Self-Care Advice for Healthcare Workers
Healthcare workers may be trained in best care practices for their patients, but that doesn’t mean that they always apply this level of care to themselves. Many doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals dedicate themselves so fully to caring for others that they have a tendency to de-emphasize, neglect, or even forget their personal care. While that habit may seem noble, it can lead to negative consequences, and not just for the individual. Whether you’re a healthcare worker or a concerned loved one, check out this self-care advice for healthcare workers.
Recognize the Importance of Self-Care
The first and most important advice for healthcare workers to promote their own self-care is to recognize its importance. While cultivating appropriate distance from the effects of their work can, within reason, be necessary and positive for healthcare workers, ignoring the need for self-care only makes the potential for burnout higher.
Given the effects of the global pandemic that began in 2020, healthcare workers are facing a higher risk for burnout, mental health repercussions, and similar consequences due to chronic workplace stress without relief. While many of these issues cannot be singly mitigated through self-care, it can still have powerful positive effects to shore healthcare workers up in their psychological adjustment and balance, lessening the chances of severe burnout and mental health challenges. Of course, practising self-care is much easier said than done, but an active acknowledgement of its importance can go a long way.
Cover the Basics First
Food, clothing, and shelter aren’t just our basic human needs—they’re also the first steps to adequate self-care. If a healthcare worker isn’t eating right, for example, they might not have the energy or mental fortitude they need to get through their long shifts. That’s why we’re keeping it simple with our self-care advice: it’s all about prioritizing the basics.
For example, with typical PPE or dress code requirements for healthcare workers, it may seem like clothing wouldn’t be a category that would be necessary for consideration. But actually, the right clothes can make a big difference. In addition to promoting physical safety and comfort, personalized scrub jackets allow healthcare workers to express pride in their profession. If you know someone in the medical field, tokens of appreciation like this help keep your loved one protected and warm while out on the floor.
Acknowledge and Respect Your Limits
For many healthcare workers, self-care starts with acknowledging limits, but it shouldn’t stop there. Once you know the maximum amount of work you can do, on-shift and otherwise, make sure you respect this and don’t push it. This will look different for each individual’s circumstances. It’s also important to recognize that your limits will vary from day to day and hour to hour.
What does it look like to stay below your acknowledged limits? It’s allowing yourself to delegate, simplify, and accept help. After all, there’s no reason to push yourself to the breaking point. Take advantage of the available resources and support system already put in place through family, friends, your workplace, and other sources.
In order to adopt and stick with good health habits, such as self-care, you have to know yourself first. That includes recognizing what kinds of breaks you need or want. For example, some people do really well with a slower morning routine. Activities like journaling, exercise, meditation, and time outdoors help them get ready, find their center, and feel refreshed. Meanwhile, others may prefer to get ready and go as quickly as possible to give themselves time for breaks spread out throughout the day.
Healthcare workers do not typically have full control over their work schedules, but any type of worker can maximize their scheduled breaks by doing what invigorates them the best. And breaks don’t have to just be at work, either. It might take some experimentation to find out what strategies work best for you. Maybe some days you’ll sleep in late and power through your morning routine, while other mornings are spent enjoying a nice cup of tea with your favourite podcast playing in the background.
Go One Step at a Time
Effective self-care isn’t just a checklist of relaxing activities you have to follow and be done with. You know how to treat patients well: now it’s time to be patient with yourself! You’ll be surprised how little changes can make all the difference.