Dealing with Stress

It is no secret that working as an aide is hard on your body.  It is very important to take care of yourself when you are working such a physically demanding job. Properly following all transfer procedures and keeping good posture is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to keeping your body in shape.  These are important, of course, but there are other things that can help you keep your body and mind in shape for work and beyond.

Hospitals, hospice, nursing homes, and other care facilities are often understaffed, with workers that are underpaid. A good employee often feels guilt if they have to say no to a request; however, in a high-stress environment like CNA positions you have to learn how to say “No”. CNAs are called in ALL the time to cover a shift. You can expect at least once a month to get called in on your day off.

It does not matter what career you choose, there are times when you take the job home whether it is because of stress or because you want to share something that happened that day. Sharing with your family about your work is great. It helps you relax, but when it becomes complaint after complaint there is something wrong.

CNAs have a hard job because they work with elderly, disabled, or sick patients for at least eight hours a day, and often closer to ten or twelve. These patients can be very demanding. If a patient is having a bad day at a nursing home it can lead to you becoming more stressed, as they test even your patience. There are methods that can help you leave work at the job and keep your job out of your home.

When you become overstressed, you turn ineffectual in your job. Others will begin to notice a change of behavior in you. You may find more patients become noncommunicative or unruly due to the stress that is bothering you. There are ways to combat the stress and stay healthy on your job as CNAs. The trick is to find what works best for you.

Understand the Sources of Stress

It is no surprise that CNAs have several stress inducers at work. It is how you deal with these issues that will matter most. The information below is common stress inducers you will find in your job position. They will be outlined for what they are, why they might occur, and touch a little on how you can work through them to be a better caregiver. CNAs have a driving need to help others, which is highly commendable, but you also have to know when to take care of you.

Unruly patients: there will definitely be times when a patient is having a bad day. Ordinarily, they may be patient, calm, and nice, but for some reason, they have decided to be difficult. In this situation asking the patient what is wrong can help alleviate this unruly behavior.

At other times you just have unruly patients that checked in that way and will remain that way. How you deal with them will depend on their level of behavior. A light mood, a little joking and building a report can definitely help; however, you may need to take command. Establish your dominance in the situation without stepping on their feelings or independence. Treating a patient like a child may be your instinct, but it is most likely going to make the situation worse. If you must due to a threat of harm to patients or you, use the restraints allowed by the facility.

Other stress inducers have less to do with patient behavior and more to do with the company you work for. Coworkers who can be a little crazy, on edge, or just overstressed can bring you down. The best thing you can do is either ignore their behavior or establish dominance with them. Sometimes someone who pushes you will get the point if you push back. Using phrases like “that was uncalled for” or “I did not appreciate that” can help snap your coworkers back to reality.

Often times co-workers, bosses, and other employees who take out their bad behavior on you do not realize how terrible they sound or that something is stressing them out. If facing the problem head on does not work, you can always take a break to clear your head and push aside the coworker crazies. If it becomes a huge issue speaking with a supervisor is necessary. A professional complaint is sometimes warranted because of other stressors their behavior can lead to.

Protect Your Body and Mind

Always use your personal protective gear (gloves, face masks, etc. when needed). These help prevent illness in the event that a resident has an infectious disease (which can include the common cold) and also protects some immune-system suppressed residents from any infection that staff could be carrying.

Mental health is also being a major concern as many CNA’s find it difficult to maintain a healthy work/life balance. With an increased workload and a shortage of certified nursing assistants one must be very vigilant about not taking on too many extra shifts as this will weigh heavily on anyone’s mental health. CNA schools are doing their best to train more health care aids but a serious shortage does still exist.

Follow Proper Lifting Procedures

When you are getting ready for work, spend a few minutes stretching.  You will spend the next 8 hours walking, stretching, and lifting – make sure your body is ready!  It may sound silly, but stretching can help you avoid injury from all of the movement you will perform for the duration of your shift.

Much of the daily care that CNA’s provide their patients is of a physical nature making it vital that they pay special attention to their own flexibility and overall health. Lifting or rotating clients, helping them dress, wash and exercise can be taxing procedures for all health care aids. Injuries as a result of improper lifting and diminished energy are common complaints but with proper care these issues can, for the most part, be avoided.

The dangers of not following established lifting procedures are taught extensively and in great detail in all CNA training programs. All certified nursing assistants should regularly review these techniques and there are many online CNA certification review courses that one is able to take on their own time to help in this area.

Eat & Drink Properly

The recommendation is that everyone drink at least 8 glasses of water a day, but people working physically demanding jobs need to drink even more.  If there are water fountains in your facility, stop and take a drink when you pass one.  It takes just a few seconds and can help you stay hydrated.  Dehydration is a serious problem and can cause your body to shut down.

While it may be against the rules of most facilities to eat while on the floor, some CNAs keep a small snack in their uniform pockets.  Most of the time it is an energy bar or something similar.  If you are diabetic this can be a lifesaving tool.  Never eat the snack in a resident’s room or in front of a resident, but a quick stop in a utility room can give you a moment to discreetly replenish your protein or glucose levels.

