Holiday Stress Busters

By Sherri Issa

Although anyone in any profession can experience increased stress during the holidays, healthcare professionals are especially vulnerable. They tend to be obsessed by a need to contribute to life through their career dedication.

They have to deal not only with a variety of clients and their loved ones, but also with other stressed-out colleagues. Many of these overburdened and often under-appreciated professionals give 110 percent to their careers. Consequently, they lose their creative edge, grow cynical more quickly, burn out faster, and spend just as many holiday working hours pouting than producing. The following strategies may help alleviate some of the tightening up that Care Professionals experience during the holiday season.

If you are anything like I am you will probably try all of these approaches at once in order to have them perfected by the holidays. I advise against such obsession. Such a fanatical approach to lightening up more often leads to tightening up.

Think of the world as a wonderful playground - a giant park full of characters, fantasies, dreams, and love. Learn to play on that playground, to play so hard you lose all sense of time. Many Care Professionals do not really know what it means to play. They willingly agree often making statements such as, “I play hard and work hard!” However, they do not understand that play is not supposed to be hard, that is why it is called play. Playing means having fun. Each person has to define what play means for themselves. But, if you have to work at it, you need to evaluate how you look at play. Play means spending time inside your body, breathing oxygen, and laughing aloud. Adults who know how to play enjoy “belly laughs.” They know adult play can be as exciting as playing good Hide-and-Go-Seek when you were a kid. Trust me, there is nothing like a good belly laugh to get the endorphins working.

Sure it sounds scary to do nothing, especially during the holiday season. Many of you have “tried” to meditate or “do nothing” but became over-involved in the trying part. The little voices in your head bombard you with daily stress, and focus your attention on holiday demands. It is not easy to learn to do nothing or to meditate and often it feels so selfish. However, persistence pays off. Start with sixty seconds a day to be truly alone, Take one full minute to deeply communicate with yourself. After a while, this “centering” time can be expanded to three or four minutes to connect with your spirit. We all have a safe place inside ourselves, where our spirit is at rest. Learning to just sit with our feelings can have a profound and comforting effect on our lives.

There is nothing wrong with career dedication or working through the holidays. What does bother me is losing perspective by placing too much emphasis on work. It is too easy to find yourself out of balance that way. Don’t subscribe to myths such as fun and silliness preclude seriousness, and that somehow, humor is unprofessional. There is a great deal of wisdom in the expression “dead serious.”  So take a little time to be silly, you may find you enjoy it and live a bit better.   

Stretching out to others goes beyond just reaching out. It means delegating and cooperating. It means asking loved ones to reach out, to include you.  It means asking colleagues and bosses for conversations, laughter, and direction. Stretch yourself to make more room for love. Practice stretching yourself by listening, negotiating, and sharing yourself. It will make you flexible and squash your stress. Watch yourself stretch to new heights! In the ever-changing field of healthcare, failure to practice stress reduction in the workplace undermines productivity, creativity, adaptability. It literally leads to career suicide (often referred to as burnout.)

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