The old saying, “Physician, heal thyself” has some definite merit to it. If healthcare professionals want to do the best they can for their patients, they need to take care of themselves first…and their own health too often goes by the wayside as they push themselves to help others. Focusing on your own well-being puts you in a better position to care for others.
- Recognize the difficulty of the job. Let’s face it: You’re in a unique position of healer, so you may feel a need to soldier through tiredness, stress or your own sickness. Working in healthcare leads to burnout due to the hours and the intensity of the work itself. And when you work with people who have health problems, you may experience a certain fatigue others simply don’t, a kind of physical and emotional exhaustion. But that doesn’t have to be the endgame; remember as well you need to take breaks and your own sick days when necessary.
- Take your own advice. Healthcare professionals tell their patients to eat well (no junk food, plenty of fruits and vegetables, drink water, etc.), but too often ignore their own advice. Admittedly, a continuously rotating schedule or one that has you working nights can take its toll. And it doesn’t always lend itself to proper sleep, diet and exercise. However, considering all three of these help you stay the healthiest version of yourself, plan ahead as much as possible to work them in, even if it’s a 20-minute nap between patients (before going home for some decent sleep) and exercising for ten minutes, three times a day. Consider creating a group to bring in healthy foods so you don’t head for the vending machine; support each other to stay healthy.
- Attend to your emotional and mental health, too. You might think you don’t have time in your busy day to do something like meditate — but you do. Even taking five or ten minutes to breathe quietly and deeply can go a long way toward your overall wellness. Insight Timer and Headspace are two free apps you can use. Or simply take a walk for a little while to change your environment. Schedule a night out or a night in with friends to recharge your batteries…do something that’s only for you.
To use another metaphor, you have to put on your own oxygen mask before you can help anyone else with theirs. In the healthcare industry, do what you can to help yourself take those deep breaths and attend to your own health and you’ll be more effective at attending to others as a result.