Let's talk about stress
Raise your hand if the aftermath of 2020 has you feeling more stressed out than ever before. Both of my hands are frantically flying in the air on this one. As New Practitioners, we are already trying to meticulously juggle all our new job responsibilities while navigating the newness of post-graduation life. To add a pandemic into the mix creates a perfect recipe for pure madness. However, if there is one positive thing that 2020 taught me, it is that having strategies in place on how you react and adapt when chaos strikes is crucial to continued success.
2020 stress struggles
Like many of you, 2020 was the year I had long been waiting for. Instead, 2020 was and has continued to produce the heaviest burdens of stress that I have ever experienced. I studied for the NAPLEX and Georgia MPJE, not knowing when or if it could be scheduled; planned and re-planned a wedding multiple times; began my PGY1 residency in a new city; learned the ins and outs of telehealth; and experienced unsurmountable grief for the first time.
As you can imagine, this has brought many mental challenges that I am still facing daily. However, I have implemented a few helpful strategies that have helped me continue to move forward.
Tips and tricks to show stress who’s boss
- Take scheduled breaks away from work and technology (yes, including social media) even if just for 5 minutes. My mind is always thankful for a moment to relax, and I end up being more efficient afterwards.
- Focus on improving your physical wellness. Increasing water intake, improving exercise habits, making healthier diet choices, and improving sleep hygiene will ultimately make you feel more energized and capable of handling the chaos your day may bring. I always feel much less stressed when I am practicing these things. Rome was not built in a day, though. Implementing small changes one at a time will add up to make a big difference.
- Have a plan for when things go wrong. Becoming proactive instead of reactive will help you immensely in the long run. Being familiar with your organization’s policies and knowing who to call in certain emergencies will save you some stress in the end. This is something I did not know ahead of time, but now I do and feel much more prepared.
- Finally, focus more on what matters most (spoiler alert, work is not the correct answer). It is easy to get overwhelmingly consumed in your work and your patients. While these things are important, do not forget to focus on your relationships with your loved ones. Confide in them as they are your biggest cheerleaders. Finding the balance that works for you is key. A good piece of advice I was once given and have tried to remember during this stressful year of residency was that you may could be replaced at work but never replaced at home.
Hopefully, incorporating these strategies will help you better manage your stress and ultimately improve your work–life balance. Let’s tackle our stress one day at a time and show 2021 that we’ve got this!
Kalyn D. Pounders, PharmD, is a PGY1 pharmacy resident at Atlanta VA Health Care System in Decatur, GA. She enjoys traveling, attending sporting events, trying new restaurants around Atlanta, and spending time with her husband, friends, and family.