Everybody wants to decrease the stress in their life and improve their wellbeing. For all in the health care sector as for many businesses, our wellbeing is being tested constantly in this time of unknown and additional stress.
Our work can always be a source of stress and fatigue but now compounded with the vagaries associated with COVID19 it has escalated. There’s the fear of ourselves or colleagues contracting the virus, the battle with PPE, staff shortages, and ever-changing processes.
Job losses are occurring in the health care sector, and travel restrictions are seeing people isolated from friends and family. Additionally, there have been restrictions on our ability to recreate and socialise that for many are the stress release from the pressure cooker of work.
In this post, we thought it might be good to have a reminder of some simple things we can do on a daily and weekly basis to keep our bodies and minds in tune with busy work lives.
Here are 5 Simple Ways to Reduce Your Stress and Improve Your Wellbeing
1. Get Regular Low-Intensity Exercise
Keeping up the regular 150 mins of medium to high-intensity exercise a week is the answer right? Well maybe not. Type A go-getter professionals by nature tend to recreate at the same intensity that they work. The exercise becomes another challenge to beat with time, distance, weight or some other measure.
Many training sessions are long affairs between aerobic maximum (180-age) and aerobic threshold (approx. 85% HR Max) which is a zone that is too hard to be truly aerobic but not intense enough to be classified high intensity.
What results from these types of workouts is a chronic cardiovascular stress with little appropriate recovery. It’s something that Mark Sisson calls the Black Hole of aerobic training. We constantly push the envelope and ultimately the exercise is a stress on our body, compounding the work stress.
We may be very FIT but not necessarily very HEALTHY.
A more considered approach is to ensure we are exercising a LOT at heart rates below aerobic maximum and then intermittently do a high-intensity workout and a couple of strength workouts per week.
The low-level exercise can be seen as an anti sedentary challenge for us as type A’s. If we are in an office environment, can we schedule in some mini workouts like a few body squats or desk pushups? Can our breaks be a quick walking lap around the practice or hospital? Can we get some form of walk or ride in our commute? When we get home an easy jog, a walk after dinner in the evening instead of Netflix. All are ways to keep the body moving the way it’s intended to.
The mention of strength sessions scare people off, but yet again they don’t need to be massive free weight lifting epics. Any strength training twice a week can be beneficial if we don’t overextend our capabilities. Bodyweight movements are ideal for anyone. For outdoor enthusiasts, we really like the Monkii System https://monkii.co/ , and especially the Pocket version. However, for DIY people, the Monkii team do have instructions on how to make your own!
High-intensity sessions can be added for training value but it’s important to keep them true to task. Short, with frequent breaks between efforts lasting 10-20 seconds. Running sprints, bike sprints, swim sprints, rowing, cross country skiing or even sprints encountered in endeavours such as surfing, touch football, frisbee etc all count. Here is where your creative side can take over.
Don’t forget the PLAY aspect when considering how to get your exercise in. Keep things light and fun. Get inventive. Get outside. Move lots AND get sufficient rest and recovery.
2. Get Sufficient Sleep
We know about sleep hygiene and the effect of poor sleep on our mental and physical health. As a group how well do we walk the talk? For the most part, poorly.
We will ignore the shift work puzzle as many have no control of the hours here. Suffice to say that the less you can do of the night shift, the better off you will be.
Many of today’s stress reduction behaviours are counter to a night of good sleep. Alcohol, high caffeine intake and binge-watching a series of Netflix before bed all are crutches which don’t really allow us sufficient recovery overnight.
Instead, an evening stretching routine, some reading or listening to an audiobook, podcast or music are great ways to unwind in the evening and set up for a successful sleep. A reduction in the booze and caffeine is a smart move: start a gradual reduction and you won’t often look back.
3. Mindfulness Practice
These words are used widely. Sadly often discounted by colleagues as a soft, nebulous realm. Give just a few small things a go. You will be amazed.
Specifically, start with a gratitude practice. You can turn those negative thoughts constantly barraging you away for at least some time. When you awake: state three things or people you are grateful for. Before you switch out for the night, name three things you enjoyed about your day. Make this a daily habit.
Consider a morning meditation regime. Before breakfast or flying out the door, sit quietly. Start with just five minutes. You can use various apps out there such as Insight Timer or Headspace. We can recommend Deepak Chopra’s which provide mindfulness practice and meditation.
It’s amazing how just a short time sitting can alter your daily outlook. Ultimately you can take this practice to the workplace. Employ meditative breathing techniques when you feel the anxiety or stress monitor rising. A few long considered breaths can ward off high-stress escalation of those crazy thoughts.
4. Eat Well
We are what we eat. Health professionals are as susceptible to the habit of “therapeutic eating” as the general population. Stress, anxiety, fear, lethargy can instigate higher caloric intake in the search for comfort food.
Many “eat on the run”, choosing prepared or quick meals that are often laden with sugar and artificial poisons that do nothing to make us better or healthier in the long run.
They to prepare your own snacks and food for work. Choose healthy, natural options that are easy to eat in short breaks. A big salad, some nuts.
Take time over meals at home, sit down, share the time with family or friends when possible. There are many companies now that provide fresh ingredients and recipes for the preparation of healthy options at home.
As mentioned above, cut down on the alcohol and caffeine. Consider stopping it altogether. Get rid of the refined sugars. Focus on fresh vegetables as the largest proportion of your diet rather than grains. You will feel a world of difference.
5. Get Outside
Readers of this post probably don’t need reminding but nature is medicine in itself. What we may need reminding of is to connect when we can with nature, even if time doesn’t allow for a major mission. take a walk in a park or forest, along the beach. We know the immensely beneficial factors of nature as mentioned in this previous post and in this one.
Hopefully, these words remind us of how to care for ourselves a bit more in a stressful world. If you are feeling overwhelmed, reach out to a colleague or friend. Seek professional assistance early. Take care.