For physical therapists, occupational therapists and speech-language pathologists, helping others is a way of life. Day in and day out, these professionals provide compassionate, quality care with dozens of patients on a one-on-one basis. But caring for others can make them vulnerable to depletion, stress and fatigue. So how do these helpers help themselves?
Learning to manage the pressure is key because if they don’t keep themselves strong and in balance, they are not able to be there others. In fact, if therapists are stressed and don’t have a good outlet for that stress, they can potentially put their patients at risk. This is because people are more error-prone when they’re stressed, burned out, fatigued or ill.
Here are ten sure-fire ways to cope effectively with stress:
1. Exercise. This earns a top spot on the list because it’s such a powerful tool for reducing stress and increasing a sense of well-being. Study after study points out this fact. And you don’t have to run a marathon to reap the benefits—moderate, regular exercise is sufficient, from walking and yoga to gardening and swimming.
2. Keep a gratitude journal. Counting life’s blessings is an ancient practice. Almost 2,000 years ago, Roman poet Ovid said, “Thanks are justly due for boons unbought.” So buy yourself a small journal at your local bookstore, put it in your purse or bag and start keeping track of the wonderful things in your life. Do it every day and don’t repeat yourself. You’ll discover all manner of big and small things that make your heart grateful. Plus, this journal is a comfort when you’re feeling down—it’s a reminder that even in tough times, you are luckier than you think.
3. Identify stressors. The same things don’t stress everybody out. So know your stressors, acknowledge those triggers and develop a plan to deal with them. Some events are out of your control and require acceptance. Others respond to action.
4. Rest your body. Physical therapists, occupational therapists and speech-language pathologists can work long shifts, days in a row. During those periods, it’s particularly important to plan sleep and relaxation periods. Use days off to recharge, too.
5. Rest your mind. If you think your body is busy day-to-day, take a moment to examine your mind. It’s probably even busier, always thinking and analyzing and planning. Give your mind a break from the noise—consider meditation. It has been shown to reduce stress and negative emotions and increase a person’s sense of calm and peace. There are dozens of excellent books, DVDs and websites devoted to the practice, which can be as simple as sitting quietly for five minutes and concentrating on the sensations of breathing.
6. Support each other. You’re not the only one feeling stress. Other physical therapists, occupational therapists and speech-language pathologists are in the same boat. Identify at least one person at your job who can be your work buddy—open up a little and share with that person, offering your support, too. The mutual friendship and camaraderie will buoy your spirits.
7. Give back. Finding a volunteer cause is part of a balanced life, a way to find meaning outside of work. Even on a short-term travel assignment, you can become a part of your community by volunteering a free afternoon at a local library or soup kitchen. It will help you get to know locals, too, an added benefit.
8. Adopt healthy eating habits. If the old saying is true, you are what you eat, then make yourself a lean, mean nutrition machine. You’ll feel better eating a balanced, healthy diet and doing so can help with weight management and disease prevention.
9. Utilize personnel resources. Maintain a proactive posture to facilitate a positive experience by communicating with your company’s recruiter, accounts manager, human resources coordinator or regional director of human resources. These professionals are well versed within the travel staffing arena and are prepared to lend a helping hand through conversation, Q & A or problem resolution.
10. Take time for joy. Even if you have to schedule it in your calendar, make time for the things that bring you joy. Take that trip to your city’s local arboretum. Attend a live gospel show. Explore the old town center and browse quaint shops. If it brings a smile to your face and comfort to your heart, it’s worth the effort to make it happen.
Your personal path to a stress rescue is not a one-shot deal; it’s an ongoing personal journey. This journey is about finding things to balance your active work life, having fun, finding joy in your life, and managing a fast-paced, busy life.