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Stress management tips

Recognise your stress drivers, and take steps to improve your wellbeing

It’s often reported that health professionals are more prone to stress due to their unfailing need to help others to the best of their abilities, often within strained or pressurised environments.

Where optometrists are concerned, half of the AOP members who responded to our wellbeing survey reported that they frequently work to tight deadlines, with 63% saying they 'do not have enough time to balance work and family responsibilities'.

As well as written advice below you can watch our popular webinar on stress management.

What makes health professionals more prone to stress?

Many health professionals share four common characteristics which make them more susceptible to experiencing stress, which may be summarised as:

  • Competitiveness – health professionals tend to be high achievers with a need for control

  • Personality – they are often perfectionists and put a lot of pressure on themselves

  • Emotional sensitivity – health professionals often empathise or identify closely with patients

  • Invested identity – they may also like to maintain their status and identity, even if circumstances change around them

These factors can lead to a set of subsequent stress drivers, specifically, the need to:

  1. Be perfect – ‘I can’t move on that until something is perfect’

  2. Work quickly – ‘I’ll squeeze that in too’

  3. Please others – ‘I said ‘yes’ to everyone when I shouldn’t have’

  4. Be strong – ‘I have to cope on my own; I am independent and asking for help is weak’

  5. Try hard – ‘I’ll never stop making an effort’

How to manage your stress drivers

If you identify with any of these drivers, be aware that there are ways to combat each of these to help manage your stress levels.

Try to consider them in a new light. Challenge the thought patterns which are your stress drivers, for example:

  1. Be perfect – ‘I can’t… until…’
    Identify what you can’t change and accept that reality before you start the task. Manage your expectations and create a more realistic response

  2. Work quickly – ‘I’ll squeeze that in too’
    Identify your ‘last responsible minute’ threshold - the last time you can do something well before quality is lost

  3. Please others – ‘I wish I hadn’t said ‘yes’’
    Deal with overload by clarifying or compromising your terms ‘I would do that but/if/when…’. Create parameters

  4. Be strong – ‘I have to cope on my own’
    Share your strengths by looking for opportunities to collaborate with others to share the burden of tasks

  5. Try hard – ‘I will make a real effort to…’
    Think about your energy management – are you putting in the right amount of effort to the right tasks? What do you need to prioritise your energy for?

The 'five ways to wellbeing'

In 2008, the New Economics Foundation (NEF) was commissioned by the UK government to undertake the Mental Capital and Wellbeing Project, to consider how to improve mental development and wellbeing for everyone in the future. 

The project recommended five evidence-based actions, which contribute to improved personal wellbeing. You may wish to incorporate some of these into your day-to-day life.

  1. Connect
    Talk and listen, be there, feel connected to others

  2. Be active
    Do what you can, enjoy what you do, move your mood

  3. Take notice
    Remember the simple things that give you joy

  4. Keep learning
    Embrace new experiences, see opportunities, surprise yourself

  5. Give
    Your time, your words, your presence

Webinar on stress management

You may also be interested in our popular webinar on stress management which which covers the above recommendations in more detail, as well as exploring how we can better manage our reactions to stress, improve working relationships, manage time and increase overall wellbeing.