Stress

Learning how to cope with stress is important for healthcare workers who often work in very stressful environments.

Browse through our resources below or call the Pharmacists’ Support Service to speak with a trained pharmacist who understands the unique pressures of pharmacy work.

Stress

Tips by pharmacy academic Honorary Associate Professor Louis Roller, Centre for Medicines Use and Safety, Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Monash University.

Stress is a stimulus, or a challenge to a person’s capacity to adapt to inner and outer demands. It can be physical, emotional and/or psychological. Stress experiences typically produce physiological and emotional arousal and typically elicit cognitive and behavioural efforts to beat the stressor. Every human being is a unique individual and consequently a stressor perceived by one person may not be appraised the same way by another.

Examples of stimulus-based perspective might include highlighting the characteristics of a stressor as physical (‘I am ill or I am in pain’), social (‘this job is taxing’), role (‘being a community pharmacist is stressful’) or task (‘I can’t understand all this IT stuff’). So, what is a stressor? Holmes and Rahe (1967, J Psychosomatic Res) have suggested that life events are stressful to the extent that they precipitate ‘life changes’. It should be noted that these include not only obvious negative events, like bereavement, but also (arguably) positive ones like childbirth and marriage.

Stress can be divided into two types:

  • – Acute: catastrophic such as accidents, disasters, or seasonal such as forth-coming exams for students, the end of financial year, and so on.
  • Chronic: such as management of chronic diseases, care-giver of demented patient, occupational stress.

Stress can elicit:

  • Organisational effects: burnout, low morale, low performance, poor working relationships, absenteeism, high turnover, job dissatisfaction, high use of health facilities, accidents.
  • Behavioural effects: drug and/or alcohol use, smoking, overeating, appetite, impulsive/aggressive outbursts, accident proneness, restlessness, blaming others, withdrawal, isolation.
  • Mental effects: such as loss of concentration, task performances, defensiveness, mental blocks, sleepiness, loss of focus on details.
  • Emotional effects: such as anxiety, anger, boredom, depression, fatigue, frustration, irritability, moodiness, tension, nervousness and self-hate.
  • Physical effects: such as medical imbalances, including blood glucose, heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, numbness, tingling, back pain, fatigue – every system is affected, the results of which can be damage to organs, chronic disease and possibly even death.

Some tips on reducing stress might include (this includes pharmacists):

  • – Prioritise the important things in life.
  • – Allocate time for planning.
  • – Lead a regular life-style with well-spaced meal breaks.
  • – Exercise and relax regularly.
  • – Delegate wherever possible.
  • – Share problems with friends and colleagues.

Some tips on the management of stress might include (yes, you the reader):

  • – Identify your stress situation; when you get caught in one, use it as a cue to relax.
  • – Think positively – you get what you expect.
  • – See how you can organise your life. Stop trying to do several things at once. Take jobs in order and plan ahead.
  • – Work out the priorities. Make a list of goals for the day – tick them off as you do each one.
  • – Make a list of stressors – see if you can identify a specific activity which will help to reduce each particular one.
  • – Take up mild exercise. Gentle repetitive activities such as cycling, swimming or jogging are ideal ways to reduce the tension caused by stress.

(This article is reproduced with permission of the author. Originally published in AJP on Friday 23 November 2012)

This publication “Managing Stress in Pharmacy: creating a healthier working environment in pharmacy by managing workplace stress” has been developed with input from PSS, PDL, PGA, PSA, PPA and SHPA and has been edited by pharmacist Helen Dowling. APPCo generously assisted with the layout and presentation. 

The publication has been adapted, with permission, from a 2012 New Zealand document “Workplace Pressure in Pharmacy: practical advice for New Zealand pharmacists, pharmacy staff and employers” in order to reference Australian legislation, guidelines and competency standards.

The publication includes a range of tips, resources and references for pharmacists to consider when looking at issues creating stress in a pharmacy workplace.

Please share this information with your workplace colleagues in order to create a healthier working environment.

Stress Less – some practical tips for dealing with stress

  1. Talk about it with someone who understands.
  2. Breathe deeply
  3. Go for a walk or a run.
  4. Smile.
  5. Focus on things that you can control or change.
  6. Look for opportunities in life’s challenges.
  7. Remember the good times and your successes.
  8. Get plenty of sleep. Maintain a healthy sleep routine.
  9. Avoid self-medication and only consume alcohol in moderation.
  10. Do something you enjoy and have fun.

Building Resilience to Manage Stress

This free webinar is hosted by the Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia.

Long term stress can lead to burnout

Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands.

Some symptoms of burnout include:

  • Reduced performance and productivity
  • Anxiety
  • Detachment
  • Feeling listless
  • Low mood
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Lack of creativity
  • Fatigue
  • Emotional exhaustion
  • Irritability
  • Increased feeling of cynicism

Pharmacists often work long hours in noisy and fast-paced environments. This ongoing exposure may leave them increasingly vulnerable to developing burnout. Burnout can have long-term mental and physical health consequences.

Practices to avoid burnout include some simple self-care steps, such as ensuring good nutrition, getting a good sleep, and having a break from work, as well as making sure you have activities you enjoy outside of work, or seeing a counsellor if you need more support for your mental health. You can also call us for support and advice.

Read some more about pharmacist burnout on the Australian Pharmacist website here. There is also an interesting article about the effect of burnout on empathy in healthcare workers here.