5 ways healthcare workers can manage holiday stress

For many, holidays are a time to take a break, put their feet up and grab a cold brew by the beach. For those in the healthcare industry, however, holidays usually mean busy days, long hours and separation from families during festivals. 

Healthcare workers, nurses, community support workers, paramedics go into their profession knowing it demands a 24/7, year-round commitment. But when it comes to holidays, it’s difficult when you find yourself hard at work at the hospital while others are opening presents and celebrating with family and friends.

One of the few industries exempt from downtime or a more relaxed pace, the holiday season is an usually busy time for healthcare workers. Availability of fewer hospital resources, more accidents due to alcohol, depression, or loneliness, supporting the emotional needs of struggling patients or families – there are a number of factors that put additional stress on healthcare workers during this period.

It can be particularly extra taxing during the holiday season, as most patients would much rather be home with loved ones. Here are five tips to help healthcare workers manage stress during the holidays.

Staying realistic and grounded

Depression, “holiday blues,” and suicide rates often increase during this time period, as does alcohol and drug use. Having an honest expectation of red flags to watch out for and precautions to take for ourselves, as well as others, is especially important during this time of year for health professionals. 

Staying grounded is equally important – making the best of the situation is the healthiest approach. 

Remember the Big Picture

Know that the chaos will pass. 

It is important to remember that holiday season is only a matter of weeks in the span of your entire year. You will have a chance to get back to your family, and friends at the end of the day. 

It also helps knowing that you have the unique privilege of bringing care and joy to your patients during a very difficult time. Remember why you chose to work in this profession in the first place. Go back to your foundations.

Get celebratory

Start some new traditions that accommodate hospital work: a funny gift swap with co-workers, a “worst holiday sweater” contest, or simply a potluck. Bring life into your day to day work, to help you and others remain in the spirit of the holidays. It’s a trying time not just only for you but also your patients

However, do remember that a hospital or retirement facility has people from different backgrounds, be inclusive.

Plan for what you can

Simple steps to make to-do lists or getting things done ahead of time will help keep you be more organized and present during the holidays. Whether that is planning gifts for your family, or planning meals so you won’t have to go home and start your preparations, it’s a good time to take out your trusted planning calendar and jot down some notes. 

An excellent professional initiates processes of change and is an influencer of his or her profession within and outside his own professional field or organization. Don’t overcommit to attending family or friend events on your day offs. Instead of overburdening yourself with too many gatherings or commitments, know that it is okay to say no and put your mental health first. 

Listen to your body

The holiday season brings more stress, more travel, and generally less rest. 

Staying active, hydrated, and well rested are key, but remember to take the time to stay centred and focused within yourself, whether it be through meditation or even just a quick 10-15 of deep breaths and relaxation. 

Your mind and body will tell you what you need. 

Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask for help or to offer it to someone who needs it. Approaching the holidays with a healthy mindset will make time with family and friends safer and more enjoyable.

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