In my experience, the main drivers of stress in the workplace for optometrists range from testing time pressures, litigation risks and difficult patients, to feeling isolated and lonely.
As clinicians, we are prone to being high-achieving perfectionists. We are also empathetic and generally want to help others, including our employers as well as our patients. The problems arise when we strive to please everyone whilst dealing with the daily stresses.
What we should always keep in mind is that if we are constantly stressed at work, how well can we serve our patients and how does it affect the business and profitability?
You’ve had a bad day
Everyone will be able to recall a really long day in practice where every possible emergency appointment is squeezed into an already busy clinic. You are running behind and have referral letters to write and just as you think that it can’t get any worse, there’s a problem with the computer in your room. You end up staying late to finish the referral letters. Those are the days when you really wish that you hadn’t said yes to every request put to you.
In these situations, you must realise that while you can’t control what your clinic is going to look like on a day-to-day basis, you can control the way that you choose to think, feel and act in response to any situation – that is your parameter of control. And when you next find yourself in this type of situation, I would encourage you to think about yourself first before saying yes.
“Getting outside, going for a walk and getting some fresh air enables you to unclog your brain and reset”
Training in personal development and coaching 11 years ago provided me with the mechanisms and strategies that are required to deal with stress in the workplace more effectively. I help clients identify triggers which cause stress and I offer support and coaching to reframe their mindset through neurolinguistic programming (NLP). I encourage clients to invest in themselves so that they can operate in their optimal zone and therefore be more productive. A simple solution is to set boundaries to operate within. For example, I will only see patient X once I have completed the referral letter for patient Y.
This training taught me that I have to take care of myself before I can take care of anyone else in a calmer and more organised manner. I regularly check-in with myself to ensure that I have had enough sleep, exercise and that I always take a lunch break. I know that this can sometimes be tricky when you are running late, but getting outside, going for a walk and getting some fresh air enables you to unclog your brain and reset.
You must put yourself first, even if it means speaking to your manager/director on those days when things are not going to plan. If you don’t talk about it, problems can quickly escalate, negative thoughts can spiral out of control and your stress levels can peak. Try speaking to them as close to the event as possible to avoid it ruminating. Your employer may genuinely not be aware of your workload – they are not mind readers.
I find it useful to have a daily debrief with my manager to discuss what’s happened that day, to share any positive and negative experiences, and to discuss how things can be improved in the future. I always prepare the points I want to raise ahead of the meeting to ensure I cover everything.
“Resetting your mind in this way is a coping mechanism that you can use throughout the day and can prevent you entering panic mode when your brain fails to operate properly”
Having a morning routine can help you start the day with a clear mind. Giving yourself at least five minutes quiet time so that you can gather your thoughts for the day ahead. Using a journal to write down your thoughts and tasks can also help to give you the headspace.
Resetting your mind in this way is a great strategy to use throughout the day; it can prevent you entering panic mode when things start to get on top of you.
For more information on life and business coaching, visit Mindset by Pinky.
- As told to Emily McCormick.