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Wellness is fundamental to everything we want to be able to do. If we’re going to take care of others, we have to be able to function well ourselves. There’s a saying, “you can’t pour from an empty cup,” and it’s true. We won’t have much left to give others if we aren’t well. However, sometimes time constraints and life demands can make it hard to prioritize our wellbeing.
At times, it seems to be much easier to prioritize the needs of families, friends, colleagues, and patients. When you’re passionate about something, you give it your all and may not even realize that you’re sacrificing your own needs at the same time.
But if we want to thrive in life, we need to go beyond just surviving stress and burnout. Instead, being well involves finding fulfillment and satisfaction in our home, career, and relationships. And the good news is that prioritizing your wellness doesn’t have to involve a checklist with more things to add to your plate. Rather, it involves subtle shifts in the way you might think and address the things preventing you from feeling well.
Tips for prioritizing your wellbeing.
1. Try to solve the right problem.
Sometimes, we think we'll finally achieve wellness if we could “just get organized” or some other fill-in-the-blank that translates to just working harder. But “working harder” to prioritize your wellness doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll suddenly feel well. On the contrary, this kind of thinking usually makes the problem worse because you’re just adding additional opportunities to fall short.
Instead of asking, “what should I do differently,” consider asking yourself, “what do I need right now” to identify the actual problem. Is it that you don’t have enough time to get to the gym? Are you getting enough sleep? What might be the one thing you could add or let go of in your life that would completely change your ability to prioritize yourself? Once you can figure that out, you can determine what next steps will help you address the problem.
Working harder to achieve #Wellness often has the opposite effect. On the #MedStarHealth blog, psychologist Dr. Heather Hartman-Hall shares 5 steps you can take to reframe the way you think about wellness: https://bit.ly/3Fgrg6G.Click to Tweet
2. Consider getting support.
Would it be beneficial to ask family, friends, coworkers, supervisors, or a mental health professional for help? Almost any problem is easier to solve when you’ve talked it over with someone else. Never worry alone. The practice of saying your problem aloud can be freeing in itself. When you can talk through your challenge out loud, you can process it and let it go. And those around us may have suggestions that we haven’t thought of. And in some cases, we do need professional advice or treatment to address underlying causes of distress.
3. Let go of guilt.
It’s okay to say “no” to something or someone without feeling guilty that you’ll let someone down. Guilt is our brain’s way of trying to control something that is actually out of our control. And it’s not helpful—it keeps us trapped in a cycle of sacrificing our wellness. What we can control is whether or not we acknowledge our needs and meet them. You are human, which means you have limitations and needs. Self-care is necessary, not selfish.
4. Focus on what you can control.
We often make ourselves more stressed trying to solve things outside of our control. Rather than putting your energy into the things you can’t control, find ways to focus on the parts of your daily life that you can effect change. For example, you may not have control over your work demands, but you have control over what you agree to take on or whether you speak up when feeling overloaded. Likewise, you don’t have control over what people think of you but you control how you respond to others.
5. Start small.
It’s hard to make significant changes suddenly, but small changes over time can add up to noticeable results. Start with a small step that will lead to incremental change over time. Sometimes we try to overhaul something big and become too overwhelmed to begin. For example, rather than thinking, “I need to get better sleep,” consider taking a 15-minute nap in your car during your lunch break. Another example may be adding a quick walk around your neighborhood before heading into your home after work, rather than committing to two hours in the gym five days a week overnight. Once you’ve achieved little successes, you can continue to build off of them.
MedStar Health Center for Wellbeing.
At MedStar Health, we believe it’s important to share the responsibility of wellness. It’s not just your responsibility to take care of yourself, it’s ours, too. That’s why we’re working hard to address some of the root causes of the stress and trauma associated with working in healthcare. As a system, we are exploring ways to reduce drivers of burnout and stress, many of which were propelled by the pandemic.
We continue enhancing our culture of wellbeing, offering valuable resources to help associates prioritize their health, professional fulfillment, and quality of life. Through our dedicated Center for Wellbeing, associates have easy access to a variety of wellness initiatives designed to help them thrive personally and professionally. By embedding opportunities for wellness into the workday, our goal is to help make it easier for providers and associates to prioritize their wellness as part of their everyday work.
Through local wellness committees, resilience coaches, and other points of contact, there are many individuals who are available to help associates identify wellness opportunities relevant to them. We also offer a variety of external resources to support associates, from subsidized emergency childcare and adult care to expedited mental health appointments.
We hope that through the Center for Wellbeing, all of our providers and associates feel supported, fulfilled, and cared for, which will allow them to continue effectively caring for others.