The Friday Five – Ways to Stop Stressing Over Working the Holiday Shift
Yes, you can feel grateful (okay…at least not quite as irritated) about working over Hanukkah or Christmas. This week’s Friday Five is brought to you by Drs. Wayne Sotile and Gary Simonds, co-authors of the new book Thriving in Healthcare: A Positive Approach to Reclaim Balance and Avoid Burnout in Your Busy Life. The doctors offer some practical, evidence-based tips for building up your resilience and changing how you experience your job in healthcare, especially during a holiday shift.
Think of Yourself as a Holiday Hero
Remind yourself often of the meaning of your work. Drs. Sotile and Simonds hammer home that meaning is an antidote to burnout and despair. It can also help you feel better (a lot better) about having to sacrifice your holidays. Whether you’re a physician, a nurse, or any other worker at any level, you’re part of an honorable enterprise. And you get to be part of it in the most miraculous era—where we actually cure many diseases, deliver babies safely, put back together horribly injured beings, and so much more.
“What nobler, more meaningful work could you be doing right now?” says Dr. Sotile. “You’re protecting vulnerable people. When you ponder the incredible contribution you get to make—and that it’s far better to work during Hanukkah or Christmas than to be hospitalized during this time—it can shift your mindset to one of gratitude. It’s a psychological trick, but it works.”
Savor the Good that’s Happening Around You
Seek out, collect, and reflect on what Drs. Simonds and Sotile call “daily uplifts”—those happy, reaffirming, exhilarating, peace-restoring events of the day. It may be the way an elderly patient’s eyes light up when her grandchild stops by with a festively wrapped gift, or the heartfelt thank you from a family member when you bring in an armload of warm blankets for her loved one. Such things are going on around you all the time. Notice those moments. Acknowledge them. Bring them to your conscious self.
“This is not just a feel-good ploy,” says Dr. Simonds. “Multiple studies support the concept that ‘collecting’ uplifts can significantly boost well-being and counter psychological distress.”
Give Yourself the Gift of Self-Compassion and Self-Care
This is the first of two critical factors in building and sustaining resilience. You will need to normalize the concept of self-compassion and self-care, because many people in healthcare wear their self-neglect as a badge of honor. Notice what makes you feel good or bad; what angers and excites you; and what brings you joy, peace, wonder, or meaning. Give yourself permission to do these things.
This may mean finding space in your day for a “humanity break.” Relax with a cup of spiced apple cider and a gingerbread cookie. Do a 15-minute meditation. Bundle up and leave the building at lunch for a 20-minute stroll. Breathe in the brisk air and feel the sun on your face. These are small things that we too often deny ourselves, but they can shift the mood in profound ways.
Nourish and Cherish Your Relationships
This is the second critical factor for healthcare workers. We are social creatures, but the intense work of healthcare can be isolating, and our fatigue after work hours isolates us further. Because we are tired and drained, we may stop going out and developing new friendships. It’s critical to stop this cycle and fully commit to nourishing our relationships—with coworkers as well as loved ones.
The holidays give us the perfect excuse to give small tokens of love and friendship and write heartfelt notes. Take full advantage of this. Don’t let gifts or holiday cards be surface or obligatory. Really think about how to express your gratitude and love for the people in your life, whether they’re your family, your friends, or your coworkers.
Look for Ways to Extend Selfless Acts of Kindness
This isn’t easy when you must operate in the 24/7 war zone that is modern healthcare. Patients and families are distressed and demanding. Coworkers (up to 50 percent of them!) are feeling burned out. In the midst of such suffering and turmoil it’s easy to become jaded and callous. Being kind can be especially tough during the holidays when grinches abound and seasonal depression ramps up. Be kind anyway.
“Your job sets you up to do good every day,” says Dr. Sotile. “You just have to look for opportunities and consciously engage with patients and colleagues. Don’t ‘mail it in.’ Don’t offer cookie-cutter platitudes. Don’t fake concern and then try to get away as quickly as possible. Dig deep, tap into your empathy, sit for a moment and chat, ask how you can help. The great news is that doing good for others is an incredible resilience-builder. It soothes your battle scars.”
If this approach sounds unrealistic, that’s just years of cynical conditioning talking, say Drs. Sotile and Simonds. Allow yourself to imagine something different. You might find that you not only shift your own mood but the moods of those around you as well.
“Positivity is contagious,” says Dr. Simonds. “You’re showing people a better way, not just to experience the holidays, but to experience their work all year long.”
About the Book:
Thriving in Healthcare: A Positive Approach to Reclaim Balance and Avoid Burnout in Your Busy Life (Huron|Studer Group Publishing, 2019, ISBN: 978-1-62218-108-7, $32.00) is available from major online booksellers and the Huron|Studer Group.