This time of the year is commonly referred to as the ‘most wonderful time’ of the year. But it can be far from that for many healthcare professionals, especially in a pandemic year. The holiday season is usually an excellent opportunity to have some downtime, spend it with family and friends, and just recharge. However, the healthcare industry is excused from such downtime because holiday months are often the busiest of the year.
Given the past two years of the pandemic, healthcare workers are already taxed and overworked. With the holiday time coming up, the distress will feel compounded, bringing with it a surge of stress which will be further elevated between finances, trying to look for gifts for loved ones, and managing celebrations with different sides of families and various friends all the while dealing with the most challenging work environment ever. This year is gearing up to be even worse than last year with regard to demands on healthcare workers.
Here are common holiday stressors healthcare professionals can go through and our top eight recommendations on how best to manage them.
The Feeling of Loneliness and Sadness
In a typical year, it is difficult to be alone during the holidays, especially if friends and family are together while you’re working day in and day out to serve your community. Whensomeone has experienced the death of a loved one, and the prevalence of that is even higher during the pandemic, the holiday season can retrigger the trauma and bring up strong feelings.
There are many healthcare professionals who feel that their family, friends, and the general public have shunned them because they fear that they may have contracted COVID-19 through their work. Or they have strong feelings of anger at all of the people who have refused to be vaccinated, which is driving even greater stress in the healthcare system. All of these reasons can elevate the feeling of disconnection and loneliness.
It is essential to recognize that such feelings are normal and it is okay to express how you feel. Keeping it all inside can be harmful to your mental health. Spending some time in the sun or fresh air, moving your body, and engaging with your coworkers and the community can help make you feel better. You can also schedule Zoom calls with family and friends to participate in holiday celebrations.
Feelings of Anger, Defeat, and Exhaustion
Seeing so many people travel, or celebrate in large groups can feel discouraging especially when healthcare workers are trying so hard to keep COVID-19 under control. Anger and defeat are other understandable emotions to feel in this situation when people don’t want to get vaccinated, wear masks or keep a social distance – which will exacerbate the COVID-19 situation and make healthcare workers bear the brunt of it.
Having to deal with the pandemic crisis head-on without a break has been exhausting for healthcare workers. Working under pressure, witnessing so much sickness and death has emotionally drained healthcare professionals. Such emotional exhaustion combined with the physical exhaustion of working long hours and busy shifts can lead to disrupted nights of sleep and loss of energy even during the holidays.
It is important to focus on self-care and get rest as much as you can during the holiday season by planning your shift schedules ahead of time. Talking to mental health professionals can help you cope with stress and feel better as well and help you find strategies that work for you.
Feeling Overwhelmed By Social Pressures
As a healthcare professional, feeling overwhelmed with so much to do non-stop can be daunting. The feeling can become intense if you feel you’re not getting enough support or you feel that your to-do list continues to grow. On top of this, maybe you are expected to pay a visit to friends and family. Social pressure can cause anxiety.
This can be managed by sorting out your calendar ahead of time and communicating expectations clearly to avoid conflicts in social engagements and your work. Many times, family and friends just need to understand what is manageable for you in order to support you in your time management. Taking the time to ask about others’ expectations and to clarify your own expectations can head off social conflicts among friends and family. Dealing with emotional overload is difficult but communicating with those you interact with can help to process it productively.Different healthcare workers will experience different holiday stressors, so it’s important to know that your co-workers may also be feeling different stressors. Try some of these 8 simple strategies to help your co-workers and yourself keep from spiraling into worse stress.
1. Staying Honest and Realistic
Everyone can feel pressured to feel extra happy or cheerful during the holiday season but it is important to keep a realistic approach and manage expectations. Winter blues and depression tend to increase during the holiday season. Being honest with yourself and identifying red flags can help you take care of yourself especially as a caregiver.
2. Looking at the Bigger Picture
It can help to keep in mind that the holiday season with all its stress, is really a matter of weeks. When you’re feeling overwhelmed by its hustle and bustle, take a deep breath and remember that it will pass. The days start to get longer, the next season beckons and new opportunities appear.
3. Planning and Organizing Ahead of Time
Planning ahead can come in very handy during the holiday season. With so much to do at work, you may not find time to call family members and friends, purchase gifts, and engage in other activities all at once. Planning ahead and organizing a calendar can help you create an outline of the obligations you have and keep the ones you truly want to participate in.
4. Spending With Care
Giving gifts in the holiday spirit can be very enticing. Many healthcare professionals who want to give expensive gifts to family and friends could sign up for multiple overtime or shifts only to become fatigued and overburdened at the last moment. It is important to remember that your health, well-being, and that the gift of your time and presence will be cherished more by your friends and family.
5. Prioritizing Your Health
The holiday season comes with many stressors, and combined with the annual peak of cold and flu, not to mention surging Covid, caregivers must take extra measures to keep themselves physically and mentally healthy. Staying active, hydrated, and satiated with healthy food and rest can help you stay focused.
6. Taking Quiet Time
Make sure you make time for yourself to simply be at ease for at least 10 minutes every day. Surprisingly, simply resting and focusing on your breathing can improve your perspective and overall well being. Try listening to calming music or using a meditation app. Practice breathing slowly using the 4-7-8 method or other calming breathing practice.
Finding time to talk to co-workers and coordinating your schedules is essential to manage holiday stressors. Leaders can promote employee engagement to help caregivers have a greater sense of belonging which will benefit the entire organization. Sharing the load both in words and action can bring a team together.
8. Having the Right Communication Tools
Real-time, HIPAA-compliant messaging platforms such as Hucu.ai can help healthcare workers and leaders manage holiday stress. Healthcare workers can stay connected and plan schedules remotely to stay organized ahead of time. If anyone gets sick or another unpredictable engagement presents itself, finding a shift replacement by connecting with co-workers in real-time via Hucu.ai is super easy.
Healthcare workers can also find additional support from their co-workers and seniors through the application for patients who require extra care. Hucu.ai facilitates a team’s quick decision making which takes away the stress of resolving ‘what’, ‘how’, ‘when’ alone.
Leaders can stay connected with the entire team over holidays, plan Zoom calls via Hucu.ai, and exchange holiday greetings to cheer everyone up. Appreciating hard-working team members can boost their morale and lead them to have a sense of purpose and belonging.
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