Strategies for Coping with Increased Stress

The demands of a profession in healthcare have always placed its workers in challengingly stressful scenarios – often daily. Whether caring for patients in a hospital setting or long-term care facilities, workers must cope with long shifts and staffing shortages that contribute to fatigue, as well as the emotional aspects of daily dealing with matters of life and death.

And that was before the COVID-19 pandemic unleashed additional stressors upon healthcare workers involved in all aspects of patient care.

While some may adopt the attitude that healthcare is a demanding field and stressors are inevitable, the toll these stressors can take on a person’s mental, physical, and emotional well-being cannot be ignored. It is crucial healthcare workers recognize the warning signs that mounting stress may be escalating toward dangerous levels.

Stress can produce an array of symptoms, including—

  • Feeling irritation, anger, or denial
  • Feeling uncertain, nervous, or anxious
  • Feeling helpless or powerless
  • Lacking motivation
  • Feeling tired, overwhelmed, or burned out
  • Feeling sad or depressed
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Having trouble concentrating

These stress-related symptoms cannot help but impact an individual’s personal and professional life. That is why it is so important to identify signs and seek to engage in coping mechanisms.

Cultivating Resiliency

Because stress “comes with the territory,” healthcare workers should put time and effort into improving their response to stress by strengthening their coping mechanisms. By building resilience to the stressors of their daily environment, these essential workers can protect themselves from burnout with the help of an assortment of stress-busting tools and resources.

  • Make a list of the things that bring joy—spending time with family, listening to music, making time for hobbies, being with pets, or faith-related activities. Make a point to include these joy-bringers in your schedule.
  • Express gratitude each day by identifying something you are thankful for and why.
  • Take advantage of both the short and long-term benefits of laughter. Think about what makes you laugh and purposefully include those things in your daily life.
  • Limit time spent listening to, viewing, or reading the news. A continual feed of negative, worrisome media exposure will defeat efforts to minimize and manage stress.

Generate a list of workplace stress busters that have proven to be helpful in the past, such as:

  • a walk during lunch
  • a favorite snack for break time
  • a new pair of shoes to ease the strain on your feet
  • letting off steam to a trusted co-worker
  • an open discussion with your supervisor
  • Fashion a list of self-care strategies that address sleep, exercise, and nutrition, as well as social and emotional well-being. What makes you feel better? What increases your stress? Be honest with yourself about what you need, and then commit to caring for yourself as only you can.

Intentionally engaging coping strategies will increase healthcare workers’ ability to weather this most challenging time for our nation’s medical facilities and long-term care organizations.


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