Stressed Out At Work? Ways to Cope with Challenges

NOVEMBER 29, 2017

Recently, I am hearing through the grapevine (friends, Facebook) that my fellow pharmacists are more stressed out and overworked than ever. Whether working long shifts on alternating days or shorter shifts more frequently, pharmacists are exhausted.

During work hours, there is no time to eat, barely any time to use the restroom,
 and no time to sit down and clear your head for even a moment. We work in a constant, high-stress environment where any mistake can have fatal consequences. On days and shifts off, pharmacists are frantically running errands and keeping up with family and personal obligations. It is definitely a nonstop lifestyle, and although our profession may carry a lot of prestige, a pharmacist's life also comes with a lot of stress.  In the time of ongoing influenza shots combined with "refill everything" December, followed by "new insurance" January, pharmacy life is extra stressful. 


I reached out to Randi Levin, a nationally recognized Transitional Life Strategist from Northern New Jersey, for her expertise. I have heard her speak about leading your best life and she is incredibly inspirational. I knew that she would have some helpful tips for pharmacists on how to cope with our hectic lifestyle, and as expected, she came through with amazing advice. 


The first thing I asked her was generally how to deal with long shifts with no time to breathe, eat, or use the restroom? As for those pharmacists who work split shits, many are also frustrated during a shift change when instead of leaving as scheduled, we end up staying an extra hour to review problems, tie up loose ends, do paperwork, etc. I expected her to tell us to take a break or just breathe, but her advice was surprisingly different. 


She explained that to a large degree, our work environment is what we sign up for and is perhaps simply a part of the job description for pharmacists in busy large retail chains. 

Ms. Levin explains, “This is not something that is 'happening to you' but rather a part of the tapestry of many hectic retail
 environments today. You are a key part of the team of your store and as such you are a leader. How do you want to lead? You are part of the daily transition of players. If you like what you do you will want to show up engaged and accepting because this will elevate your energy and attitude. If you can change your perspective to be able to accept the parts of your job that frustrate you as part of the overall job description, you can challenge yourself to focus on how many people you help and impact each day rather than on the pitfalls of the environment itself.


Expect that your day will come with stress and handle that stress as well as you can under the circumstances by being mindful of your own energy levels. She recommends asking yourself the following questions: How do you want to show up at work? Where do you want to be of service in your day? Can you challenge yourself to see the impact and scope of your job as the pharmacist in this organization? 


When you're having a tough moment at work, try to breathe deeply and count to 10 before reacting. Ms. Levin states that this will support you in diffusing a frustrating situation so that you respond professionally rather than react from a place of stress and anger. Ask yourself if what you are stressed out about will matter in five years. If not, move on. If it will, you may want to take a deeper look at the situation. 


We have established that it is important to go to work prepared for whatever the day holds for you. While you should handle the stresses of the day as gracefully as possible, you want to make sure that you are leading a happy, fulfilling, and balanced life. Ms. Levin says that the key to accomplishing this is to focus on being mindful of your commitment to yourself when you are OFF. When you are off, whether it is a long day or just a few hours, ask yourself the following: "What am I doing today that is nice for ME? 


Spend time during your off days not only doing the essentials, but structure your time in a way that is meaningful to you. It is very easy to forget about yourself. You have to fill your cup before you fill everyone else's. Find an hour a day to do something that you can look forward to: a favorite TV show, a book you have been meaning to read, a hobby you always wanted to try, meeting a friend for a relaxing lunch and maybe a glass of wine! Ms. Levin also suggests freeing up some time by unplugging a little bit from social media. Use your senses and take a walk in nature, daydream, and exercise. These are all de-stressors that will recharge YOU.


If you need a break from the rigors of your job but aren't ready to throw in the towel, remember that your job must work with you and for you. Perhaps you can talk to your supervisor about changing or reducing your hours, or changing your location.  A very stressful job can impact everything: your marriage, your family, and your health.


What about those that are miserable and feel trapped in their job because of salary or benefits they need? Ms. Levin insists that you can always reinvent yourself and you are limited only by the boundaries you put around yourself. Perhaps you would be happier in a supermarket pharmacy, a hospital setting, at an insurance company, consulting, in pharmaceutical sales, or in a drug information or academia setting. There is always something different you can do with your education. 


Speaking of education, you can even go back to school and change your field if that is what makes you happy. Ms. Levin believes that you will be more fulfilled if you move to things that are authentic to who you are, and that it is never too late to reinvent yourself. Over time, what works for you may change and evolve. She says "You aren't living your purpose if you don't want to get out of bed in the morning. There is always a way to tweak the situation and the job itself so that it best aligns with who you are today and what your needs are as well.”

I hope these suggestions help you! 

Feel free to reach out to me with any feedback or comments at [email protected] 


If you would like to learn more about Randi Levin, her website is  

 or her at [email protected]


Karen Berger, PharmD
Karen Berger, PharmD, graduated from the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy in 2001. She has worked in community pharmacies for over 17 years as a Pharmacist in Charge, staff, and floater pharmacist for a large chain. Currently, she is a pharmacist at an independent pharmacy in Northern NJ. She can be reached at [email protected]