Winter is here and with it brings an influx of patients. Add to that the stress from the holiday season, and you’re bound to feel a bit beat down. Although healthcare providers are prone to serve others needs before their own, it’s important to remember that taking care of yourself is just as vital as taking care of your patients.
Reducing holiday stress doesn’t have to be time consuming. Instead, try these simple steps to help relieve some of the stress.
1. Acknowledge Your Feelings
The first step in finding relief is to acknowledge that you’re having feelings of stress or unhappiness. Then tell yourself that these feelings are normal and that it’s okay to experience these emotions. Doing this allows you to stop focusing solely on the emotion, giving you a chance to start finding solutions.
2. Take Time for Yourself
‘Tis the season of giving, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take some time to make yourself a priority. If you’re feeling the effects of stress, chances are you’re not performing at your best. And pushing yourself past your limits isn’t beneficial to you or your patients.
Even taking just 15 minutes of “me time” to refocus can give you a renewed outlook. Whether it’s finding a quiet nook to read, practicing mindfulness
, meditating, or going on a short walk, taking some time for yourself can provide much-needed stress relief.
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3. Set Boundaries
Setting boundaries is crucial to not only your emotional wellbeing, but your physical and mental wellbeing too. Saying yes to every request or invitation will leave you feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. Learn to say no to demanding requests that encroach on your time or to obligations that spread you too thin. Although this can be difficult to do during the holidays, remember saying no allows you to say yes to the things that truly make you happy.
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4. Practice Healthy Habits
Endless holiday parties, loads of presents, and a flood of patients barely leaves you enough time to eat, sleep, and repeat — let alone making some time for exercise or a trip to the gym. But your wellbeing should be one of your priorities every day. As healthcare providers, you know that without sleep, exercise, proper nutrition and a healthy work/life balance
, feelings of stress and depression can easily take over. Carve out at least 15 minutes (30 minutes is ideal) each day to exercise. Whether it’s enjoying your favorite yoga class or taking your dog for a walk around the neighborhood, the stress-busting effects of daily exercise will leave you feeling energized and improve your mood.
Finding time to volunteer can feel overwhelming, but the rewards can do wonders for your happiness levels. Studies have found that people who volunteer are happier than those who don’t
. So, instead of a holiday dinner party with friends or family, suggest doing a group service project. This way you still get to spend time with loved ones while reducing stress and having an impact in your community. It’s a win-win situation.
If you don’t have enough time to do a service project, remember that little acts of kindness add up and benefit both you and the person that you’ve made a difference to.
6. Set Realistic Expectations
Who doesn’t want that perfect Norman Rockwell holiday with family and friends? Unfortunately, aiming for perfection is only setting yourself up for failure. Instead of beating yourself up to create an unrealistic expectation of what the holiday should be, focus on the traditions that make the season special. Sure, Uncle Larry is overly chatty, the turkey turned out dryer than the Mojavi Desert, and you didn’t get the lights up in time, but sometimes it’s the imperfect moments that end up being the most memorable.
In other words, don’t sweat the small stuff. Remember what’s important and enjoy the moment.
7. Seek support
Sometimes all we need is someone to talk to. Seek out a trusted friend, colleague, or family member to talk through the stressors and have her help you figure out solutions (or just be an empathetic listener, whichever you need most).
However, if — despite your best efforts — you’re still feeling anxious, overwhelmed, or experiencing any indicators of depression, give yourself the same advice you’d offer a patient and contact a mental health professional. No holiday season is worth putting your health at risk!