Tips to Manage Stress and Avoid Burnout
Long hours and high workloads are often considered to be part and parcel of the role of medical professionals. As a healthcare lawyer, I work closely with medical professionals coping with the dangers of stress and burnout and dealing with allegations of medical negligence. For many clinicians COVID -19 has brought additional strain in an already pressurised working environment.
It is now, more than ever, vital that you as medical professionals take the time to care for your own mental health and wellbeing. Here are some tips which clinicians have reported to me, as being helpful in recognising and managing stress in their professional lives.
What is Stress?
Managing your psychological wellbeing is as important as your physical health. You may be juggling several roles, or you may be struggling to maintain a healthy work/life balance. In order to deal with this, it is important to recognise stress and accept when you need to make changes to your lifestyle for the sake of your mental wellbeing.
Stress can be described as the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demands placed upon them. It manifests differently in different people, but can include irritability, lethargy, insomnia, feeling overwhelmed, or in some cases aches, pain and nausea.
You may find yourself unable to switch off after a particularly busy day or have feelings of guilt for not working as much as you feel you should. You could even start to feel disconnected from your work. This is particularly pertinent at the moment, and as healthcare providers you are likely to be faced with distressing circumstances and increased workloads.
Tips for Coping with Stress
If any of the above sound familiar, there are ways to deal with stress in order to try to reduce it and live a healthier lifestyle.
How you deal with it very much depends on your own personality – what works for some may not work for others. Below are some tips for coping when you feel that things are becoming too much:
In the first instance, recognise that you are almost certainly not alone in feeling the way you do.
As a minimum, you should ensure that you are taking care of your own basic needs, including ensuring you get enough sleep and eat well.
Remind yourself of what you can and cannot control and try not to put too much pressure on yourself.
Try to stay active, get exercise where you can or go for a walk to clear your mind.
Keep in contact with family and friends. It helps to get some distance from work, especially after a difficult day, so ensure you make time for those closest to you.
Look at reducing your working hours where possible or take some time off in order to give yourself more time to do the things that you enjoy, whether this is a hobby, spending time with your family, or simply enjoying some much needed peace and quiet.
If things feel overwhelming you can contact your GP to seek further advice. Some find counselling helpful, and it may be that you have access to private medical insurance that will cover this.
There are also things you can do throughout your workday to reduce stress levels. If you are having a particularly bad day at work, it often helps to talk to a trusted colleague – you may very well find they understand how you are feeling and that you are able to talk it through with them. The most important thing, however, is not letting it get out of hand and not keeping it to yourself.
There is a wealth of resources that can help you cope with stress. Below are just a few of the resources that you may find helpful:
The NHS website provides a list of apps that provide support and advice relating to mental health;
NHS Every Mind Matters website provides information on dealing with stress, including a quiz that will provide tailored advice dependent upon your own situation;
The BMA counselling is open 24/7 and is available for all doctors and can be contacted on 0330 123 1245.
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