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12 Self Care Tips for Healthcare Workers

12 Self Care Tips for Healthcare Workers

Between attending to patients on the frontlines and navigating unpredictable schedules and stressful conditions, it’s common for healthcare professionals to prioritize others’ needs above their own

Long hours on the floor are one the many physician burnout causes and can take a toll on the mental, emotional, and physical health of healthcare workers. It’s critical to establish self-care for healthcare workers that’s easy to implement before, during, and after your hours-long shifts. 

The Importance of a Self-Care Routine

Self-care is a practice that empowers individuals to look after their health—and it runs much deeper than the occasional aloe face mask or lavender foot massage (although both can do wonders to ease stress after a long day!). 

More specifically, the World Health Organization defines self-care as “the ability of individuals, families, and communities to promote their own health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a health worker.”1 

The purpose of a self-care routine is to ensure that you’re able to live your best life by:

  • Making healthy lifestyle choices
  • Prioritizing family (and alone) time
  • Being mindful

An effective self-care routine includes actions that genuinely fill your cup. As you continue to prioritize your health, you’ll notice that your aches and pains start to decrease, your mind won’t race (at least, not as much), and you’ll feel more prepared to take on the world—and your next patient. 

Self-care activities for doctors are particularly important: Healthcare professionals often experience psychological distress such as insomnia, stress-related anxiety, irritability, and feelings of hopelessness as a result of their day-to-day experiences and responsibilities.2 As a result, healthcare professionals are extremely susceptible to issues like compassion fatigue, burnout, and chronic stress.

For physicians, self-care involves setting healthy work-life boundaries to provide plenty of time to mentally and physically recharge before their next shift.

Remember, self-care doesn’t require going on a month-long vacation for a factory reset. There are small, actionable steps that you can take to incorporate self-care into your daily routine. 

Self Care Tips For Physicians and Healthcare Workers

With an unpredictable schedule, it can feel daunting to establish a regular, time-slotted self-care routine. One evening, you may have plenty of time to cook yourself a nutrient-rich dinner and soak in a warm bubble bath, and the next you’re spending the night checking vitals and dressing wounds.

To attend an atypical schedule, healthcare workers can segment each practice into life before, during, and after work.

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Self-Care Before Your Shift

The healthcare system is a fast-paced and often stressful profession. And that’s what you love about it, right? Except for when you don’t. 

Although you might not be able to change the pace of your job, you can change how you respond to it. Good mental health habits can help you deal with whatever work throws at you—including how to get through 12 hour shifts when everything seems to go wrong:

  • #1 Practice Mindfulness – Many people mindfulness and gratitude practices for grounding themselves in a better headspace. Take 30 minutes to meditate, practice a deep-breathing exercise, or simply make yourself a warm cup of tea. Mindfulness can improve your mental clarity, boost concentration, and enhance emotional intelligence.3
  • #2 Move Your Body – Simply learning how your body responds to stress is the first step in being able to calm yourself during situations that trigger your fight, flight, or freeze responses—which can pay off dividends during the next unexpected rush. Before your shift, perform a yoga routine or go on a quick jog to regulate your nervous system.
  • #3 Surround Yourself With Positivity – On your way to work, use positive affirmations to redshift your mindset if you’re feeling particularly anxious, groggy, or unmotivated. Following social media accounts that share good and heart-warming stories is also an effective way to infuse your day with kindness and positivity. 

If your pre-shift moments are dedicated to caring for your family or running household errands and you’re unable to fit self-care practices into your routine, ask your workplace if they offer any mental health training for employees to get the support you need. 

Self-Care During Your Shift

Running between wards and wings may not seem like the most opportune time for some self-care, but the hustle and bustle of healthcare work lends itself to physical activity. 

It’s recommended to have at least 30 minutes of activity every day, but nobody said you have to do it all at once. Performing a few jumping jacks before seeing the next patient or going for a 10-minute walk on your break can help reduce anxiety and depression and improve self-esteem and cognitive function.4

To take care of your mental and physical health on the job, you can also heed the following:

