Self-Care for stress busting and preventing burnout

Recruitment and retention are a long-term issue facing the health and social care sector worldwide.  Shortages continue to be ongoing and have seemingly worsened post Covid-19, with many experienced team members leaving the sector. 

The health and social care workforce have a higher prevalence of work-related stress, anxiety, and depression than most other sectors. Never has this been more concerning than post the Covid pandemic, where staff shortages and increased demand for services remains.  

Supporting well-being for both the people we care and support and those who provide the support, is a key principle in both the Butterfly and Dragonfly Approach®.  Our best practice models of care are grounded in emotional intelligence.  Recognising and supporting the emotional labour of team members is integral to recruitment, retention, and workforce development. 

Research indicates factors which influence staff well-being include:

  • Workload and leadership: good leadership Vs poor leadership and management
  • Support and working relationships: supportive and appreciative management and a well-functioning team vs low support from managers and a bullying culture
  • Training and development: lack of opportunities for development and inadequate training vs well planned and coordinated training and development opportunities.
  • Work-home interface: the ability to ‘be’ yourself both at work and at home vs work-life conflict.
  • Individual: health status, self-care

Over time, work-related stress and burnout can have serious consequences, with risks for

  • Health: Chronic mental and physical health problems, unhealthy behaviours (often as poor diet, ‘self-medication’), absenteeism (sick leave) and presenteeism (working while sick).
  • Performance: Impaired decision making leading to errors, reduced quality of care and satisfaction, risk of complaints and litigation, poor team working.
  • Financial costs. Work stress is believed to account for 30% of NHS absences, costing £300-£400m per year.

From an organisational perspective, what can be done to tackle work related stress?  Primary interventions prevent stress from occurring. They are the most effective, but the least common as organisations may (mistakenly) see them as costly and disruptive. These may include training line managers who play a vital role in managing stress and supporting staff as well as guidance on self-care and remaining healthy at work.

Secondary interventions help people cope more effectively. They are far more common than primary strategies but generally less effective, particularly at a group level.  Initiatives include psychoeducation, mindfulness training, reflective groups, and guidance on self-care.

Tertiary interventions support people back to work. They seek to rehabilitate staff and adapt working conditions to individual needs.

Health and social care workers must understand that we all have an important role in supporting healthy and safe working environments, looking after our own health and wellbeing and those of their colleagues.

Burning the candle at both ends, so-to-speak, comes with significant consequences, which may include but are not limited to burnout, depression, anxiety, resentment, and a whole host of other negative implications. Engaging in a self-care routine has been clinically proven to reduce or eliminate anxiety and depression, reduce stress, improve concentration, minimize frustration and anger, increase happiness, improve energy, and more. From a physical health perspective, self-care has been clinically proven to reduce heart disease, stroke, and cancer. Spiritually, it may help keep us in tune with our higher power as well as our meaning/purpose in life.

Self-care is an important activity to do every day. Doing so will lead toward a better work-life balance, improved overall health and wellness. Life is precious, and it is meant to be enjoyed.

OT (Australia)
MCM Managing Director
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