Healthcare Provider Selfcare Tips Winter

Selfcare Tips for Healthcare Providers

Making self-care a priority is essential when you work in a healthcare setting. Day in and day out, you help others navigate difficulties in their own lives, but over time, it can take a personal toll. The last several years have brought even more challenges for healthcare providers across the country as more people are reaching out for help. 

According to one recent study, 62.8% of physicians reported at least one manifestation of burnout. Continuing to work when dealing with symptoms of burnout like exhaustion, lack of concentration, poor sleep, or headaches can be dangerous for both you and your patients.  

Making time for your own mental, physical, and emotional well-being is more important than ever if you want to provide your patients with the highest level of care. 

Make Sleep a Priority

As a behavioral healthcare provider, you’re familiar with the importance of getting adequate sleep to improve symptoms of depression and anxiety, and as a way to maintain your overall physical well-being. Yet despite knowing this, many healthcare workers ignore these facts and burn the candle at both ends in an effort to take care of their patients and keep up with the demands of their own life.

The last several years of the pandemic have put even more demand on mental and behavioral healthcare workers. Professionals at every level of the healthcare industry are navigating the mental toll it has taken, and it may seem like there is simply not enough time for you to get adequate sleep.

The reality is, you cannot afford to be sleep deprived on a consistent basis. It’s not safe for you or the patients you care for.

Early in 2020, the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress published information for healthcare providers about the importance of sleep. They point out that disruption to your sleep can negatively impact your health and increase your chances of having an accident or making errors.

Conversely, getting enough quality sleep can help your body fight off infection and remain healthy. You will be in a much better position to serve your patients when you get enough sleep to function properly and stay healthy.

Acknowledge Current Challenges

Acknowledging the difficulty of a situation can be an important step in self-care. Working in the healthcare field is always complex, but ongoing challenges such as pandemic-related burnout, ongoing worker shortages, and the ongoing crisis in youth mental health have made the last years even more difficult.

As more of your young patients report symptoms of mental health conditions like anxiety and depression, the demand for behavioral health care has increased. As you work to meet that increased demand, you also have to protect yourself from getting sick or burning out. Acknowledging emotions like frustration, worry, anger, and despair can help you stop feeling like you are not doing enough.  

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the CDC outlined strategies that healthcare providers can use to cope with the increased challenges of providing care during those times. Those same tips on recognizing stress and reducing burnout are still relevant today.

Some of the strategies they suggest include:

  • Talking openly with colleagues and friends in similar situations
  • Identifying and accepting things that you have no control over
  • Engaging in mindfulness exercises
  • Sticking to a consistent routine

None of the strategies will surprise you, but it is important to remember that the same methods you teach patients and their families can also help you cope with complex situations.

Step Away from Work When You Get the Chance

For the past several years, the demands on healthcare workers have been higher than ever. It can feel like there is barely enough time to come up for breath, much less take any real break.

It is noble to be committed to your work and serving the needs of others. The problem is that you risk burnout, and your own mental and physical health can suffer if you don’t make taking time away from work a priority.

The Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress points out that healthcare personnel can experience fear, grief, frustration, guilt, exhaustion, and insomnia as they work to meet the needs of others. An essential part of protecting yourself from becoming overwhelmed with negative emotions is to be intentional about taking much-needed breaks. The CSTS recommends taking time out and doing things that are unrelated to work – things you enjoy or find relaxing.

You can also implement relaxation techniques during those breaks. Mobile applications like Calm, Headspace, and Healthy Minds Program all provide guided activities to help you relax and mitigate work-related anxiety.

Small breaks during the day are beneficial but taking an actual vacation from time to time is essential as well. Stepping away completely by getting out of town can help you recharge and return to work with renewed energy. Even a staycation spent focusing on a hobby or home project can help you fight off burnout and reduce stress.

Guilt is common when you step away from work for self-care, but it is important to recognize that you cannot provide proper care for others if you are unwell.

Prioritize Your Own Needs

When it is your job to help others navigate physical, mental, and emotional difficulties, it is easy to put your own needs on the back burner. You can get by for a while neglecting your own mental health, but it is not a strategy that will work long-term.

Prioritizing your own mental well-being is the best thing you can do for yourself and your patients. It will create the bandwidth you need to provide your patients and their families with the best care possible.

The demand for mental health treatment is forecasted to remain very high for the foreseeable future. If you’re stretched thin for resources as you try to accommodate more patients who need care, consider using a behavioral health-specific EHR to help manage your everyday workflows. Contact us today to learn how NextStep Solutions tools and technology have helped the behavioral health community thrive.

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