"STRESS IS BAD FOR HEALTH!" IMAGINE THE PERSON TELLING YOU THIS, IS STRESSED.
Imagine. You are feeling a little under the weather and decide to call in sick. You get dressed and go over to your family doctor's clinic for a checkup. You go in and he examines you, asks the routine questions, prescribes some tests and sends you on your way. But something feels off, almost as if the doctor was running on autopilot. His head seemed to be somewhere else entirely.
In fact, this has become a very common occurrence in today's times. Your seemingly disinterested doctor may be a part of a much larger problem stalking the medical community: burnt-out doctors. While Medicine is one of the most sought after professions in India, studies indicate that our doctors suffer from burnout related symptoms like constant fatigue, emotional exhaustion and a feeling of dissatisfaction.
A study was conducted by Dr Pranav Modi and Amit Gharpure, where they used international statistical scales to assess burnout among medical workers. Their report stated:
• Almost 45% of respondents score high on emotional exhaustion
• 66% suffered from depersonalization (reduced empathy for patients)
In another study conducted in 2012 among 7,288 physicians, 45.8% showed at least one symptom of burnout. Compared to the general population, this is at least 10-17% higher.
Stress and the resulting burnout can be seen in any profession. Its alarming rates and more importantly their effects on healthcare professionals, call for immediate action. Doctors frequently work 24-48 hour shifts. Levels of burnout increase steadily with seniority and are also worryingly high in female doctors. This may be the result of higher expectations from them both at home and at work.
Poor doctor to patient ratio, limited speciality training programmes, higher work pressure on a few specialists are the antagonising factors for burnout.
And this is way before the Coronavirus pandemic began. Ever since the steep increase in the number COVID-19 cases, the healthcare workers are not only overworked but also under the constant threat of getting infected by the virus themselves.
Here are a few ways to tackle this stress:
1. Practise yoga and meditation
Yoga and its self-soothing techniques aid in modifying the body’s stress response system. When you’re stressed, your breathing becomes shallow. Yoga poses aid in deeper breathing, thus enabling you to calm down. Likewise, meditation will help you clear a jumble of thoughts that may be clouding your mind and causing stress. You can use these videos or these apps, Serenity: Guided Meditation & Mindfulness & The Mindfulness App: relax, calm, focus and sleep to help you with the same. Here's a suggestion:
2. Learn to relax
As Sydney Harris once said, ”The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.” Even though these are busy and stressful times for you, you won’t be any good for yourself or others if you don’t take a moment for yourself on regular basis.
Listen to soothing and calm music like jazz or classics, or some instrumental numbers. Music does get one relaxed and happy.
Take a bath, play some music in the background and sing along. Shed all your worries and stress, refresh yourself.
Watch your favourite shows, read a book, or maybe, even write in a diary. This will help you unwind and put your mind at ease.
Targeted exercise is a great way to relieve stress and also to keep your body fit. It will help you free your body of stress and also increase endorphin levels, which will result in feelings of happiness and well being. There are many easy exercises you can try out from the comfort of your home.
4. Eat properly and hydrate yourself
Your body needs to be healthy, strong, happy and properly fueled to help you tackle and even eliminate stress. Try substituting caffeine and alcohol with water. According to various studies, water is shown to reduce stress. That’s because a dehydrated body produces Cortisol, a stress hormone. Certain herbs and teas like chamomile, lavender,etc. also have a calming effect. Eat healthier snacks and also try to avoid processed food. Eat larger portions of fruits and vegetables. Try replacing simple carbs like refined flour with complex carbs like whole grain substituents as they provide energy for a longer duration of time.
5. Avoid stress when you can
Seems obvious, right? Sometimes staying away from what is stressing you out is harder than it sounds. We often tend to worry about things that are completely out of our control, and it's natural to do so. But, these are often the culprits of unnecessary stress. Try filtering your thoughts consciously and categorize them into those that can be controlled and those that just result in needless stress. You can even write things that worry you down in a journal to help you get a clearer perspective. If not that, you can also confide in your loved ones. Certain apps like the ones suggested below will help you to write down your feelings and moods in your phone, (in one of these apps: Stars Diary or Life : Personal Diary, Journal, Note Book so that you can avoid lugging around a journal altogether.