How to beat stress at work

How do you focus on what you can do and not on the work you can’t do? Productive caregivers say there are ways to bring your stress levels down and keep yourself focused on the right things. 

More than 40 Intermountain Healthcare caregivers were surveyed and interviewed, who were identified by their coworkers as being organized and productive. Here are some ideas they shared about how to deal with stress and heavy workloads. 

9 tips for dealing with work stress

  1. Keep perspective. “Remembering that I work to live my best life and don’t live to work helps me focus on work at work and on home and family when I’m off work,” says Jennifer Christensen, home dialysis coordinator at Intermountain Medical Center.
  2. Leave work at work when you go home. “I try really hard to leave work at work and be present wherever else I am,” says Kaden Rogers, Emergency Department social worker at Dixie Regional Medical Center. 
  3. Exercise. Several people say that’s critical to keeping stress levels down. “I’ve scheduled in exercise four days a week at 6 a.m.,” says Amy Bennett, RN, medical, surgical, and pediatrics nurse manager at Cedar City Hospital. “This helps me start my day with a clear mind, ready to tackle whatever comes my way.”
  4. Get outdoors. “For some people getting away from the work setting briefly with a short walk or a weekend hike is renewing,” says Whitnie Jolley, inventory operations manager at LDS Hospital. “I exercise every day. I get outside a few times a week. It’s a habit and it’s absolutely necessary for me to maintain my sanity.”
  5. See work as a record-setting opportunity. “Roll with the punches and just worry about one fire at a time,” says Kristen King, RN, of McKay-Dee Hospital. “Sometimes when things are unbelievably crazy I pretend I'm setting a record for the most memorable shift of my life and I list the problems that come as challenges are completed, like a competition or a contest. It might sound stupid when I put it in words, but it’s how I keep smiling when other people are falling apart.” 
  6. Learn to say no. Don’t take on more than you can do. “I say no when I can’t take on an extra task, and I’m honest about my abilities to meet deadlines,” says Whitnie. “I’m transparent about what’s possible. I try to not take on too much.”
  7. Practice deep breathing and meditation. Chenlee Condi, kidney services manager at Intermountain Medical Center, says meditation and deep breathing are the most effective things she does to reduce work stress.
  8. Reach out to coworkers for help. “I have great coworkers who support me so much,” says Lacey Mortenson, learning coordinator at Logan Regional Hospital. “In addition to caregivers I work with here, I know people I can reach out to who are in my role at other facilities.”
  9. Have fun. “Be more engaged and have fun at work,” says Justin Robbins, MSN, RN, at Cedar City Hospital. 

8 tips on how to focus on what you can do and not on what you can't

  1. Just get started. Caleb Frischknecht, intellectual property director based at the Central Office, says when he gets overwhelmed and stressed he takes action. “What relieves my stress is to just get started. I take the next item that’s the most important and time-sensitive and I get to work. Instead of worrying about whether or not I’m going to get everything done, I just get started so I can start to relieve some of the anxiety I feel. After that, I start thinking more clearly and that enables me to deal with the stress.”
  2. At the beginning of the day, pick the top three things you’re going to focus on. “At the start of every day — when I can — I like to do a personal huddle where I prioritize the things I need to get done for the day,” says TJ Smith, Continuous Improvement senior business partner based at Intermountain Medical Center. “I list the three most important tasks I need to accomplish on my Leader Standard Work. If I’m always prioritizing and working on the most important tasks, then the unimportant tasks will eventually fall off my list.”
  3. Get up early and go to work, even though you know you can’t do it all. “I get up early and I spend the whole day doing good things,” says Mark Ott, MD, Intermountain Medical Center medical director. “I realize I can never finish everything, so I have no problem falling asleep each night. I do all the good I can get done in a single day and then I fall asleep till the next day.”
  4. Strive for a positive, grateful, can-do attitude. “I’m human so I can slip into the ‘can’t mode.’ It happens,” says Amy. “The majority of the time I live in the ‘can mode.’ I have a gratitude journal and each time I find myself slipping into the ‘can’t mode,’ I journal and get refocused. There’s a wealth of knowledge and support within Intermountain. We’re a team. If you need something, reach out, find the expert, and stay focused on your goal.”
  5. Keep patients and first things first. “Patient care comes first and always,” says Kristen King, RN, at McKay-Dee Hospital. “I spend most of my time making sure our patients are safe, then I go for things that make them comfortable and happy, then I make sure my coworkers are OK. Finally, I do all the odds and ends. I’d never put off something a patient needs so I can say I completed this checklist or that charting. Make sure there's time for the big things first, then fill in with smaller things. It almost always fits.”
  6. Plan and set aside time for important tasks. “I allow myself an allotted time amount to do any one thing and when that time has ended I move onto what’s next. If I didn’t have time to finish a given task, I schedule more time for it the next day,” says Erica Groves, a professional documentation and coding senior consultant at the Employee Services Center.
  7. Start each day by making a prioritized list. “I start each day making a list of what I need to do, putting things in order of importance,” Josh Rae, quality consultant at Utah Valley Hospital says. “If I’m unable to finish the tasks on my list, they go on the list for the next day. That way I always have things done on time, when they need to be done.”
  8. Do a good job at the things you choose to do. “I’m constantly reminding myself that I can only do so much,” Kaden says. “It’s important for me to make sure I do a good job at what I actually can do, and not let the rest be a distraction.”