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Tackling stress

01 September 2021

Avoid succumbing to stress with our tips on managing difficult situations.

The effects of stress are felt by thousands of health professionals – millions of working days are lost every year as a result of depression and anxiety. 

Everyone suffers from some pressure in their lives: it can be a good thing, motivating us to get our work done and raising performance; however, when demands and pressures become excessive, they can cause problems. 

Hospitals are challenging places, full of demanding individuals, who openly confront the staff that run them. In the face of this, junior doctors must maintain a calm, well-presented and attentive demeanour, while multi-tasking in an often frenetic environment. 

Stress may arise due to a number of factors, including:

• Career issues
• Bullying/racial harassment
• Issues with staff
• Complaints procedures
• Health problems
• Work-life balance
• Burnout

Tips for managing stress:

• Put up boundaries – learn to say no
• Take time out – particularly when you start to feel stressed
• Keep a stress diary – to identify what things are causing you stress
• Acknowledge your limitations
• Get a good GP – see them when you are not well and listen to their advice
• Hold regular meetings – we’re all human: working at the “coal face” leaves little time for this, so organise time for reflection with colleagues
• Be open – say you’re feeling stressed.

The Medical Council has established a Health Sub-Committee that monitors and advises Council about the health of individual doctors who have relevant medical disabilities. This includes mental illness and addictions such as alcohol and drug dependence.

If you have concerns about your health or the health of a doctor you know please consider the following options:

• Discuss with your family doctor
• Discuss with an occupational health physician
• Make contact with the Practitioner Health Matters Programme (PHMP).  

The Irish Medical Organisation offers personal advice and representation (where necessary) on the following issues:

• Individual terms and conditions of employment
• Grievance handling
• Dispute resolution at local level
• Salary rates
• Health and safety advice.

For more information, visit

Medical Protection has launched a counselling service with ICAS to help members experiencing stress. This service offers all members free and immediate access to confidential and independent counselling support and assistance. Find out more about the counselling service here.