Healthcare practitioners, from physicians and nurses to surgeons and orderlies, deal with overwhelming bouts of occupational stress. Their lives are governed by hectic shifts and life-and-death emergencies, leaving little room for self-care and prioritizing their wellness.
Even during the pandemic, when the entire world sought the safety of social distancing, healthcare professionals were fighting on the front lines. They simply didn’t have the luxury of staying safe while millions succumbed to the novel virus. Such is the life of a healthcare professional, forgoing their well-being to ensure positive health outcomes for their patients.
But healthcare workers are not the only caretakers who put their own wellness on the back burner! Parents, those who care for aging parents, spouses of people who need assistance, caretakers for special needs all care for others. Sometimes 24/7. This kind of constant giving can be physically and emotionally draining. These unsung heroes work exhaustingly long hours, often without applause and recognition.
As a caretaker, it’s important to prioritize your own well-being instead of driving yourself toward mental and physical exhaustion.
Read on to explore impactful ways to care for your well-being while pursuing growth in the healthcare sector.
1. Work Toward a Healthy Work-Life Balance
You cannot prioritize your emotional, mental, and physical well-being if your work routine and caretaking duties consume all your energy. One can hardly manage these obligations, let alone attend to self-care, exercise, a healthy meal plan, or sufficient time for quality sleep. If you’re dragging your undernourished and sleep-deprived body to work every day, it’s time to prioritize change.
2. Learn to Say No
Do you end up tackling multiple responsibilities simply because you struggle to decline requests for favors? Are you constantly bending over backward to facilitate weary colleagues and peers struggling to manage their chores? Are you always going the extra mile to support everyone else long after your day should have ended?
Learning to say no is an important aspect of prioritizing self-care and avoiding overburdening yourself with endless responsibilities. You may feel that declining requests can make you seem unempathetic and ruthless, but that’s not true. Helping others at the expense of your well-being is akin to being unfair and neglectful of your own needs. You cannot fulfill your responsibilities toward others if you’re persistently neglecting yourself.
It’s one thing to share responsibilities and help others once in a while, or even often. But if you find yourself tackling other people’s care constantly (or even obsessively), you need to set healthier boundaries. We often feel it’s wise to slave away and work beyond our capacity to appease others. In healthcare, stablishing healthy boundaries is crucial to maintain positive professional relationships and avoid working more than your designated hours. At home, attending to your own needs is a crucial part of YOU being able to carry on!
3. Prioritize Self-Care & Self-Pampering
If you’re waiting for the right time to start your exercise routine or meal plan for weight loss, the right time may never come. Contrary to popular belief, time doesn’t ‘come’ to us; we make it. We actively make time for the activities we consider priorities. If you’re struggling to make time for self-care, you need to recognize that you haven’t made caring for yourself a priority.
Once you prioritize yourself, you will find it easier to make room in your daily schedule for self-care and hobbies. It’s important to ensure your life doesn’t revolve around your healthcare profession or your caretaking at home. Whether you work in the healthcare sector or take care of people at home, caretaking can be all-consuming. There’s much at stake with people depending on you for their well-being.
You need to set healthy boundaries between your personal and work life and prevent the two from overtaking one another. Build a routine that allows you to make a little time for your own regular exercise, self-pampering, meal preparation, and spending time with loved ones.
4. Find Avenues to Reward Yourself
It’s common for nurses and other healthcare professionals to spend the holidays working, missing out on significant family milestones. Healthcare professionals struggle to find time to travel, attend family dinners, or meet up with their friends. If you persistently struggle to reward yourself, you must establish firm boundaries and reclaim your life.
Make a habit of rewarding yourself with one activity or experience every week. For instance, you can plan a short getaway to a nearby destination to relax and unwind. You can spend an entire day getting pampered at the spa, followed by lunch with friends. You can host your family and friends for dinner and enjoy catching up with their lives. Or take a break by taking a hike or meditating.
Everyone has a unique approach to rewarding themselves based on their preferences and interests. Some like to curl up with a good book and an endless supply of snacks and takeout meals. Others prefer dressing up to the nines and booking a table in the city’s most sought-after restaurant. Do whatever you find rewarding, but DO it to feel content and fulfilled.
Upgrading Your Healthcare Career
Another way to reduce the stress of caretaking for others is to upgrade your career in healthcare. Healthcare is one of the world’s fastest-growing, rapidly innovating sectors, with scores of rewarding non-medical opportunities. Public health is a domain that combines financial stability with limitless growth, impactful contributions and a healthy work-life balance. Shifting career paths with a master’s in public health (MHA) can help you reinvent your lifestyle and achieve contentment.
So what’s a MHA degree, and how will it support your underlying calling for healthcare solutions? A master’s in public health is a dynamic academic pathway that opens up a multitude of specializations to make meaningful contributions. Public health professionals fight health inequities and diseases with a community-centric approach to reduce the burden of illness.
They design vaccines, healthcare systems, awareness programs, and treatments to ensure effective outcomes for large populations. Pursuing a career in public health will equip you with the resources and skills to ensure health equity for marginalized communities. The potential for financial growth and stability is exponential, as per the projections of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Projections reveal that public health and healthcare positions are expected to grow 32% by 2029.
A standard 40-hour workweek is not a luxury or a privilege; it’s a necessity for a healthy, fulfilling life. Working toward a healthy work-life balance will help you make time for academic growth, career advancement, and self-care.
There is truly nothing that can compensate for your loss of emotional, mental, and physical well-being. A massive paycheck cannot support your well-being if it comes with hectic and long work hours with additional responsibilities. The fulfillment you may get from taking care of others turns into resentment if your own needs continue to be unmet.
We often tie ourselves down to toxic caretaking mentality and unhealthy schedules because we don’t accept our self-worth. If you’re committed to continual learning and growth, you deserve rewarding opportunities, and you will find them. All it takes is a mindset shift to prioritize your well-being and growth in the caretaking mix.