  • #4 Bring Versatile Clothing – Perhaps you’re positioned to a wing that has particularly strong AC that’s sending shivers throughout your body. While this can certainly affect your day-to-day responsibilities, such as inserting an IV, extreme temperatures (both hot and cold) can also impact your mental health. As such, bring a few layers to the hospital and ensure your clothing is breathable and moisture-wicking to make sure you’re comfortable throughout your shift.
  • #5 Wear Comfortable Footwear – Hours on your feet can strain your entire body. Fortunately, comfortable and supportive footwear can ease aches from your neck down to your feet themselves. And lightweight shoes like Snibbs Orbit knit sneakers (engineered by an orthopedic surgeon) are made for movement and long hours with breathable, slip-resistant materials.
  • #6 Make Your Space Festive – If you have a desk space, locker, or corner where you keep your belongings, make it yours. Bring in photos of loved ones and cherished memories. Tape up your favorite motivational quote or cheerful poster to bring you back to yourself.
  • You tell your patients that what goes in their bodies will make a massive difference in how they feel. But how often do you remember that advice yourself? During work, remember to: 

  • #7 Limit Caffeine – In the middle of a shift, the thing you may want most in the world is to guzzle down a liter of coffee. But long term, coffee can dehydrate you and stimulate your nervous system. While it’s fine to have a cup or two, you’ll want to limit the amount of caffeine you take in each day. For energy, consider natural alternatives like nutrient-rich snacks. Even chewing mint gum can help wake you up naturally. 
  • #8 Eat Well – Sure, it may be tempting to buy that triple-stuffed cheesy burrito for lunch every day. And while you should feel free to eat foods that make you happy, make sure that your general diet is well-balanced. That means eating enough fruit, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, low-fat dairy, and lean protein every day. 

  • Self-Care After Your Shift

    After a long shift, you can feel mentally, emotionally, and physically drained. This may be the moment when you head home, collapse on your couch, order pizza, and spend the rest of your free time binging a mind-numbing Netflix show. 

    Although your body may be calling out for exactly that, incorporating some healthy habits into your life at home can do wonders for your overall health:

  • #9 Phone a Friend – Calling a friend on your way home from work and talking about your day is not only an effective way to decompress after a long day, it reinforces your social connections. Solid and fulfilling relationships are what keep us happy and healthy long into old age. 
  • #10 Enjoy Your Hobbies – Do what makes you happy. Whether that’s a half hour of strumming a guitar, developing new recipes, or going to Zumba with friends, purposeful activities can reduce your stress levels and improve your mood.5
  • #11 Prioritize Rest – If you’re going through the day in a zombie fog, you’re likely experiencing low moods and a limited attention span. To ensure your mind and body are functioning properly, treat sleep as something sacred. Carve out seven to nine hours for quality shut-eye and make your bedroom a sanctuary with black-out curtains, relaxing aromas, and cozy bedding. 
  • #12 Express Your Emotions – It’s fairly common for healthcare professionals to bottle up and suppress their feelings after a long and trying day. However, keeping your emotions bottled up can impact your mental and physical health, leading to depression, fatigue, chronic illness, and difficulties with memory.6 At the end of a long day, let it all out. Go for a run, scream into a pillow, journal your thoughts and experiences, paint an emotion-fueled painting, or talk to a loved one or counselor. 

  • Support Your Health (And Your Arches) With Snibbs

    Oftentimes, doctors, physicians, and nurses are susceptible to mental, emotional, and physical burnout. However, as a healthcare professional, your health is just as important as the patients you treat. 

    Fortunately, self-care routines and practices, such as mindfulness, exercise, and rest, can bring your mind and body back to homeostasis.

    To keep you on your feet, Snibbs offers a line of sustainable doctor’s shoes made for shifts on the hospital floor. They’re slip-on and slip-resistant, for all-day comfort—no matter where the day takes you. 

    Reinvent your everyday comfort with Snibbs slip-resistant work shoes.


    Sources: 

    1. World Health Organization. Self-care interventions for health. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/self-care-health-interventions
    2. Frontiers in Public Health. Prioritizing the Mental Health and Well-Being of Healthcare Workers: An Urgent Global Public Health Priority. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpubh.2021.679397/full 
    3. APA. What are the benefits of mindfulness. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/07-08/ce-corner
    4. The Primary Care Companion to The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. Exercise for Mental Health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1470658/
    5. Head to Health. Purposeful activity - hobbies. https://www.headtohealth.gov.au/meaningful-life/purposeful-activity/hobbies 
    6. VeryWellMind. The Dangers of Bottling Up Our Emotions. https://www.verywellmind.com/the-dangers-of-bottling-up-our-emotions-5207825 
    7. Mayo Clinic. Water: How much should you drink every day? https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/water/art-20044256