Embracing a new, holistic wellness concept for healthcare workers

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By Kim Slade

We work, we care for and support our family, and we care for ourselves. We commit to juggling these roles in life, but doing so often puts us in overwhelming situations and constantly managing conflicting priorities. This pattern of physical and mental strain can take a toll on our well-being, our ability to care for others, and sometimes, our health and safety at work. We have the power to control this. Public Services Health and Safety Association (PSHSA) recently launched www.healthy-worker.ca, a free website that provides curated resources and support on finding balance and what actions you can take to help you stay healthy and safe at work, in your family life and personal life.

The site utilizes relevant Canadian data such as the 2016 General Social Survey, which found that while 78 per cent of Canadians generally feel positive about their ability to balance work, life, family, and leisure activities, one in five of experience difficulties doing so. In fact, although most participants in the PSHSA survey felt responsible for self-care, less than 50 per cent of participants were satisfied with the current state of their health and well-being, and identified stress and fatigue, retirement planning, weight loss, and overall health as top concerns. Additionally, 60 per cent of survey participants said they looked for information online in addi­tion to speaking to a health professional to take action in addressing specific health and well­ness concerns.

Health care workers in particular face a wide range of health and wellness stressors. They are at a high risk of developing burnout due to on the job demands, shift work and other risk factors. The health care sector is a constant changing work environment which requires continual improvement processes. Information found on www.healthy-worker.ca can assist health care workers learn more about caring for their well-being, balancing multiple demands of work and personal life while combatting the cumulative negative reactions to occupational stressors that cause burn out. Burn out is associated with a multitude of health problems, such as hypertension and sleeplessness. So the idea behind the healthy worker online platform is to assist workers with recognizing signs and symptoms to enable workers to make decisions and lifestyle changes that will help them find strategies for improved work, life and family balance.

Burnout in Health Care

The World Health Organization describes the characteristics of burnout as “feelings of intense fatigue, loss of control and an inability to produce concrete results at work.”

The negative effects of burnout can spill over into every area of life, including home, work, and personal life. Because of its many consequences, it’s important to deal with burnout right away.

Signs of Burnout

The following list, which was put together by Forbes Coaches Council, identifies signs of burnout. If you are experiencing these, you should probably pay attention:

  • Avoiding tough conversations
  • Lacking concentration
  • Asking yourself “am I burning out”
  • Avoiding human interaction
  • Being inauthentic – you put a “mask” on because you can’t get behind the team agenda
  • Calling in sick, a lot
  • Being irritable
  • Feeling unable to engage with people or projects
  • Becoming disillusioned and cynical
  • Feeling bored

Things You Can Do Today to Help Prevent Burnout

According to Statistics Canada more than 3,400,000 Canadian workers feel burnt out. Burnout can’t happen seemingly overnight, so it is vital that we keep an eye on these signs. This is particularly important if you have spent a long period working to either go beyond expectations, or just working hard to get stuff done without having your heart in the work that you are doing.

Here are three things you can do today to help prevent burnout:

  1. Look at your to-do list and see if you can make it more realistic
  2. Phone a friend – talk about how you are feeling and get their feedback on what to do, or just appreciate the opportunity to talk
  3. Make a plan to reduce feelings of loss of control and intense task lists, break workload into manageable tasks and stick to your plan

Practicing Mindfulness Helps Cope with Feeling Burnt Out

Mindfulness involves the self-regulation of attention to bring about a quality of non-elaborative awareness to current experience – an increased recognition of mental events in the present moment. From there, it involves adopting a particular orientation toward one’s experiences in the present moment, an orientation that is characterized by curiosity, openness, and acceptance. This is often referred to in psychological terms as adopting a de-centred perspective on thoughts and feelings so that they can be experienced subjectively rather than reacted to negatively. The goal is to alter the impact of and response to thoughts, feelings, and sensations.

When one is mindful, the mind responds afresh to the unique pattern of experience in each moment instead of reacting mindlessly to fragments of total experience with old, relatively stereotyped, habitual patterns of mind.

Achieve Mindfulness through Meditation

Research has proven that practicing mindfulness through meditation improves both mental and physical health because it strengthens the part of the brain that helps you cope with stress and anxiety. It can help improve your eating habits and prepare you to face the unexpected without fear and anxiety.

  • Pay attention to details
  • Stay in the moment
  • Stay alert to stimuli without reacting emotionally
  • Be receptive to new information and ways of interpreting that information
  • Try not to over-plan everything. Most plans are too specific and prevent you from acting in the moment in response to new information
  • Pay particular attention to the body and your experience of it
  • Face your thoughts, sensations and external stimuli objectively and non-judgmentally
  • Be aware of unexpected or negative stimuli without practicing avoidance

As we learn to practice mindfulness and cultivate change in our psyches, the effects transfer externally in terms of our cognitive skills, emotional skills, psychophysiology and brain function. This means better stress management, behavior and social functioning.

Burnout can take a serious toll on your health, performance, career, mental well-being, and professional and personal relationships. Your health and happiness depend on you.  Explore the categories on www.healthy-worker.ca to learn tips on finding balance and what actions you can take to help you stay healthy and safe at work, in your family life and personal life.

 

Public Services Health & Safety Association (PSHSA) works with Ontario’s public and broader public sector workers and employers, providing occupational health and safety training, resources and consulting to reduce workplace risks and prevent workplace injuries and illnesses.

Kim Slade is the Director of Emerging Markets and Commercialization at Public Services Health & Safety Association. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English and Communications and also has an Adult Education Certificate from OISE University of Toronto. Kim is also part of the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) Technical Committees on Occupational Health and Safety Training as well as the Paramedic Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace Standard. She has been in the field of OHS training and education for the past 15 years.