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Self-Care for Athletic Trainers: How to deal with stress, long days and an intense work environment

Posted October 25, 2016

By Beth Druvenga, M.S. Ed, LAT, ATC

Beth Druvenga, M.S. Ed, LAT, ATC

For years researchers have been interested in methods to help combat stress and burnout in healthcare fields. Studies have shown that an increase in fatigue, insomnia, depression, heart disease and other psychological and physiological ailments can be attributed to stress in the workplace. Other byproducts are decreased patient satisfaction and reduction of a clinician’s attention and concentration, which can reduce their decision-making skills and concentration.2 Obviously, to us in the healthcare field, reduced decision-making skills and decreased patient satisfaction are detrimental to our jobs. However, the physiological and psychological effects on the clinician are detrimental to our health and well-being.

So what are some ways to combat this stress in the workplace? The research is clear that exercise is one of the best ways to combat stress.1 Not only does exercise release hormones that are mood boosters, but it helps you expel aggression and focus your mind on something other than work. Other proven ways to combat stress include seeking outside help, broaching the subject at work to create a better work environment and meditation. Let’s take a deeper look into these less utilized options.

Outside help: There is a stigma in our society that, “only crazy people go to psychologists.” This stigma is false! In fact, a high percentage of those seeking advice from psychologists do not suffer from any diagnosed medical condition. Many employers offer the services of mental health and wellness to their employees. You should take advantage of this great opportunity! If you still feel uneasy about a mental health counselor, seek out a friend, family member, significant other, clergy or other trusted individual to speak to about stressors or struggles at work. Sometimes the best way to combat your stress is to talk it out. Another great resource could be a sport psychology consultant who specializes in sub-clinical issues. They would not only be beneficial to us as professionals but also a useful resource for athletes during the recovery process.

At work: ATs struggle at 2 major things in the athletic training profession, including saying no and asking for time off. We all know that our field is highly stressful. We don’t dictate our own schedule a majority of the day, and sometimes are left out of the loop. This can lead to burnout. So how do we address it? Speak to our supervisor. Companies want to retain their employees, but there is a direct link between burnout and its effect on retention.3 Odds are good you are not the only one suffering from stress, and maybe there is a way to incorporate a stress reduction program into your work day. Another option is to look into classes being held at a local fitness center, which may offer a short lunch time yoga class.

Meditation: Yoga is an ancient form of exercise; its goal is to connect mind and body. Studies show links between yoga and reduction in stress and anxiety levels.4 Apart from yoga, meditation can help reduce stress. In our profession, we need to take the time to sit in silence. A simple practice of setting aside 5 minutes of your day to quiet your mind free of counterproductive thoughts, to-do lists and stress will do wonders for not only releasing stress but increasing your positive outlook on the rest of the day.

As healthcare professionals, we put the focus on others and sometimes forget about ourselves. If you find yourself suffering from increased amounts of stress at work or in general, that could be a sign to make more time for yourself. We cannot be at our best for others, if we are not at our best for ourselves.

Resources

1. Gicaobbi, P. R. (2009). Low Burnout and High Engagement Levels in Athletic Trainers: Results of a Nationwide Random Sample. Journal of Athletic Training, 370-377.

2. Irving, J. A., & Park-Saltzman, J. (2009). Cultivating mindfulness in health care professionals: A review of empirical studies of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR). Complementary therapies in clinical practice, 61-66.

3. Mazerolle, S., & Eason, C. (2016). A Longitudinal Examination of Work-Life Balance in the Collegiate Setting. Journal of Athletic Training, 223-232.

4. Smith, C., Hancock, H., Blank-Mortimer, J., & Eckert, K. (2007). A randomised comparative trial of yoga and relaxation to reduce stress and anxiety. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 77-83.

About the Author

Beth Druvenga is an Athletic Trainer currently living in northern Virginia. She has experience working in both a collegiate and high school setting. Druvenga is originally from Iowa where she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Athletic Training from Central College in 2012. She graduated from Old Dominion University in 2014 with a Master of Science in Education. Her professional interests include patient-reported outcomes, psychology of injury and rehabilitation as well as using yoga to increase flexibility.