In the final segment of our two-part series - “Putting the healthy back in healthcare,” we’re discussing tips for mental health, dealing with stress and how to find a better work/life balance.
When you work in healthcare, the long hours, competing demands, and emotional patient interactions you may experience can have a huge impact on your mental health. We turned to some healthcare professionals to learn how they manage.
“Personally, I find that exercise is a great way to maintain emotional/mental health,” said Amy O’Dell, BSN, RN. “It provides an outlet for the stress and demands that we all face each day. I think it also gives me some time of quiet and focus and a break for the stressed mind. Hobbies (reading, knitting, etc.) are another great way to ‘take a break’ as well.”
“Mental health for me is harder than physical health,” said Nicole Steele, a former supply chain manager for a large IDN, and director at Cardinal Health. “Getting my brain to shut off requires music, white noise, and cutting myself off at a certain point with an appropriate decompression period after. For workouts, I have to do activities that require focus or else my mind wanders,” says Steele, who practices Vinyasa Yoga.
Sarah Conroy, RN, BSN, says it’s important not to forget to nurture your spiritual health. “It’s not unusual for me at all, but to many it’s foreign. Nurturing spiritual health can help to “take some of the burden off your shoulders,” she said.
Dealing with stress
Did you know work-related stress is the number one workplace health issue and a major occupational risk, ranking above physical inactivity and obesity?1
Massage, acupuncture, yoga, deep breathing and even stretching are ways some of our clinicians help alleviate their anxiety and stress. Of course there are always more active ways, like running. “I run to battle stress – hard to worry or feel much when you’re focusing on breathing,” said Jessica Sverha, RN, BSN.
Prioritizing certain key events with his family each week and making sure that he gets to the gym helps Scott Donnelly, a former supply chain manager and current general manager, stay mentally and physically healthy.
“I think the best way to battle stress is to stay positive,” said RoseMarie Squeo, RN, BSN, MA. “It’s amazing what the power of positive thinking can do for stress and I think as we grow older and mature that we learn better ways to deal with stress. Sometimes when we are stressed we make the wrong decisions, or we make decisions without thinking them through. I find that letting things work out and not jumping to conclusions or making hasty decisions can be the right thing to do as it works out.”
Finding the right work/life balance is elusive for most of us, and often it’s a balancing act.
“In an effort to manage the balance of work and family, I try to make an attempt to not turn on my work computer or look at my phone for work emails unless it is something urgent,” said O’Dell. “Otherwise it’s too easy to get caught working in the evening or on the weekends when we need a break or need time with family to regroup. I try my best to leave work at work and not let it carry over into family time.” Utley feels the same sharing that work/life balance for him means not looking at his work emails on the weekends.
“Find something besides work that you love to do and do it,” said Debby Robin, M.D., MHCM. “Something that you can refocus your energy on and not think about work,” she said. “For me that is cooking and entertaining - the more complicated the recipes and the menu, the more I can lose myself in the process. This is also a way for me to spend time with friends and family.”
As a full-time working mother of a toddler, Conroy’s work-life balance is sometimes stretched but she says, “Learn to say “No”! Don’t be a people pleaser. People need to learn to respect your boundaries, and you, and your family, come first. Keep it simple, don’t overextend yourself and join every committee and church group and PTA, etc.”
“For me work is life,” concludes Robin. “If you don’t love getting up in the morning and going to work you have the wrong job. Be efficient at work and don’t waste time. Put your head down and get the job done quickly and efficiently. That way you will have time for family and fun.”