Managing Anxiety as a Healthcare Professional

Anxiety. As a nurse, no one wants to talk about it but it’s something many healthcare professionals carry it around with them.  Adding the currently coronavirus crisis, staff shortages and the demands from patients and relatives, anxiety can make it almost debilitating at times and it can hinder your job performance as well.   According to the Anxiety and Depression Association, “Anxiety disorders are real, serious medical conditions – just as real and serious as physical disorders such as heart disease or diabetes. Anxiety disorders are the most common and pervasive mental disorders.” 


Finding ways to manage your anxiety is key in not only your job but in your life as well.  Below you will find some ways healthcare professionals have found helpful for managing anxiety.


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Tips for Managing Anxiety


1. Better Self Care

Taking better care of yourself can go a long way to help with anxiety. Diet can either make your anxiety better or worse.

Some foods are known to keep anxiety at bay, this includes:

  • Fermented Foods
  • Cherries
  • Kiwi
  • Seafood
  • Avocado
  • Beans and Legumes
  • Plain Greek Yogurt
  • Whole Grains
  • Milk
  • Pumpkins


Anxiety can make it more difficult to sleep. Your anxious may keep your brain from settling down and the disruption of sleep is likely to keep you feeling more on edge the next day.  Anxiety and sleep disruption go hand in hand.


2. Exercise

Exercise has been proven to release endorphins.  Typically, these endorphins can boost your mood and energy.  It can also help to ease your anxiety.  According to Anxiety and Depression Association “Scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilise mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem. About five minutes of aerobic exercise can begin to stimulate anti-anxiety effects.”  Exercising doesn’t have be hard or strenuous it can be a simple workout that you enjoy doing.


3. Relaxation or Breathing Techniques

Many people use Yoga for relaxation.  Others find soothing music, a warm bath and aromatherapy a great anxiety release. There are many breathing techniques out there.  While one may work for someone, it may not for someone else. Try some of these apps:


  • Calm- Meditation and Sleep
  • XPT Life
  • Relax Melodies- Sleep Sounds
  • RelaXhale- Relaxing, Calming
  • Breathing- Ball Breathing Exercise
  • Sleep Well! – Breathing Exercise

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4. Change Employers or Clinical Speciality

Be conscious during your working day as the trigger to your anxiety. It you find this difficult, get help from a close colleague, asking them to help you identify to trigger. Your anxiety could relate to a colleague relationship or your relationship with your manager. Your clinical speciality may be a trigger or even a cause of your anxiety.  If your anxiety is worse when you are at work or even the thought of going to work causes you to feel anxious it may be time to start looking into a new speciality.   You may even need to think about changing department, hospital or facility you work at.  If you are working in a hospital maybe you should try a clinic or the community.


5. Console with friends and family

Take time to learn about your anxiety and talk openly to your family and friends. Roughly 18% of the population suffers from an anxiety disorder, making it the most common mental condition in the country. Despite the prevalence of anxiety disorders, the general public remains uninformed about them and the different ways they can manifest. This can make opening up to friends and family about your disorder extremely difficult.


Start by explaining that while anxiety is a natural part of life for most people, for people with anxiety disorders, an overwhelming sense of stress and fear.  Anxiety creates an illusion of irrational and frequent threats from the outside world. Because of this, sufferers are often in a state of heightened awareness. Their fight or flight response is active even when no actual danger is around them. Simple things can feel like threats. This can be hard for people without anxiety to fully understand. Read more about how to speak to family and friends about anxiety. 

Young African American Doctor Woman Over Isolated Background Crazy And Mad Shouting And Yelling With Aggressive Expression And Arms Raised. Frustration Concept.

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6. Speak to your Line Manager

Even the thought of speaking to your line manager about your anxiety can add to the burden, however getting the support and reasonable adjustments to ensure you can continue to deliver high quality care is essential. You’ll be surprised as to how managers to help and support you through difficult times. It can take a huge weight off your shoulders when you know your manager is aware and supporting you. Once your sitting down in a quiet space with your manager, take your time in explaining what you are experiencing, what is triggering the anxiety and what you feel would help. This will allow your manager to work with you to ensure reasonable adjustments can be made so you can continue to make a huge contribution to patient care.


7. See a Doctor

It may seem like a no-brainer. However, many healthcare professionals avoid the doctor.  Especially when it comes to mental health.   Your doctor may prescribe you a medication to help control your anxiety.  If you have tried other techniques and they haven’t worked, medication may support you along the way.  Your anxiety may be caused by a chemical imbalance and medications can help to change the levels of certain brain chemicals.


8. Counselling or Therapy

Cognitive-behavioural therapy is the most common therapy used with anxiety disorders according to Help Guide.  In this type of therapy, the person learns to recognise and change thought patterns and behaviours that lead to troublesome feelings.  They also state that “Anxiety disorders differ considerably, so therapy should be tailored to your specific symptoms and diagnosis. If you have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), for example, your treatment will be different from someone who needs help for anxiety attacks. The length of therapy will also depend on the type and severity of your anxiety disorder.”


We hope that you found these tips for managing anxiety helpful. Every person and their anxiety is different, therefore, the techniques that one person uses may not work for someone else. It is important to find what works for you. If you suffer from anxiety and have found ways that help you and feel they could help others, please comment them below.


Let us know your thoughts….

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