Fresh perspective for success in healthcare

The 12-Hour Shifts of Christmas: Managing Holiday Stress in the Healthcare Profession

Like the hospitality and retail industries, healthcare does not rest during the holiday season. While others are away on vacation or enjoying time at home with their families, healthcare workers are still at work and on-call. And between icy falls, accidents related to alcohol, depression, loneliness and countless other seasonal ailments, the healthcare system certainly prepares itself to receive increased traffic during the holidays.

Let’s not forget all the usual stressors that everyone experiences this time of year—attempting to stay on top of diet and exercise and buying all the right gifts within your budget. So consider this our gift to all you hardworking healthcare professionals: 12 tips to help you stay happy, healthy and stress-free as we bring in the New Year.

Be Healthy

  1. Harshly changing your diet can be detrimental to your body. It’s certainly tempting to save room for your favorite holiday dishes, but this can cause you to overeat. Instead, eat something healthy beforehand, serve yourself small portions and eat slowly. Take a look at Health’s 15 ways to avoid holiday weight gain and 21 holiday health mistakes.
  2. Stay active. It’s OK to modify your typical workout schedule, but don’t let yourself skip altogether. Just keep moving. Once the holidays are over, it’ll be much easier to jump back into your usual routine if you’ve stayed fairly active.
  3. Losing sleep can hurt your performance at work, affect your weight and make you irritable, which won’t help you take care of all those extra patients. Lengthy shifts are exhausting, especially overnight shifts, so be sure to replenish your body with plenty of sleep.
  4. Finances are one of the biggest stressors of the season. Make a realistic budget and stick to it—you’ll thank yourself in January.

Be Realistic

  1. Last minute cooking, decorating and shopping can harm your time with family by making you worn-out and grouchy. Take care of your responsibilities well in advance. That way, you’ll be in a good mood to relax and enjoy social events.
  2. Similarly, don’t take on extra responsibilities that you can’t handle. Sometimes just one task too many is enough to cause a big problem. So be honest with yourself and know when to say no. Someone else can cook the ham for the office party—you can bring a store-bought pie instead.
  3. We’re often more sensitive this time of the year, so accidents, illness and deaths during the holiday season can affect you more than at other times of the year. It’s best to emotionally prepare yourself for these situations so you’re better able to care for the patients and families involved.
  4. Accept the fact that you are working on the holidays. Complaining will only make it more frustrating, stressful and less pleasant for your team and family. Embrace your responsibility and know that what you do is extremely valuable.

Be Positive

  1. Seize the opportunity to make someone else’s holiday just a little bit brighter.. Yes, you may be working on the holiday, but you still get to go home at the end of the day. As you know, some hospital patients will spend the entire holiday season in a hospital bed. They may be facing very difficult illnesses. They may not have anyone to come visit them. Take this perspective with you and try sharing the Mayo Clinic’s advice for managing depression during the holidays—it may help your patients that struggle with feelings of loneliness or depression.
  2. Coordinate a dinner or gift exchange with your colleagues. It will give you a chance to socialize with people who understand your stress. Give yourselves the gift of enjoying those special seasonal experiences—the decorations, traditional foods and music will help put your office in the spirit.
  3. You may be missing out on some big parties in November and December, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have just as much fun on all those “smaller” holidays like Memorial Day, Labor Day, Independence Day, even Saint Patrick’s Day or Valentines Day. Take advantage of those holidays by visiting relatives and friends or hosting a get-together.
  4. If you observe a religious holiday, don’t let those traditions get pushed aside. Churches and other religious institutions often hold services at various times around the holidays. At the very least, set aside time for personal worship, prayer or reflection, which is great for your mental and emotional health.

How do you deal with holiday stress as a healthcare professional? Do you think healthcare professionals are so busy caring for others that they can forget to take care of themselves? What’s the most challenging part of the holiday season for you?

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