People working in health care recognize stress as something that can compromise the wellness of the people they serve. However, health care workers may neglect their own wellness and not realize that an even a greater challenge is to manage their own stress. Long hours, large workloads, and exposure to the physical and psychological trauma of others can contribute to provider stress, burnout, and diminished well-being. Maintaining good self-care is especially important to avoid the toll that stressful challenges take on mood, behavior, physical health, and patient care.
Significant events such as a job change, the loss of a family member, an empty nest, divorce, or even age-related biological changes can decrease the ability to cope with daily stressors. This is amplified during times when a community is affected by disaster or disease, which often presents service providers with additional challenges to maintaining their own health and well-being while helping others. Therefore, it is essential that healthcare workers adopt and maintain healthy lifestyles and employ self-care strategies during times of stress.
Stress can cause headaches, fatigue, sexual disinterest, stomach problems, and sleep disturbance. It can decrease energy, make a person more irritable, and lead to feelings of depression or anger. Stress can also decrease an individual’s efficiency, quality of interpersonal interactions, and lead to serious changes in behavior such as isolation, substance use, and changes in eating and exercise habits.
Providers can learn to recognize their own need for self-care by learning the common causes of stress and how stress impacts them as individuals. SAMHSA offers many resources on resilience, protective factors, and self-care strategies to lessen the effects of stress. Some of the recommended strategies include:
- Follow a healthy lifestyle. Eat healthy foods and limit alcohol intake. Don’t smoke or use addictive substances. Exercise regularly. Consistently practice good sleep habits. And make time for rest and relaxation.
- Make wellness part of everyday life. Address emotional and general health to improve personal resilience and manage stress. This may include exercise, time by yourself, or mindfulness exercises.
- Connect with friends and family. Relationships and social networks that provide support, friendship, love, and hope are essential to one’s well-being. At work, if case load or other work issues are creating stress, connect with a supportive colleague or workplace mentor to think through helpful strategies.
- Schedule annual checkups and health screenings. Take care of the basics to ensure your best health in the event of any adversity and to help manage stress.
- Seek support from a support group or mental health professional. If stress is starting to affect your mood, behavior, or physical health, it may be helpful to talk with a physician or counselor to talk through strategies to help balance.
Carlton Speight, public health advisor with SAMHSA’s Center for Mental Health Services, provides additional perspective. “If providers take the steps to build resilience through wellness practices and healthy supportive relationships, they will be better equipped to manage adversity. A little thought, intention, and time are key before a crisis arises.”
- Self-Care for Providers
- Resilience Annotated Bibliography
- Wellness Strategies
- SAMHSA/HRSA Center for Integrated Health Solutions: Stress Management
- SAMHSA/HRSA Center for Integrated Health Solutions: Wellness Strategies
- Quick Guide for Clinical Supervisors (includes information on burnout and compassion fatigue)
On SAMHSA’s YouTube Channel
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