Healthcare workers truly are heroes. The holidays are a time when they have a multitude of additional responsibilities and stress on top of their already busy schedules. They’re navigating care for their patients and their own work schedules for the holidays. Depending on their business, they’re also scheduling team members for the holiday season, working to find care team members, and navigating year-end business requirements. On top of all this, they’re navigating holiday plans with their own families.
Every day, healthcare workers make sacrifices in support of their commitment to their profession. The impacts are significant.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported:
- 93% of health workers reported being stressed out and stretched too thin;
- 82% shared being emotionally and physically exhausted; and
- 45% of nurses reported that they were not getting enough emotional support.
The Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation reported:
- 55% of frontline healthcare workers reported burnout caused by mental and physical exhaustion from chronic workplace stress.
And yet, even through this, 75% of healthcare workers say they still love their jobs:
“The pandemic has actually made me realize how important this career is, and how I really do make a difference,” said Christina Rosa, 33, a mental health counselor from central Massachusetts who has had to close her office and see patients remotely. “I still love it.”
One of the ways healthcare professionals can help with the additional stress and responsibilities of the holiday season, so they can enjoy time with their loved ones, is intentional self-care – the practice of taking an active role in protecting and nurturing their own well-being and happiness. While self-care is important for every healthcare professional, it isn’t one size fits all. Types of self-care are unique and specific to each person and each area of life where care is needed.
Healthcare professional Angela Robinson explained her self-care method: “I created my own self-care catalog using categories where I need self-care. I’ve come up with three different ways I can practice it for each one. For example, if I’m feeling moody, I have three things I’ve tested that work for me. I’ve also created categories for how much time I have available. If I have one minute, I have three things I’ve tested. I’ve created other options for different amounts of time. This helps me know I can always practice self-care.”
Having one or more care partners/accountability partners is another tip for ensuring self-care is practiced. The mutual pledge is that each partner commits to being honest and vulnerable with the other, so they each practice self-care. Each partner identifies their most impactful stressors so they can look for the need for self-care in each other. In addition, there can be a care partner for different areas of their life; for example, one for their personal life and one for their professional life.
An important type of self-care is setting and honoring boundaries. These are unique for each person. They frame what is acceptable and unacceptable and give permission to say “yes” or “no”. They help each healthcare professional intentionally explore what their boundaries are so they can recognize them for themselves. They’re able to communicate them to others so there aren’t resentments because their boundaries aren’t known.
During the holidays, one way of practicing self-care is realistic holiday planning. Just because you have always brought the mashed potatoes doesn’t mean you have to this year. Talk with family members. Help them help you. Don’t over-commit; when taking on too much, something has to give. Work together with family members to assign holiday tasks that protect time for rest and time to enjoy family, without feeling the stress of too much to do in too little time.
Most importantly, give yourself permission to practice self-care. Self-care is self-love, not selfish.
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