Avoid eating a heavy meal during work hours.   An over-full stomach can cause cramps which will leave you feeling ill. Off duty, invest in a good multivitamin.   Take your vitamin every morning or evening. A body that has been depleted of nutrients is not a body that is in top condition for work.

Talk to Others

Although physical strength and flexibility are crucial for all health care aids, caring for people in various states of health can be emotionally taxing as well. It is virtually impossible to not become somewhat attached to the people we care for every day, especially as we often watch their health deteriorate. Sudden setbacks or an unexpected serious illness of a patient can have a tremendous impact on an emotional level. Professionals working in this field derive great benefit from engaging in various uplifting activities with family or friends. Talking to those that are close to us or a professional counselor can also help in providing a constructive and therapeutic outlet.

If you have a particularly bad day on the job do not cover it up, try to forget about it, or ignore it. These are the worst things you can do. Instead, decide how you want to face the issues you had that day. Take fifteen minutes with another coworker to vent a little about work to discuss your feelings. If you do not want to put added pressure on a coworker then seek a friend or your spouse. Tell this person you need fifteen minutes to let out what happened at work, so that you can move on. Often times all we need is to talk about something that happened, in order to put it away for good.

Talking with family or friends gives you support. It is a little funny that most caregivers enjoy helping others, but when it comes to sharing they are often the least likely to do so. Instead, they listen to people’s problems allowing it to help their stress. Unfortunately, with a lot of stress listening to others problems can stop working and cause more. If you cannot share with a stranger or support group go with a friend or family member. They will always be willing to listen, no matter what. You just have to let them know how troubled you feel.

If you must, speak with a psychologist when it has been a particularly hard day. By letting your emotions have validation you can better deal with them.

Counseling is a great method for relieving stress. When your stress comes to the point that talking with family or friends and other at home methods of relaxation do not work, counseling is the way to go. Like you, a counselor is there to listen. As a professional they may be able to discuss a strategy with you that better helps you reduce your stress. They can also offer exercises for you to try.

Avoid Burn Out

Financially, this is great. You go in for an extra few hours and the reward is a little more money. If money is tight then financial motivation is a good inducer. Unfortunately, you can burn out really quickly by letting all of your days off become extra working days. Everyone needs time to relax, rejuvenate, and just let work slough off, so that stress cannot build up. If you do not allow yourself the time to de-stress and rejuvenate, you will burn out.

It is okay to say yes once in a while to working on a day off. The trick is learning how to say no with conviction and without guilt. Make it clear to the person who is calling that you understand their needs. Tell them that you do enjoy your job and to continue enjoying your work and to be effective as a CNA you have to take care of yourself. They should understand this. Tell the person calling that you have worked extra time in the past and are often willing to do so, but at this time you need a break.

Learn to Say “No”

You should not be punished at work for refusing to come in on a day off, especially if you have consistently agreed to work on other days off. If your job pressures you to feel guilty, look for a different care facility to work for. As you know many places are understaffed, providing plenty of opportunities for great workers.

Once you learn to say no and are successful, you can begin to work on your own feelings of guilt. Meditation, yoga, and other relaxing activities can help. Also repeat to yourself the above about being able to continue helping people to your fullest ability. You know if you are too tired a mistake can be made. If you are stressed it can cause health issues in your life. You have to take care of yourself first, in order to be a successful caregiver to someone else.

Exercise is Always Healthy

Exercise is a fine way to reduce stress if you have pent up energy. Going to the gym, hiking in the woods, or other physical labor can make some of the stress fall away, but it might not reduce it all.

Exercise at least 3 times a week for twenty minutes.  Even low impact aerobics, such as walking, can help keep your body running well.  Some gentle strength training can increase your muscle tone and help you during resident bed to chair and chair to bed transfers.

A regular exercise routine, especially those that include weight lifting will go a long way in strengthening one’s body and will significantly improve energy levels.

Find Alternative Sources To De-Stress

Sometimes smallest changes can make a big difference. For example, consider changing the route you drive to work or drive home from work when you have a bad day. Sometimes just changing the routine gives you a little time to think it over, adjust, and put things in perspective. You have feelings, and the worst thing to do is to bottle them up in an effort to keep work out of your home.

Religion can help, but this is something you need to decide on your own. For some prayers, going to confession, or speaking with their pastor is helpful in letting work stay out of your home life. It is okay to bring feelings home with you, as long as you deal with them in a healthy way.

If you are able, try buying a session a week with a massage therapist.  Some facilities bring in such individuals for their staff. Deep tissue massage is beneficial for the whole body and will leave you feeling relaxed, ready for another shift.

Aromatherapy is a time honored practice. The Chinese and other Asian cultures have used aromatherapy to relieve stress, illness, and other issues because it does work. Think about when you go home and take a bath. Do you use a fragrant bath salt or bubble bath? Do you light scented candles? If you do, but find the stress is still there consider changing the fragrance. Lavender is the most common scent to alleviate stress. Chamomile is another option. If you do not think aromatherapy will work, consider trying chamomile tea because ingesting it will also help you relax. It will clear out the caffeine in your system and help you slow down.