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Checking Out to Check-In with Yourself

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Stressed? Everyone is under more stress in light of recent events between job furloughs, homeschooling, and quarantine itself. The seemingly surreal state of our lives and just getting through each day has possibly put your feelings on the back burner. Healthcare staff not only have to worry about their exposure at work, but the possible exposure to friends and family at home. Add to that the pressure healthcare workers are subjected to every day and you have a nasty cocktail for stress. Downtime doesn’t happen. Being considered essential means being subjected to the COVID outbreak from the time they wake up until the time they go to sleep.

This environment creates underlying stressors that we might not recognize, because we feel that we are just doing our job only with increased demands. Healthcare workers tend to downplay events within their own lives because they are subjected to many changes throughout the day. Sometimes we fail to identify what our body is trying to tell us because we are more worried about helping others.

Speaking from experience as a retired police officer, I urge you to take time to identify the subtle hints your body is telling you to take a much needed moment to focus on your well-being. There is an old adage in public safety that was referred to as “tombstone courage.” Basically, don’t put yourself in harm’s way to the point that you cannot help others. Essentially, you must take care of yourself before you can effectively help others. Here are a few markers your body might be telling you something.

Signs You May Be Stressed

  • Being easily frustrated when having normal conversations. It may be as simple as finding yourself wanting whomever you’re speaking with to hurry up, or you do not want to talk to anyone altogether.
  • Lack of appetite, or the opposite, an increase in appetite (comfort food)
  • Nausea, upset stomach, or other digestive issues
  • Drastic increase in alcohol consumption
  • Headaches
  • Inability to sleep or broken sleep. (Is your mind racing when you wake up or when you try to fall to sleep?) The inverse can also occur - you may want to sleep all the time.
  • Easy chores or daily tasks seem overwhelming
  • Muscle pain

There is no specific number of areas listed that determines if your body is telling you something. We all handle stress differently and the way we each handle stress is part of our genetic makeup. Taking time to analyze your own well-being is an important first step on the road to feeling better.  So how do you allow yourself some stress-free space? Here are a few strategies...

Ideas to Help Minimize the Effects of Stress

  • Make sure you take time each day to “check-out” for a few minutes. Go for a walk, listen to music, talk to someone on the phone about a subject completely unrelated to work and life (hobbies, movies, etc.)
  • Try to leave work behind you as much as possible once you leave your facility. One suggestion is to unlink your email from your smartphone. Make sure everyone understands that they can call you if needed. If it is that essential, they should be talking to you directly anyway.
  • Make physical activity a priority either before or after work.  This not only helps you physically but mentally as well.
  • Manage your time. Start prioritizing tasks instead of creating a list and then being frustrated when it’s not complete.
  • Say NO! This is extremely hard to do, especially for service-minded people. It is an essential part of reducing stress.
  • Laughter is the best medicine. We all have that friend who can make us laugh. Utilize them. Or watch a funny show or movie.
  • Try to enjoy your time with family and focus on the things that are important to you.

Ideally, we all want to come out of this time mentally and physically stronger for it. But it doesn’t happen on its own. We have to fight for our own well-being and be cognizant of it. As leaders, we need to be reminded to take care of ourselves because most of our time is focusing on taking care of others. Remember, the most successful individuals rely on others the higher they climb within their career or business. They cannot effectively manage everything themselves. So, the question is why should you?

Take time for yourself.  Do something for yourself. Buy a little something for yourself and put it in your office to help remind you to take a time out when needed. Close your door for 15 minutes and relax. All of this may sound selfish and self-centered to some. But trust me, it’s not. Think of it this way… you’re allowing yourself a little time to recharge your batteries so you are able to help others. If there is one thing the airline industry has taught us, it’s to give yourself the oxygen mask before helping someone else with theirs.

What are some strategies you use to unwind?  Feel free to comment in Life Safety Q&A. I’d love to hear from you!

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