Ashley Carty is a seasoned medical professional with over 8 years of experience working at the top hospitals in Southern California, including Hoag, Saddleback Memorial, and UCSD.
As medical professionals, we’re often so busy caring for others both at work and at home, we don’t have the time to care for ourselves. Think back to the last time you felt overworked, overwhelmed and exhausted. How did you treat your patients that day and how were you with your family or loved ones? Did they get the 100% version of you? When we don’t take the time to care for ourselves, it not only affects us, it also affects those around us (both physically and emotionally). Time for self-care can seem like a distant dream for most, but it doesn’t have to be that way. We’ve compiled a list of self-care secrets for medical professionals to help boost work morale, decrease stress, and create emotional, spiritual, and occupational balance.
Understanding the different types of self-care is the first step to not only understanding the importance of it beyond surface value, but it also helps us better understand that it’s more than eating right, having alone time, and exercising. According to the National Wellness Institute, there are six dimensions of wellness: physical, social, intellectual, spiritual, emotional, and occupational balance.
Lets first dive into ways to find time for self-care while on shift. Funny right? It’s hard enough to find time to cram a bite of food in or even have a restroom break. If we can do it, so can you, but it’ll take some practice and sticking to the routine no matter how hard it may seem.
As the saying goes, “Secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others.” Self-care is the oxygen mask for us and it is time to be mindful of this fact! — Margaret M. Hansen, Ed.D., MSN, CNL, RN, professor of nursing, University of San Francisco.
I’m sure you’re thinking, “I can’t even take a pee break, how am I going to find the time to meditate”? The answer: routine, routine, routine, it’ll take finding what works best for you depending on your shift schedule. It might be scheduling the same time every day, or taking the first 5 minutes during your break. Either way, step away to a quiet place, pop in your headphones, turn on your favorite meditation app, and take five minutes to escape your current reality. Tip: sit down in a chair close to a window and take your shoes off. Although you’ll have your eyes closed, you’ll feel the warmth of the sun (when sunny), and you’ll feel as though you’ve truly escaped by taking off your shoes.
Pop in your headphones, turn on your favorite mood-boosting music and take a walk. Thinking about all the things you need to do, people who’ve upset you, or bills you need to pay are not a great escape. A nice walk (ideally outdoors for some fresh air) paired with your favorite jams can not only boost your heart rate but can also be a great escape. As above, use this time either the first 5-10 minutes of your break or schedule a time each day. Usually, the best time is mid-afternoon as a great “reset” to get you through the rest of your shift.
Although it may seem counterintuitive to the typical advice of “eat healthy,” we suggest going with the common saying, “you are what you eat.” Moderation is everything, and if a quick and small bite of your favorite chocolate boosts your mood, we say go for it. Sometimes that’s all we have time for, just don’t make it a habit.
Eating healthy is becoming easier than ever thanks to advancements in technology and new and emerging business models. We no longer need to rely on meal-prepping weeks in advance. Reasonably-priced meal plan companies exist, most cities have healthy local restaurants that deliver, and employer cafeterias are offering health-conscious options.
For most areas, there’s no longer an excuse to eat unhealthy on your break. If money is an issue, try visiting your local cultural market for cheaper fruits, veggies, and meats and prepare your meals at home. It may be time-consuming on your day off, but there are plenty of websites that will help you get creative with your recipes that will save prep time and won’t break the bank.
Not only is self-care vital on workdays, but it’s also crucial on your days off and generally easier to cram in. Not the best at finding the time? Schedule it in. Even if you need to add it to your calendar months in advance, book that vacation, add that hike you’ve wanted to go on to your calendar, even if you have to book it months in the future. If you find the time in advance, you’ll likely have an easier time sticking to it when other things “you need to pencil in” come up.
There are plenty of ways to provide self-care for a mental escape, physical escape, or by giving your body the nutrients it needs. However, execution is everything, and if you don’t make it a routine, it’ll likely end up on your New Year’s Resolutions list for years to come.
Did you find these self-care secrets for medical professionals beneficial? Do you have a favorite tip we didn’t mention? Let us know in the comments below.
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