While we all have our ways of dealing with stress and coping with the pressures and demands of the real world, there’s always room for improvement. Distressing situations are inevitable and living your entire life trying to avoid them is just not a realistic way of thinking.
It all comes down to the way you choose to react to stressors and the actions you take to better manage them. Look at it this way: when presented with a job or task to accomplish, there’s this immediate flow of energy that goes through your body. That energy can empower you and allow you to complete the job if you’re open to it.
So you become energized through the work which translates as effective and efficient steps carried out in a strategic manner. However, if you resist that flow of energy or try to repel it, you start experiencing a tremendous amount of stress that makes that task seem impossible to achieve.
De-clutter your mind
As medical professionals, even when we’ve done everything on our daily to-do list and we’re left with a bit of free time, we start overthinking and spiraling. We’re convinced that we should be getting ahead on the next day’s tasks, that we should try to free up some room for more and more things, that we should cross things off of our list so we get to relax even longer.
Yet we never actually sit down and relax, we’re forever stuck in that restless state of being, despite how exhausted we are. So come bedtime, we put our head on the pillow, we turn off the lights, but our brain simply won’t let go. We hold tension in our entire body, but especially our minds. All these furious ideas crashing one against another, racing their way to the top, so we keep tossing and turning, as nothing seems to ease our antsy and troubled minds.
We have so much dust, clutter, and chaos roaming free inside our heads that we’re completely unable to relax or stay focused on a single task at a time. We think that multitasking is the epitome of productivity but it’s rather what kills it. Taking on so many responsibilities, especially in the healthcare industry, and trying to stay afloat is what keeps on feeding the mental clutter.
Sometimes, we simply cannot shove our concerns and obligations aside in favor of leisure and relaxation, but there are better ways to deal with these issues to produce a more functional mentality toward the real world. The simplest solution to that is reducing the things that are major stress inducers in our day-to-day lives.
If we just start by eliminating some of the pressures, we put on ourselves and the expectations we’re held to, this can free up so much mental space that can be used more strategically. Such a space can, in turn, be allocated to things of consequence, things that matter to us. When we worry less, we have more energy and time to spend on productive endeavors.
Effectively Manage and Reduce Stress
Here are 4 actionable steps you can take to better manage and reduce stress.
Step #1: Commit to living a well-balanced life
A packed schedule has become the norm, and while carefully planning how your week will unfold is a great way to stay in control, having all your time accounted for can be mentally, physically, and emotionally draining. You can’t maintain your performance at work and give the people you love the focus and attention they deserve if you’ve been neglecting your own needs. It can be difficult to find some time to dedicate to yourself, but it’s not impossible, especially if you want to start living a well-balanced life. You have to make the commitment and that starts with making compromises to give yourself the chance to recharge, regenerate, and more importantly recover from all that you endured that week.
Step #2: Invest in your personal growth
You cannot accomplish anything if you’re constantly burned out and exhausted. Stress can take a toll on both your mental and physical health. When you’re stressed, you’re not living in the present moment, and so you are unable to enjoy your surroundings. You have to create a reality that allows you to unlock your full potential and enjoy every moment for what it is, not what it could be. Make time for the activities you like, do more of what you love, and bring some joy into your day. Spend a few minutes on meditation, breathwork, or other relaxation techniques. Before putting on your scrubs and medical hat, have your morning coffee outside, relish the vibrant colors of nature, and enjoy the relaxing atmosphere. Try a new recipe, go for a walk, treat yourself to a candle-lit bath, set the mood with some good music… The possibilities are endless as long as you’re devoting some time to yourself.
Step #3: Cultivate healthier eating habits
There is a huge difference between eating when you're hungry and eating for the sake of it. Using food as a coping mechanism when you're stressed, angry, or happy is an unhealthy habit that can easily spiral out of control. Not only that but it can even lead to severe patterns of disordered eating further down the line. So you need to be mindful of what you’re putting inside your body. Pay attention to your hunger cues and avoid any distractions like TV or social media during your mealtimes. Try to replace any liquids with water instead. While it's a lot tastier to sip on some fresh juice or soda when you’re eating, the sugar intake will only cause you to crash later on, leading to the infamous afternoon slump. Water has innumerable scientifically-proven benefits that no other drink can match. It’s refreshing and invigorating without all the added or processed sugar.
Step #4: Find a workout regimen you enjoy
We all struggle with finding the perfect balance in our lives. An ideal that allows us to nurture our mental and emotional well-being all while working towards achieving our goals and taking care of our physical health. We often sacrifice one of the other -i.e, a lot of quick microwaveable meals when we’ve got no time to cook and an endless list of engagements and obligations. You’ve probably heard about the miraculous benefits of a regular exercise regimen. Physical activity has always been recommended by doctors, nutritionists, coaches, and health specialists all over the world. It’s a universal truth that as a medical professional you know too well. Regular exercise isn't just beneficial to the body but to the mind as well. When you exercise, you also release a steady flow of happy hormones like endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin, which is why they call it a 'runner's high.' So find a workout regimen you enjoy and schedule it much like you would a meeting or a conference. Make it part of your schedule and commit to it. Maintaining a well-balanced lifestyle can be tricky. Between eating healthy, exercising, engaging in creative activities, and keeping a sharp mind, it’s very easy to under or overdo it. Finding a middle ground is of the utmost importance. Not only is it better for your well-being but it’s also easier to sustain in the long run.