the signs of stress when they appear. Some of the most common symptoms include: 

  • Feeling angry or irritated 
  • Feeling nervous, anxious, or uncertain 
  • Feeling helpless or powerless 
  • Feeling sad or depressed 
  • Feeling unmotivated 
  • Feeling exhausted or burned out  
  • Difficulty sleeping 
  • Difficulty concentrating 

There are many different factors that can contribute to your stress levels.  

Some stress is directly related to the realities of your job. For instance, it can be devastating to watch patients get sick despite your best efforts. Or you might feel overwhelmed by the lack of PPE available, which was a common concern throughout the pandemic.  

Other times, the stress might be more related to external factors. You may feel overwhelmed by your workload, unsupported by your team members, or frustrated by the amount of paperwork you must complete. In any case, it helps to know healthy, productive ways to deal with this stress.  

Cope With Stress in Healthy Ways 

If you feel the physical, mental, and emotional effects taking their toll, try: 

  • Eating nourishing, healthy foods 
  • Taking a walk outside 
  • Engaging in light exercise 
  • Talking to a trusted friend or loved one 
  • Taking a warm bath  
  • Playing some soft, relaxing music 

While these steps can help you curb general feelings of stress, you might be dealing with more serious issues. This includes experiencing or witnessing life-threatening or traumatic events.  

Everyone will react differently in those situations, and they can even lead to certain health and behavioral outcomes, such as: 

  • Acute stress disorder  
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder 
  • Secondary traumatic stress  
  • Compassion fatigue 
  • Worker burnout 

If you believe that you might be experiencing any of these conditions, speak to your supervisor. There are resources in place to help you work through those upsetting feelings, find healthy ways to cope, and ultimately, reclaim your quality of life.  

Prioritize Self-Care 

Staying healthy requires more than just knowing how to control your stress levels. It also means engaging in activities that nourish your body from the inside out, so you can prevent illnesses and other issues before they occur.  

Self-care is essential for everyone, but it’s especially important for healthcare workers. Your patients need you to stay well and you deserve to feel your best.  

Your job is to give your time, energy, and attention to others. If you don’t pour that same focus back into your own well-being, your own health could start to suffer.  

Here are some ways to refill your cup. 

Give Yourself Grace 

First, remember that you are performing a crucial role, both in the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.  

You can only do so much with the limited resources available to you, and you are doing the absolute best you can. Relieve yourself of the pressure to be perfect and forgive yourself for your shortcomings.  

Create a Routine 

Most people thrive on a healthy, reliable routine. It establishes a sense of control and gives us purpose. Preserving your mental health requires limiting the amount of change you subject yourself to.  

To the best extent possible, try to create a consistent daily schedule that you can easily manage. When you know what you have going on, it’s easier to turn down projects or events that you know will put too much on your plate.  

Make Sleep a Priority 

Most of us know how much sleep we should get each night, but it can be difficult to turn off our minds (and our devices) when it’s time to turn in.  

If you’re in the healthcare field, it’s time to make sleep the blissful priority it’s meant to be. While your nighttime schedule might not look like everyone else’s, you should still have an allocated time during which you can rest.  

Research shows that chronic sleep deprivation can lead to a host of health problems, such as: 

  • Diabetes 
  • High blood pressure  
  • Heart attack 
  • Heart failure 
  • Stroke 

Put your phone away at least an hour before bedtime and create a wind-down routine you can look forward to. If you commit to getting between seven and nine hours of sleep each night, you’ll notice how much better you look and feel.  

Eat Well and Exercise 

These two tips apply to everyone, but they can be easy to skip when you’re a busy healthcare worker.  

First, take the time to make healthy, nutrient-rich meals. While processed foods and treats are fine on occasion, your plate should typically be filled with whole foods including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. These foods contain calories that can give you much-needed energy, plus they include vitamins and minerals to optimize your overall health.  

In addition to eating well, don’t forget to move your body! If you can find sports or physical activities that you actually enjoy doing, you’ll be more likely to incorporate them into your schedule. It can help to exercise with friends, especially if it’s difficult to socialize at work. From a walk in the park to an evening yoga class, there are lots of ways to relax, recharge, and break a sweat.  

Give Yourself a Mental Break 

Yes, it’s important to stay up to date on the latest news. Yet, there is such a thing as being too informed. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can leave you feeling helpless and depressed.  

Check the news a few times each day but take breaks. This includes limiting how much time you spend scrolling social media. You work in this sector every day, and you don’t need to be saturated with updates at home, too.  

Instead, fill your mind with positive, healing thoughts that can enrich your psyche and improve your mental health. Read a book or listen to a podcast you enjoy. Engage in meditation. Simply sit in nature and activate your senses. All of these things can help you rid your mind of toxic thought patterns and help you adopt a more positive, optimistic mindset.  

Stay Healthy and Happy at Work 

Healthcare workers are heroes. You’re a valuable, integral part of society and if we’ve learned anything since the onset of the pandemic, it’s that your job is essential.   

Whether your health is on the upswing or you’re starting to feel crushed by the stress, it’s important to put your health first. These simple tips can help you recognize a problem before it occurs and adopt healthy habits that will keep you well all year long.  

Looking for your next rewarding job in the healthcare field? We can help! Search our database of open jobs to find and apply for available positions.

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