Five practical tips to wind down after providing support

Smiling aged young woman using application on tablet computer

According to Lifeline and the team at Stress Down Day, research shows that 90% of Australians need to “stress less” – with 74% of people reporting being stressed from work. We’ve previously posted about the psychological demands of healthcare professionals are greater than others. As someone who spends their days completely focused on someone else’s wellbeing, here are some practical ways that you can look after your own when it’s time to switch off.

When it comes to work, according to Business Insider, Australians are amongst the least stressed people in the world. While that’s great news, as someone who works supporting others day in day out, it’s important to be aware of techniques for winding down after work with your clients is done. We know that busy independent support workers don’t always have time to take a yoga class or engage in mindful meditation practice, so we have sourced some practical tips from the experts about the best way to de-stress.

Turn on some tunes

According to PsychCentral, music can be a powerful stress-reducing tool. Slow, quiet classical music can slow our pulse and heart rate, lower blood pressure and decrease stress hormones. Studies have even shown that music can have medical implications – resulting in physiological improvements for patients with dementia and premature babies in the NICU. Even if you don’t have time to sit and meditate with some Mozart when you get home from work, belting out a tune from your favourite album as you drive home or listening to the radio as you prepare dinner can not only provide a distraction, but can help release those endorphins.

Take a quick walk through the park

While not all of us have ready access to beaches or a national park to take a stroll through, a short walk around your nearest green space can provide a range of health benefits. As reported by Healthline, the UK-based study found that people who spent at least 120 minutes a week in nature saw a boost in their mental and physical health. While this might seem like a big chunk out of your week, the study also found that many short walks near home was just as effective as a long hike through the woods. Other studies have found that even five minutes exercising in nature can boost your mood.

Do something with your hands

If you can’t switch your mind off even when you’re chilling out in front of the TV, consider doing something crafty with your hands. This Huffington Post article highlights a range of stress-busting ideas including calming, repetitive crafts like knitting or needlework. The combination of rhythmic movements and the focus required can have a meditative effect, helping to soothe anxiety. Dr Perri Klass is a pediatrician who has long extolled the benefits of knitting for herself and others. Author of many articles on the subject, her belief is that both doctors and patients could benefit greatly from spending their downtime in an activity that’s both soothing and productive.

Have a chuckle

Ever enjoy the guilty pleasure of a good cat video? While it might seem like a  major time-waste, it may actually be one of the few times YouTube is recommended as a method for beating stress. The US-based Mayo Clinic highlights a number of short and long-term benefits including stimulation of circulation and muscles, activate and then relieve your stress response and stimulates your organs, releasing those all-too-important endorphins. Calling your friend for a chat after your day can be doubly beneficial, according to a study which found that kids experiencing something stressful produced less cortisol (the stress hormone) when accompanied by their best mate.

Connect with other support workers

This article in The Guardian reflects on the emotional labour of support work – something that’s not often discussed, but is a very present reality when caring for often-vulnerable clients. Working independently via Mable provides freedom and flexibility over your work – factors which are associated with reduced stress. What you don’t have access to is a traditional ‘workplace’ where you might find camaraderie with colleagues. But that doesn’t mean you can’t create it. Joining the Mable closed support worker Facebook Group, or attending a support worker meetup in your area are two great ways to find your community. A regular coffee and catch up with others who understand the demands of your job can help you tackle some of the stressors you may encounter day to day.

If you’re interested in finding out more about offering support directly to clients within your own community, click through here.