Maintaining the utmost personal health and hygiene standards in the healthcare industry is what helps doctors and nurses perform at the best of their abilities. Take a look at some tips and tricks for maintaining and improving these areas for a better future:
Healthcare jobs have always been stressful to some extent. However, the pressures of COVID-19 over the past few years have been exceptionally challenging for healthcare workers. Between endless shifts, exposure to trauma, and ever-changing treatment protocols, many healthcare workers are experiencing burnout, depression, and other conditions affecting their physical and mental health.
Maintaining good personal health in these conditions is difficult, but there are some things healthcare professionals can do to protect their own wellness. Support your personal health with these effective tips.
Table of Contents:
Address and Monitor Your Symptoms Correctly
Many people don’t recognize the signs of a physical or mental health issue right away. However, early diagnosis can make treatment far more effective and efficient. Paying attention to your physical body and your emotional state can help you realize when something is off.
Physical Health Concerns
Several studies show healthcare workers are typically no healthier than the general population, even before the pandemic. Healthcare workers are just as likely to struggle with unhealthy eating, inadequate exercise, and poor sleep. With the extra stresses healthcare workers face dealing with COVID-19, it’s even more important to watch for signs of physical health issues.
Here are some physical symptoms to watch out for:
- Poor sleep and constant fatigue
- Skipping personal hygiene rituals
- Headaches and neck pain
- Increased sugar and caffeine consumption
- Reduced exercise
If you notice any of these common symptoms, take action as soon as possible. Here are some effective habits and methods to improve your physical health:
- Start winding down for bed earlier in the evening, reducing screen time and bright lights.
- Drink more water in place of coffee or caffeinated drinks.
- Schedule breaks in your workday and take time off as soon as possible.
Related Article: 5 Simple Ways To Improve Your Life As A Nurse
It can feel like working around the clock is necessary during the pandemic, but that’s not conducive to long-term health. Take sick days and vacation days when you need them, and don’t feel guilty about putting your own health first.
Mental Health Concerns
Many healthcare workers are experiencing mental health issues as well as physical health concerns. A 2020 survey indicated that three-quarters of healthcare workers said they were overwhelmed and feeling burned out. Over half of the respondents experienced compassion fatigue, and 39 percent said they didn’t feel like they had enough emotional support.
It can be harder to recognize the signs of a mental health issue compared with a physical illness, but it’s just as important to watch for them. Here are some common symptoms of mental health challenges:
- Increased frustration, anger, or sadness
- Feelings of depression, hopelessness, or apathy
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Pulling back from others/self-isolation
- Relying on unhealthy coping mechanisms such as alcohol and drugs
There are some behavioral changes you can make to improve your mental health:
- Practicing deep-breathing exercises
- Spending time outside
- Reducing exposure to news media
These activities can improve your mental health, and it’s also important to reach out to your personal network of family and friends for support.
Develop a Self-Care Lifestyle
Self-care activities can help healthcare workers cope with negative thoughts and feelings and make it easier to maintain their physical health. Here are some effective self-care techniques for managing stress:
- Schedule breaks during the workday, and take them away from your desk if possible.
- Limit caffeine intake, especially late in the day.
- Bring a balanced lunch instead of relying on takeout meals or vending machine snacks.
- Incorporate some healthy movement into your workday, such as stretching and taking short walks.
- Try journaling or other stress management techniques.
- Continue (or create) a manageable exercise routine.
- Stock your home and your workspace with healthy snacks (fruits and veggies) and protein sources.
- Check in regularly with family and friends.
- Relax with a hobby you enjoy.
Related Article: Helathy Ways To Spend Your Lunch Break
Many healthcare workers find it helpful to create a buddy system with a coworker. Each person helps support and encourage the other and monitors signs of stress. Here are some other techniques you and your buddy can use:
- Talk about things outside work (e.g. hobbies, interests, background). You don’t need to share anything outside your comfort zone.
- Consider sharing transportation to and from work.
- Help with workload management and remind each other to take breaks.
- Check in with each other outside of work. Even just a short text or email from a friend can reduce feelings of isolation and overwhelm.
Not everyone feels comfortable with a buddy system, but it can be extremely helpful in managing stress and coping with your work.
Enlist Professional Help for the Best Results
Sometimes self-care routines and healthy coping mechanisms aren’t enough for healthcare workers to manage their stress and physical health. Mental illness often requires treatment from a medical professional and/or therapist. Health conditions are often extremely complex. Even though you may have relevant professional knowledge as a healthcare worker, you can benefit from an outside perspective.
You may feel like reaching out for professional help is “giving up,” but it’s not. However, your physical and mental health are worth all the resources it takes to maintain them. Working with a professional can shorten your recovery time and give you the tools you need to maintain your health going forward.
If you’re ready to work with a professional, here are some places to start:
- National Alliance on Mental Illness List of Resources
- U.S. Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator
- Online mental health screening for frontline healthcare workers
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
If you’re not sure whether you need professional help, it’s best to ask. You can start by scheduling a wellness check-up with your primary care physician.
Get Certified in the Healthcare Industry Today
Despite the unique challenges of working in the healthcare industry, it’s a satisfying career for many people. If you’re a student or healthcare professional looking for in-demand professional certification courses, eMedCert is here to help. Our ACLS, PALS, and BLS certification courses are entirely online, so it’s easy to incorporate them into your schedule even if you are working or going to school full-time. Get started today!