When you work as a rehab therapist, no two days are the same. And while that can be exciting (who enjoys monotony?), it can also create a lot of stress. Add in the fact that you’re working with patients who may be frustrated, in pain, or just generally grumpy, and you’ve got a whole lot to handle day-in and day-out. This holds especially true if you’re feeling overworked and under-supported, which can often happen in a busy healthcare setting. The good news: There are things you can do to reduce your stress levels at the office—and I’m not talking about quitting your job (although that, of course, is an option if you feel you’d be happier elsewhere). With that in mind, here are six strategies for stress management for healthcare workers:

WebPT + Billing Software - Regular BannerWebPT + Billing Software - Small Banner

1. Ensure your basic, physiological needs are met.

It’s significantly harder to deal with daily tasks and challenges when your basic, physiological needs aren’t met—that is, when you’re not well-nourished, well-hydrated, well-exercised, and well-rested. So, make these things a priority, and you’ll at least have a solid foundation from which to work. Otherwise, even the smallest stressor could push your already-taxed body into overdrive, thus creating more stress for you to deal with (on top of the potential long-term consequences of not taking care of your physical needs).

Stay nourished and hydrated.

Try to choose healthy, nutrient-dense, well-balanced meals that won’t spike your blood sugar and then leave you feeling more depleted than before. It might take a little meal planning, but the pay-off is totally worth it. Also, be sure to sip on (preferably filtered) water throughout your day to keep yourself hydrated. Yes, you may have to excuse yourself to use the restroom more frequently—which I know can be challenging in a healthcare setting—but keeping your body hydrated is imperative to your own health.

Get adequate exercise and rest.

Also, establish an exercise routine that you’re willing to stick with. Exercise can not only reduce anxiety, but also improve mood. And finally, make it a point to get a good night’s sleep by:

  • establishing a consistent bedtime;
  • shutting off your electronic devices well before bed (or even keeping them out of the bedroom); and
  • creating an evening ritual to shut down.

2. Pay attention to your breathing.

This is a strategy you can implement in real time—the exact moment you feel yourself getting stressed. Instead of responding to the stressor, take a moment—even if it’s only a few seconds—and check your breath. If you notice yourself breathing quickly and shallowly—as most of us do when we’re stressed—take a couple of long, deep breaths to slow it down. This will also bring down your heart rate, which can speed up when the body’s fight-or-flight response is triggered. Alternatively, you can try one of these three breath-based relaxation techniques from Harvard.

Bringing awareness to your breath can help trigger the parasympathetic nervous system, which creates a sense of calm. And a calm, clear head is always better than a stressed-out one when you’re making a decision—even if you’re dealing with an actual emergency.

3. Take breaks and schedule time off.

Our culture prizes productivity, so it can sometimes be challenging for us to take rest breaks. But, we need rest in order to be our best selves. Otherwise, we burn out—and that can be especially problematic in the healthcare field, because your patients are relying on you to be fully present and attentive to them throughout their care. Compared to their bright-eyed and bushy-tailed peers, burned-out providers are significantly more likely to make mistakes. So, if possible, schedule a few minutes between patients to go for a quick walk, have a sip of water, and take a bathroom break. Furthermore, be sure to use your paid time off—and when you do, leave work at work so you can truly disconnect.

4. Zoom out to the big picture (i.e., your purpose).

With healthcare regulations evolving constantly, it can be challenging not to get caught up in the minutia (i.e., documentation, billing, administrative tasks, and insurance regulations). But, don’t lose sight of why you chose this profession in the first place. It probably had something to do with helping people. And keeping that top of mind may help you slog through some of the less-enjoyable parts of your job, because you are, after all, making such a big impact in the lives of your patients. On that note, take the time to celebrate your wins—big and small. It’s a great way to keep your attention on the good stuff, and to help make everything else feel a little more manageable.

5. Talk to a therapist or coach.

Venting to friends and family will only get you so far before it’s time to consider reaching out to an objective third party who can help you establish personalized coping strategies for thriving in your professional life. Many offer complimentary introductory calls or meetings to establish fit. So, be sure to take potential facilitators up on those, and keep interviewing until you find someone who jibes with you. While some people may still be uncomfortable asking for help, there’s no shame in it. In fact, working one-on-one with an expert may be exactly what you need.

6. Adopt a relaxation technique—or several.

Meditate, take a yoga class, sketch, journal, draw yourself a bath—you get the idea. Choose an activity (or several) that relaxes you and brings you joy, and then make it part of your routine. According to this Penn State resource, developing the “relaxation response” through “relaxation techniques, including meditation and progressive muscle relaxation” can “counter the ill effects of the fight-or-flight response and, over time, allows the development of a greater state of alertness.” When the body “is in a deep state of relaxation,” you can experience “decreased blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and rate of breathing, as well as feelings of being calm and in control.” Doesn’t sound that nice?

Now, if you’ve implemented all the stress reduction strategies you can, and your work demands are still simply too much to handle, then it’s time to have an honest conversation with your boss about redistributing some of your workload (or, if you are the boss, it’s time to hire some help). After all, that’s not good for your wellbeing or the wellbeing of your patients. For these types of conversations, it’s usually best to come to the table with a solution, so give some thought to potential options or arrangements that might work for you and your team.

