In 2015 and 2016, 11.7 million working days were lost to stress, according to a Labour Force Survey. While we can all yearn for a duvet day on a particularly dreary Monday, finding ways to cope with stress is becoming a real issue in the modern workplace, with more and more people citing stress as the reason for taking a sick day.
In fact, the survey went on to report that stress was more prevalent in public service industries (such as healthcare workers and teaching professionals), so how do those working in the most stressful industries cope? We decided to find out. We called on three women who work in healthcare: Two are based in the accident and emergency department, and the other is a paramedic. We think our jobs are tough, but the stress they have to deal with on a daily basis is high-octane.
Keep scrolling to find out how they deal with stress in the moment and how they relax in their downtime.
"Clearly working as a paramedic is highly stressful. The intensity of the calls we receive, confounded by increasing demand and the ever-changing shift times, create significant pressure on individuals. There are times when this stress can become overwhelming, but for me it's about taking a step back out of the situation and taking a breath before carrying on," explains paramedic Jennifer Green. "I will always go through checklists in my head (you can do this with your to-do list). Start at the beginning and go from there, one step at a time. I use the guided breathing exercises on my Fitbit all the time! I find it really helps me to refocus and makes me take a few minutes out once the call is over."
"I always have a set routine at the end of my shift. It sounds silly, but taking my epaulettes off and locking all my kit away in my locker really helps me to relax at the end of the day. I know once I have done this routine, my shift has officially ended, and I can relax! It's almost like I've locked the stress away with it too.
"I'm lucky as a paramedic that we really are a close team. You find that your friends and colleagues can often tell that you're getting stressed out and reaching the limits of what you can handle. This really is the key to getting through the hardest of times. I always find that talking through situations in the moment, as well as after events, really does help. I always reflect upon what's happened and if I could change anything next time, and this sharing of thoughts equally shares the burden of the situation.
"When I'm at home, I will always try to make time to spend alone to process events. It's nothing special, a hot bath with some lavender essential oils or reading my book in the sunshine, but it really helps, even if it's just for half an hour. I also enjoy a variety of mediation and relaxation apps."
The Matron and Sister in A&E
Candice Parys is a senior sister in A&E. "I tend to go swimming to de-stress. Swimming is my therapy. I have been swimming from a very young age, and it has always helped me switch off. It helps me relax, get exercise and clear my mind as I'm unable to think of anything else other than what length I’m on, my technique and time."
Katie Gazey is matron of A&E in Chichester, but she also co-owns a medical event company that provides medical cover for events like the Festival of Speed. "As well as my two jobs, I have two boys, age 7 and 11, and I'm currently trying to complete my MSc, so I am probably slightly mad! A&E is a high pressured job, which I love," she tells us. "And I work with a fabulous team.
"I think managing stress in the moment is difficult to explain, but I guess coming from a background of A&E, you recognise that you must stay calm in order to make safe decisions and also to not portray concern or stress to more junior colleagues or family members of patients. I think it's always very important to know your strengths as a leader and also know when you need to ask and not be ashamed to ask. Human factors have a massive influence over any job, and having an awareness of that, I think, helps in so many ways.
"I love to shut off by walking to and from work on occasion and plugging myself into my music. Having down time with my children helps too. I use an app called Headspace, which is excellent for making you zone out and relax."