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With increasing patient demand, lack of funding, constant change/mergers and systems requiring modernisation, it’s no wonder that staff feel overworked, exhausted and demotivated leading the NHS to suffer a high level of absenteeism due to stressed-out staff members.

Some trusts are running workshops that encourage staff to adopt a more integrated approach to their health – appreciating that both physical and psychological factors are important to consider and recognising that support is needed to cope with the challenging nature of the healthcare profession.

Through my own medical connections, I understand that medics in particular are the worst for taking up these free courses – largely being Type A personalities, they are generally driven to be able to cope with highly stressful situations and constant change because that’s the role they signed up for or they are in denial of needing any support. For example, if a doctor has critical exams coming up and needs to revise after a long, hard day with patients, resilience training is more likely to get pushed to the bottom of the pile in order of priority but yet, this can be very short-sighted in terms of long-term coping strategies.

The subject of resilience is increasingly being talked about within the NHS and in itself a very broad area so this blog and the following one will be focusing on how to manage change which is currently the only constant within a complex, healthcare system.

1. Realize that change is inherent to life. Everything changes. Fact. You may not be seeking change, but when it seeks you, take consolation in the knowledge that no one’s life ever stands completely still – everyone encounters loss and change in different ways. People enter your world and leave it, material possessions come and go, and careers invariably involve turning points. So when you are faced with a major change at work, do not fight it – accept it and find a way to live with the change. People who adopt this attitude will generally cope better in getting through life changes. Viewing changes as negative or as experiences that must be avoided makes the process of dealing with change much more difficult.

2. Take one step at a time. It’s understandable to feel as if your life has become unmanageable. To regain a sense of power, find one small thing you can control right now. Then break it down into small, specific, concrete steps. Write them down and post them where you can see them on a daily basis, ie. your screen monitor. Cross off each step as you accomplish it. Don’t be in a rush. When your life is disrupted, it takes time to adjust to the new reality. Expect to feel uncomfortable during a transition as you let go of old ways of doing things. Try to avoid rushing into hasty career decisions, before you have had a chance to reflect and think about what is really best for you. A time of transition is confusing and disorienting and it is normal to feel insecure and anxious. These feelings are part of the process, and they will pass.

3. Talk about your feelings. Rather than trying to block out how you really feel because you need to be seen as ‘strong’, allow yourself to talk through your worries or concerns. Learn to identify and express your feelings. While it’s normal to try to push away feelings of fear and anxiety, you will move through them more quickly and ultimately find you can cope more effectively if you acknowledge them. Make them real by writing them down and talking about them with trusted friends and family members. These feelings will have less power over you if you face them and express them.

4. Look after yourself. It is vitally important that you look after your physical wellbeing through a time of change or loss even though it may feel difficult to do so. If you normally have an exercise routine, aim to stick to it as much as possible as routine habits can be very stabilising during a difficult time in your life besides the natural endorphins that exercise releases. Often, people lose their appetite or overeat during a period of stress but try to eat nutritious food that gives you the nutrients you need to keep you feeling well. Whilst alcohol can feel like a means of escaping, do be aware of the negative impact that it can have on your mind and body over the long-term and how it can prevent you from thinking clearly and making the right decisions. Ensure that you go to bed at a reasonable time as our sleep patterns are often interrupted when we are stressed or upset – there are some good, natural choices of sleeping tablets available that might help, run a warm bath before bed and attempt not to look at any computers/phones/TV until late at night as this is known to stimulate our brain too much before we sleep – often reading or playing music is a more effective way to relax and reduce our brain activity. If possible, try and power nap during the day to catch up on any nighttime sleep that you may be missing.

5. Turn to your support network. Ensuring you gain social support is one of the most significant ways to successfully manage change. Make sure you surround yourself with people who are supportive to you – it is not always those who we think will be the most supportive who are best at doing so and equally, unexpected help can arise from others and come as a pleasant surprise. If you feel you need extra support, ask your employer for assistance which is often well-provided for within the NHS or seek help from your own doctor to see whether you can be referred for counseling.

I hope you have found these tips helpful … I’ve got another five tips for you next time!