  • The State of Rehab Therapy in 2018 Image

    webinarJun 1, 2018

    The State of Rehab Therapy in 2018

    Falling reimbursements. Skyrocketing insurance premiums and copays. Crippling student loan debt. As a PT, OT, or SLP, sometimes it feels like it’s you against the world. After all, the challenges you face on a daily basis are many and complex. But, you’re not alone. In fact, we recently surveyed nearly 7,000 rehab therapy professionals on everything from payment rates and clinic budgets to education costs and salary, and we found some pretty strong—and surprising—trends. [video://fast.wistia.net/embed/iframe/eh5khgt1r6]   Curious …

  • The State of Rehab Therapy in 2018 Image

    downloadJun 28, 2018

    The State of Rehab Therapy in 2018

    To say that the healthcare industry is complex would be an understatement. While the advent of technology has made care more precise, efficient, and collaborative than ever before, it has also put greater pressure on providers to deliver high-value care at scale. After all, big data makes it possible to not only develop the most effective, evidence-based best practices for individual diagnoses, but also form evidence-based strategies for managing the health of populations. In the spirit of …

  • Ditch the Carrots and Sticks: 4 Ways to Motivate Your Patients Image

    articleMay 25, 2018 | 4 min. read

    Ditch the Carrots and Sticks: 4 Ways to Motivate Your Patients

    For most patients, physical therapy takes a long time—much longer than many other types of care. Improvements happen slowly, and progress isn’t always immediately noticeable. So, how do you keep patients engaged enough to continue working hard—inside and outside of the clinic—when they start to question the effectiveness of your treatment? Well, you ditch the carrots and sticks in favor of motivation techniques that really work. Here are four strategies you can implement today to better motivate …

  • The State of Rehab Therapy in 2017 Image

    webinarJun 5, 2017

    The State of Rehab Therapy in 2017

    WebPT recently conducted an industry survey of thousands of rehab therapy professionals across a wide variety of settings, specialties, and geographic regions. Our goal: To capture an accurate snapshot of the demographics, trends, frustrations, and motivations that shape our businesses, our future outlook, and our potential for success in this environment of change. In our July webinar, WebPT president and co-founder Dr. Heidi Jannenga, PT, DPT, ATC/L, and WebPT CEO Nancy Ham will share and analyze the …

  • More Than a Number: Personalizing Patient Care in Your Growing Therapy Practice Image

    articleMar 28, 2018 | 4 min. read

    More Than a Number: Personalizing Patient Care in Your Growing Therapy Practice

    Many small private practices achieve success because of the stellar one-on-one care they provide—and amazing patient experiences they create. After all, what better way to foster patient loyalty and garner word-of-mouth referrals to ultimately boost revenue as well as your reputation? Unfortunately, though, that level of attention can be difficult to maintain as your practice grows—and patients can end up falling through the proverbial cracks as providers’ calendars become increasingly jam-packed. That is, of course, unless you …

  • Sticking Point: 4 Tips for Getting Patients to Do Their HEPs Image

    articleMar 9, 2018 | 5 min. read

    Sticking Point: 4 Tips for Getting Patients to Do Their HEPs

    We all know the benefits of a physical therapy home exercise program—and that home exercise compliance can make a huge difference in a patient’s ability to achieve his or her functional goals and remain engaged in a plan of care. But, getting patients (especially those who don’t regularly prioritize physical fitness) to adhere to their prescribed home exercises can be a challenge for even the most motivated physical therapists. After all, you’re essentially trying to convince someone …

  • Cloudy with a Chance of Reform: 5 Key Healthcare Forecasts for 2017 Image

    webinarJan 5, 2017

    Cloudy with a Chance of Reform: 5 Key Healthcare Forecasts for 2017

    Predicting the weather is tough—just ask any meteorologist who has called for sun on the day of a major downpour. Well, predicting the fate of the US healthcare system isn’t much easier—there’s a lot up in the air, after all. But, even without a healthcare equivalent of Doppler Radar, there are a few key trends that are sure to have a major impact on PTs, OTs, and SLPs in 2017 and beyond. And to keep your practice …

  • 5 Legit Reasons to Fire a PT Patient (and How to Do It) Image

    articleApr 26, 2019 | 10 min. read

    5 Legit Reasons to Fire a PT Patient (and How to Do It)

    One of the greatest joys of being a physical therapist is interacting with patients. There is truly no feeling in the world like helping someone improve his or her mobility and independence. But, as enjoyable as patient care can be, it’s not always sunshine and roses. There’s no guarantee that every patient will treat us with respect. In fact, some even act in a threatening way toward us. And while most therapists have some war stories, it’s …

  • Knock Out Patient Dropout: 8 Ways to Increase Retention and Revenue Image

    webinarFeb 12, 2018

    Knock Out Patient Dropout: 8 Ways to Increase Retention and Revenue

    In one corner, we have a highly skilled rehab therapy provider known for delivering amazing clinical outcomes through noninvasive, movement-based treatment. And in the other corner, we have a discouraged, disengaged patient whose quality of life has taken a major hit due to musculoskeletal pain and dysfunction. [video://fast.wistia.net/embed/iframe/d11isduky2]   If you’re a rehab therapy provider, you’ve probably seen this battle play out more times than you can count—and we’re betting that more often than not, your therapy …

Achieve greatness in practice with the ultimate EMR for PTs, OTs, and SLPs.