We all want to be always healthy and feel well. But sometimes we have to deal with challenges that make us feel overwhelmed and anxious. Do you ever feel helpless and think that you can’t do anything about it?
All of us have those days, and healthcare professionals are not an exception. Working with patients can be psychologically demanding. Healthcare practitioners can have 16-18 clients per day, every one requiring personal attention and care.
Many patients face situations involving pain, anxiety, and physical inconvenience with courage and good humour, but their reactions may vary as individuals. It’s the job of the medical professionals to provide person-centred care and accommodate the needs, fears and expectations of their patients. But this can significantly impact care providers' mental and physical well-being.
So, what do professionals do to stay healthy and motivated to provide their best service for patients?
We have asked seven professionals to share their tips on taking care of their well-being. Here are their simple practices that can help reduce your anxiety, boost your mood and make you go easier through the day.
Because I am dealing with persistent pain complaints, it is challenging to do my work without provoking them. In other words, the pain helps me to take better care of myself. I do this by exercising a lot. I exercise about five times a week, and I prefer to do this outdoors (MTB, running, walking, swimming, skating). It is also vital for me to be gentle with myself, not set the bar too high, and give myself space. For instance, I would love to see most of my patients improve by 80%. But that is just not very realistic. Finally, it is a pitfall to make myself responsible for things I am not responsible for and take things too personally. It's another lesson to learn not to do that.
I take care of my own emotional and physical well-being by incorporating sufficient relaxation into my life. I do this by sometimes doing "nothing": watching TV or reading a magazine. But regular sporting activities also mean relaxation for me. I also try to be conscious of my diet, so I regularly apply the principles of intermitted fasting. Next to it, a cold shower is good for my health and wellbeing.
Tjakien de Witt, Physiotherapist CRPS / Palliative Care / Psychosomatic Physiotherapist at Fysio Zuidereng
After work, I am sometimes tired. Besides work, I have a husband and three children to take care of. I try to plan things like housework and cooking well, so there is time for my family; doing homework, playing games, watching a movie. I take care of myself by cycling to work, walking and dipping in outdoor water every week. For relaxation, I play the cello and sing. Afterwards, my head and body feel as if I've had a holiday.
Louis Zantema, Co-founder / Chief Science Officer at Reducept, GZ-psychologist
Perhaps the most important contribution to my well-being is that I find my work with patients beautiful and valuable. It's also a bit of a cliche, but not for nothing: in treatment, people have to help themselves in the end. The most substantial change takes place outside of treatment. I have learned to accept that I cannot help everyone and do what I can. Finally, the basics: eat on time, take time for a lunch break, live healthily and create an environment where I can talk about my work if I need to.
I try to improve my well-being by regularly doing emotional introspection. Many people internalise emotions by pushing them away. By connecting with the body through mindfulness and meditation exercises, I can reduce the distance to my feelings and then make contact with them. The consciously attentive experience of emotions helps to 'archive' them again. Physically - although I believe that you are constantly working on both simultaneously - I make sure that I exercise regularly.
I stop sitting down as much as possible and go cycling and walking every day. I also do fitness three or four times a week. As a physiotherapist, you have to set a good example: 'practice what you preach!’
I try to walk or go out every day to stay fit. I always walk to the station and to work. I also think you should do things that make you happy and give you energy. So if you're always going to a neighbour's house, which doesn't provide you with energy, you should ask yourself if you still need to go there. That's how I go about life, by thinking about what gives me energy and what makes me happy, and that's how I keep things a bit in balance.
It is intensive to see about 16 to 18 patients a day in 25-minute sessions. Depending on the type of patient (personality, mood, way of dealing with patients, etc.), it takes more or less energy. It is crucial to have time to exercise and be outside in nature. I run 2-3 times a week to keep my condition up; it also helps me clear my head. I also like bird watching, reptile watching and taking pictures of these tiny creatures. So that's another way to relax and clear my head. To sum up: exercise and time for relaxation is my way of staying healthy and fit. Sometimes I add some mindfulness when my thoughts get too busy.
So how do you improve your well-being?
It might sound challenging to start caring for your well-being if you are not used to giving it dedicated attention. Hopefully, you got enough inspiration to boost your daily routine with healthy habits with the examples above.
Here is a quick takeaway:
- Try to find a comfortable pace with regular exercises; they will help you keep your body and spirit strong.
- Make sure to follow a balanced diet. Eat well and regularly to you feel your best.
- Dedicate time for relaxation and doing nothing. Our minds need breaks from mental activities.
- Do what feels enjoyable and gives you energy. Your needs are essential.
- Try to split your attention equally between things you value: family, work, sport, hobbies, social life.
- Learn how to explore your emotions and connect with your body through mindfulness and meditation exercises.
- Accept that you can’t help everyone. Be responsible for only what you can control.
If you like this topic, you might also enjoy reading the blog with practical advice on self-care for people with chronic pain.7 professional tips: how to take care of your mental and physical well-being?