On National Stress Awareness Day, Nurseplus take a look at how being more resilient could lower our workplace stress, increase our energy levels and build stronger relationships with colleagues and clients.
If you look up resilience in the dictionary, you’ll find words such as, ‘durability,’ ‘flexibility’ and ’bounce back.’ It describes our ability to recover from adversity and hardships, coming out the other side feeling stronger and more capable than before. Having the ability to deal with the stress and strains of the modern workplace is a defining characteristic of employees.
In today’s workplace, we are hyper-connected. We are responsive to work anytime anywhere and we're always switched on. We have highly demanding work cultures where stress and the risk of burnout are prevalent. For a busy healthcare assistant, nurse or support worker, it's not always easy to prioritise self-care. Care workers are often exposed to traumatic situations that can lead to secondary trauma or compassion fatigue - the emotional side-effects that carers experience from hearing or dealing with clients’ distressing stories.
So how can we develop our resilience and stay motivated in the face of chronic stress, increasing demands on the care sector and the risk of secondary trauma?
Some of us are born with more resilience than others and some of us have to teach ourselves to be resilient. Those of us with a good level of resilience tend to have more energy, increased mental agility and consistently perform to our best; forging strong relationships and support networks.
Mindfulness: Being mindful can help us to be in the moment, take stock of our emotions and make informed decisions. This type of mental training improves our insight-related problem solving, cognitive flexibility and facilitates improved job performance. In care work, mindfulness gives us the chance to take time for ourselves which helps us better care for others.
Compartmentalising cognitive workloads: Imagine our brains as inboxes. We can’t control what drops into our inbox but we can compartmentalise tasks and file them accordingly to deal with later when we can dedicate more time and attention to them. This enables us to optimise the way we process information. Try to allocate time for the different types of work activities - such as completing paperwork or timesheets - similar to the way we would set aside time in our day for physical exercise.
Detachment breaks: We should pay attention to the peaks and troughs in our energy and productivity levels throughout the day. Typically, mental focus, clarity and energy cycles last about 90-120 minutes. We need to step away for a couple of minutes to reset and be more productive and focused. If you’re travelling between clients, use this time to take stock of your emotions so you can be fully present for your next client.
Developing mental agility: It’s possible to switch the neuro-networks which process experiences and information to respond rather than react to difficult situations or people. It hinges on our ability to decenter ourselves (a technique that comes with being more mindful) and manage our emotions from a neutral position. Similar to asking a child to ‘use their words,’ taking a second to label our emotions switches our brains from a narrative to an observational which enables us to make better decisions and react appropriately to the daily crises we often see in care work.
Cultivate compassion: Compassion is a key trait we see in healthcare workers and care assistants. Having high levels of compassion for others produces positive emotions and creates stronger relationships, increasing co-operation and collaboration. Nurses, support workers and carers with strong connections at work are more resistant to stress and generally happier in their role.