5 Stress-relief tips for healthcare workers

An 'and breathe' sign on a foliage background

Picture the scene. You’ve made it home after a demanding shift. All you want to do is relax, but you’re struggling to decompress. 

Finding effective ways to destress after a busy day at work is crucial for maintaining your mental and emotional wellbeing. And it needn’t take up your entire downtime. Here’s five stress-relief tips that’ll help you rest and recharge.

Breathe

Easier said than done sometimes, I know. But after a demanding shift, taking a few minutes to practise mindful breathing can really help quieten the mind and ground you in the present moment.

Adding some breathing exercises to your post-work routine can help reduce stress and anxiety, block out negative thoughts and improve sleep among other benefits.

Here’s three ways to practise mindful breathing:

1. Counting your breath

This is a great exercise to try if you’re new to breathing exercises. Start in a comfortable seat, closing your eyes if that feels comfortable. As you deeply inhale and slowly exhale, count your breaths – one for the inhale, two for the exhale – all the way up to ten. Start again at one if your mind becomes distracted, and repeat as many times as you’d like.

2. Box breathing

This simple relaxation technique helps relax your breathing rhythm and clears your mind. Get comfortable, either seated or lying down, placing one hand on the belly and another over the heart. Close down your eyes if you’d like to, and breathe normally through the nose, observing the rise and fall of your belly and chest. Try to take deep breaths that fill your belly and cause it to rise – this means you’re breathing deeply. On your next inhale, count slowly up to four, then hold for four counts, then open your mouth and slowly exhale for four counts, pausing for four counts before inhaling again. Repeat as many times as you’d like.

3. Alternate nostril breathing

You might be familiar with this one if you practise yoga (where it’s called nadi shodhana). Find somewhere comfortable to sit and bring your right hand up to your face. Cover your right nostril with your thumb and left nostril with your ring finger – you can rest your forefinger and middle finger between your eyebrows. With your left nostril closed, breathe in through your right nostril, then close the right nostril and open the left as you exhale completely. Next, breathe in through the left nostril before closing it and opening the right nostril as you exhale completely. Repeat for at least five more breaths – the more the better!

Move

Exercise might be the last thing on your mind after a mentally (and often physically) exhausting shift, but movement will release stress relieving endorphins into the body and reduce built-up tension. And we’re not talking about a 90 minute spin class here – even a brisk walk around the block, or some gentle yoga can help. Aim for at least 20 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per day to feel the benefits. 

Adriene Mishler of Yoga with Adriene has many 20-30 minute yoga practices over on her YouTube channel – all you need is a little space and a mat (or beach towel) to get started. 

Disconnect

We all know we should be reducing our screen time – too much can impact sleep and vision, and cause headaches and neck, shoulder and back issues. But we now average over five hours of screen time per day, and that’s not to mention the tech you’re looking at during work hours too. 

Screens are addictive, but there are some things you can do to unplug and give your eyes a break:

1. Check your stats

Start by working out how long you’re actually spending on your phone each day, and which apps are the biggest time wasters. Some will be unavoidable, but others (I’m looking at you TikTok, Instagram and Facebook) won’t be. Consider deleting these apps for a few days if you can, or set a time limit for them, and stick to it! 

2. Step away

Does your phone really need to come to the bathroom with you? Does it need to be sat on the kitchen table while you’re eating dinner, or next to your pillow while you sleep? By all means, leave it somewhere you can hear it, but try to avoid having it connected to you at all times. And if you only do one thing after reading this article, please buy an alarm clock instead of using your phone (you can even get one that gently wakes you up with light). 

3. Switch to greyscale

Both iOS and Android allow you to switch your phone’s display to grey. Waaay less appealing. Here’s how to switch to greyscale:

For iPhone users:
Go to Settings > Accessibility > Display & Text Size > Colour Filters then toggle Colour Filters on and select ‘Greyscale’.

For Android users: 
Go to Settings > Accessibility > Colour and motion, select Colour correction, scroll down and select Greyscale then go up to the Use colour correction button and toggle it on.

You can also set greyscale to come on and switch off automatically (for example at bedtime). Learn more about updating your settings.

Connect with loved ones

Working in healthcare can feel lonely sometimes, and it can be hard to articulate how you’re feeling when the things you’re exposed to daily might be alien to the people around you. 

But sharing your feelings with friends, family and colleagues matters. It’ll not only deepen your connection, but enable your loved ones to better support you. Being honest with others about how you’re feeling can also help validate your emotions, release stress and even enable you to find a fresh, more positive perspective on a situation. 

If negative emotions persist and start to impact your day-to-day life, it’s important to seek professional help

Celebrate achievements

Try to carve out a little time in your day to reflect on your accomplishments, no matter their size. Think about the positive impact you’ve made on your patients during your shift, and acknowledge your dedication to showing up for others, everyday. 

Journaling can really help release stress and process emotions. Place a notebook and pen on your bedside table, and spend a couple of minutes noting down your thoughts. If you’re comfortable doing so, let it all out, and avoid editing as you go – we’re not aiming for perfection here. 

If you’re finding a blank page daunting, try these prompts to get started:

  • Write three things you’re grateful for today
  • Write three things you’ve achieved today 
  • Write three words that describe how you’re feeling today. 


You can also journal on your phone’s notes app, and jot down your thoughts at any time in the day – over breakfast, on a break, on your commute or in a TV ad break.

Want to learn more about the simple daily wellness habits that can help you flourish personally and at work? The first webinar in our Inner Wellness series, hosted by wellness coach Suhail Mirza, is coming up on 10 January 2024. 

Find out more and secure your free spot here.

Free webinar: Introduction to the Level 2 Adult Social Care Certificate

Free webinar: Introduction to the Level 2 Adult Social Care Certificate

We’re hosting two webinars in July for employers and learners wanting to learn more about the new Level 2 Adult…
Care Certificate: How we support your learning journey

Care Certificate: How we support your learning journey

In our latest Level 2 Adult Social Care Certificate guide, we outline the support you’ll get from us throughout your…
Care Certificate: Glossary of terms

Care Certificate: Glossary of terms

In this glossary of terms, we explore some of the words, phrases and acronyms you might encounter while undertaking the…
Fuel your shift: Nutrition tips and meal ideas for nurses

Fuel your shift: Nutrition tips and meal ideas for nurses

Preparing nutritious meals might feel like a chore, but eating well is essential. In this article, we share nutrition tips…