How To Take Care Of Yourself As A Healthcare Professional

Whether you are just starting out in medical school or have worked within the healthcare industry for several years, your priorities will always remain the same. That is to say that you will always want to put the needs and concerns of your patients before your own. In fact, your empathy and care for others are likely what encouraged you to pursue this career in the first place. 

However, there comes a time when you must acknowledge that in order to care for others, you must care for yourself. This concept applies to all areas of your life, including parenting or personal relationships – but is often more evident in the quality of work you can provide when you are healthy instead of when you are dealing with health issues. Failure to take proper care of yourself could not only leave you with your own health concerns to deal with, but it could also result in burnout or even lead to a loss of job satisfaction altogether.

Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

With that in mind, here are some top tips that you can use to take better care of yourself as a healthcare professional.

  • While you might not have control over your shift patterns or the number of hours you work in a week (healthcare can be unpredictable), it’s vital that you curate the perfect work-life balance. This remains true whether you are raising children as a single parent or have a strong support network around you offering childcare services. Your work should not consume your every waking moment, as you are entitled to your own life too! 
  • Taking care of your health also relates to taking care of yourself emotionally. One easy way in which you can do this is by treating yourself. There are various ways in which you can go about doing this, but buying yourself something you really need or have wanted for a long time is a great way to go. For example, you could purchase fun new scrubs from Uniform Advantage that are sure to bring a smile to your face. 
  • One of the biggest struggles that many healthcare professionals deal with is the feeling that there are just not enough hours in the day to take care of yourself. For example, while you may continually encourage your patients to get plenty of sleep, exercise, and eat healthily – the last thing you want to do after a thirteen-hour shift is go on a run and so on. However, there are various ways in which you can combat this – for example; you could go on a short walk during your lunch break. 
  • Ensure that you have quick and easy access to healthy meals by batch-cooking on your day off. This way, the only thing you have to do when you get home from work is reheat the food. While batch cooking can be time-consuming, it’s a great way to ensure your body receives all of the appropriate nutrients and can also help you cut down on the money you spend on fast food each month.
  • As mentioned previously, your mental health is just as important as your physical health – and often, one relies on the other. However, you can start taking better care of your mental health by simply talking about your feelings. As a healthcare practitioner, you are probably used to spending a lot of time listening to others – but this also means that you know better than anyone that staying silent will not help or make the feelings go away. Therefore, grab a close friend or family member and let it all out whenever you feel sad, angry, or frustrated. If these feelings persist or occur on a regular basis, you might want to arrange to see a therapist who can help you work through your problems. Remember, asking for, or admitting that you need help will not take away from your ability to do your job and succeed – it is nothing to be ashamed of. 
  • There are various highs and lows associated with working within healthcare. However, one of the hardest elements of the job is dealing with the emotional fallout that occurs when you cannot help a patient – despite your best efforts. While this can be incredibly difficult to comprehend, it’s important to remember that some things are out of your control and you should not let these feelings consume you. You supported that patient to the best of your ability, and that is more than enough. 
  • As your schedule is so busy, it’s likely that you might put off visiting a doctor if you begin to have your own health concerns. Alternatively, you may dismiss them altogether if you feel as though they are not serious. However, if you want to keep on top of your health, then regular health check-ups are important, especially if you have noticed any changes in your body. 
  • One of the easiest ways to begin taking better care of yourself is to take a break when you need one. For example, if you are feeling overwhelmingly stressed and anxious, giving yourself a fifteen-minute break to clear your head could actually help you resolve whatever issues you are facing much quicker. 
  • Make time in your routine for regular exercise. While it may be hard to delegate your time to working out, even as little as fifteen minutes a day can make a huge difference to both your health and happiness. You may even find that a short workout before work can significantly boost your energy and productivity levels while helping you fight off any morning sleepiness. Additionally, regular exercise can also help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety as it boosts your body’s production of serotonin. 
  • Set aside some time in your schedule that you can dedicate entirely to yourself. For example, this could include thirty minutes each evening that you use to put together a bit of a self-care routine, take a long relaxing bath, or catch up on your favorite tv shows. Me-time can be extra hard to allocate when you are raising children, but this does not mean that you should avoid it entirely. 
  • If you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, it’s important that you have certain plans in place that allow you to relax and let go of whatever is troubling you. Believe it or not, one of the most effective methods of stress reduction is simply spending more time outside. 
  • When you clock out, ensure that you do not take your work home with you. This step is easier said than done, especially if you are midway through an important task or duty or find yourself wondering how a certain patient is doing before your next shift. However, being able to shut off and leave work at work is a great way to start taking better care of your mental and physical health, as it will help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. It also means that you are less likely to feel overwhelmed. 
  • Upping your daily water intake is another great way to begin taking better care of your health. This is due to the fact that good hydration goes hand in hand with a wide range of well-documented health benefits. For example, good hydration can improve the quality of your sleep alongside your brain function. In turn, this could mean that you perform better at work and have more energy overall. As such, you should ensure that you reach your daily recommended water intake.
  • Right now, a good night’s sleep may seem like something of a myth – but it’s essential if you want to start taking better care of your health. Thankfully, there are various ways in which you can actually go about improving the quality of your sleep. For example, you should ensure that you stay away from caffeinated beverages in the late afternoon or evening so that you find it easier to drift asleep. Additionally, you should turn off your phone for around an hour before you go to sleep so that you can give your brain time to wind down.  You should also make sure you turn on your phone’s blue light filter or purchase blue light glasses.

In short, there are various steps that you can take to begin taking better care of yourself as a healthcare professional – many of which simply revolve around you making yourself a priority for a change. While this may go against your natural instincts of wanting to put other people first, it’s a necessary step to take in the name of self-care and prolonged health. Remember, putting yourself first is not selfish – it’s actually just a way in which you can better provide for those around you by ensuring your own needs are met. 

This is a contributed post and therefore may not reflect the views and opinions of this blog or its author.

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