5 Ways to Stay Healthy As A Direct Care Worker
Written by: Maya Groser, Direct Care Professional Edited by: Brianna Palkki, Marketing Manager & Senior Recruiting Supervisor
Direct care workers, nurses, caregivers, and PCA's are hard-working and selfless individuals who spend their time providing for the needs of others. Focusing on yourself might seem like the last thing on your mind, but practicing self-care is crucial. You'll never regret improving the care you give to yourself, and in return, you can continue giving to others.
Staying healthy as a direct care worker is hard, but it can start with 5 simple changes; prioritizing sleep, staying hydrated, blocking burn out, finding work life balance, and keeping a healthy mind.
1. Prioritize Sleep
Sticking to a bedtime routine is essential for staying healthy, and having a good night's sleep will help you feel your best!
Are you dreading that early morning shift or pressing snooze for the third or fourth time before getting up? Working around the clock can be difficult in the healthcare industry, but working unique shifts doesn't mean you have to lose sleep! Whether you are working as a certified nursing assistant, direct care worker, or nurse we all know healthcare is a necessity 24/7, but it's time to start prioritizing your rest! Things like putting away electronics, participating wind-down activities like reading meditating or praying, writing your to-do list down, and having a light snack before bed can be vital parts of your nighttime routine that allow your body to calm down and get the sleep it needs.
Sleeping for 6-8 hours a night is a necessity for you to function at your highest capacity, and head to work healthy and alert.
2. Stay Hydrated
Staying hydrated is crucial for your wellbeing as a direct care worker. It is necessary to drink ample amounts of water when working on your feet and interacting with patients. Drinking water boosts your energy, and helps keep headaches at bay. The CDC talks about how it can improve your physical capabilities by lubricating your joints, and helps rid your body of waste.
Invest in a quality reusable water bottle that you like, pack it with you before you start your day, and set reminders in your phone to drink from it throughout the day to stay hydrated.
Because the healthcare industry often requires employees to work long hours and have busy shifts, staying hydrated is likely something you forget, but having a water bottle by your side will be the reminder telling you to take your next sip.
3. Block Burnout
Burnout seems to be a word heard and passed around in all careers, especially the healthcare industry or helping professions. Caring for others is immensely rewarding, but with that also comes long hours, busy shifts, and balancing the emotions of caring for vulnerable people. But burnout doesn't have to be inevitable, and you can stay healthy as a direct care worker. So, how can we block the fatigue we all experience? First, by setting boundaries with your life like balancing hours, free-time, school, family, and friends. It can look like setting aside time where you are not connected to your job physically or via a computer/phone. Second, practice self-care even while you're at work. It may be hard to balance the responsibilities of direct care with the health and wellbeing of yourself, but remember; the best care comes from people who care for themselves. Pack yourself food and water for your shift, utilize breaks, and find a strategy with your employer to manage on-site stress. Third, talk to coworkers and managers when you need help. Feel that you have been struggling emotionally the past couple of shifts? Have you been canceling important things because you feel burned out? Talk to your supervisor and co-workers who relate and care. Stressors can be alleviated by having a support system and reaching out for help. Lastly, take time to enjoy your hobbies. Even when you care deeply for the people within your care, press pause. It's okay to take time to do things you enjoy which help you be proactive and block the burnout when you feel it coming!
4. Find Work-life Balance
We have all seen posters and flyers advertising the idea of work-life balance, then why have we not implemented them into our daily lives? Work-life balance is important to stay healthy as a direct care worker. Many people think, “well one more year of this job” or “I work a position that needs me to be on all the time” but this is simply not true. The healthcare industry is often filled with the most hard working, compassionate, and determined individuals… but also those who have an aptitude to ignore rest. If you spend your time just trying to make it to your next break, or lasting until the next employee comes in for their shift, you are only surviving. Direct care can be one of the most rewarding jobs when coming into work with a positive attitude and a charged mental spirit. Well how can we show up to work in that manor? Work-life balance! Working in the healthcare industry is supposed to provide lifelong jobs and sustainable positions. By starting to prioritize your work-life balance now, you can save yourself regrets and secure yourself a lifelong career in the industry. Start planning activities in your home life. Getting together with friends after work, starting a new hobby, or picking up an old sport. All of these activities provide you with a way to relax and destress. Going on a vacation from your job does not mean you are abandoning work, but recharging yourself with well deserved time off. Ultimately you will be coming back to work as a better version of yourself. Your health and wellness need to have your attention. Prioritize your home life even when work seems to be demanding because without a balance your job becomes unsustainable.
5. Keep A Healthy Mind
A healthy mind is the main ingredient in the recipe for success as a direct care worker. Don't let an unhealthy and tired outlook affect how well you are falling asleep at night, what thoughts consume you, and how you're treating the relationships in your life. Helpful tools you can use in your everyday life to keep a healthy mind are practicing mindfulness, journaling, physical activity, meditating or praying, singing or playing an instrument, spending time outdoors, or even seeking mental health services and using prescribed medications. At ACR Homes we offer a service to employees called NICE Healthcare. Although mental health services can be expensive, NICE offers employees the chance to receive temporary mental health services for free. Additionally, people may seek mental health services in-person at various clinics, and there's a variety of online services and apps to help people keep a healthy mind virtually as well. Although mental health can look invisible it is crucial for your work as a direct care employee. Your mental health will shape how you treat yourself, patients, fellow staff, and your outlook on your job and life.
Being a direct care worker is a job that can be full of smiles and joy. Taking good care of yourself will help you stay healthy and lead you to enjoy working in the healthcare industry for many years to come. Take action in making simple changes in your life to better the lives of others and of yourself!
ACR Homes provides a competitive benefits package to their full-time employees, ensuring that full-time employees can stay healthy as a direct care worker, administrative employee, manager, or nurse.