Mental Health Guide for Nurses

During these unprecedented times, healthcare facilities have gone into overdrive. With coronavirus cases and hospitalizations still rising, many facilities are teetering on the edge of being overwhelmed – or already are. Shortages of beds, ventilators, and oxygen tanks are a constant source of concern. They have forced several facilities to operate beyond their standard capacities.

Nurses fighting on the frontlines have taken the greatest hit. Many have been thrust into unfamiliar work environments and away from familiar coworkers. They have to work extended hours with limited access to protective equipment and rapidly evolving instructions on caring for patients with the virus. And then there’s the emotional toll; with coronavirus patients isolated, nurses have had to provide emotional support to both patients and their families. In many cases, they’ve had the difficult task of helping families say goodbye to their loved ones over the phone.

Nursing has always been a very stressful job, and the pandemic has seriously impacted nurses’ emotional and psychological well-being. Nurses are at a heightened risk of suffering from fatigue, burnout, and mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety.

If you’re a nurse who feels overwhelmed, keep reading below. We’ll be going over several tips to battle burnout and improve mental well-being.

Don’t be afraid to seek help

It’s important to realize that there’s nothing wrong with seeking professional help. The duties and responsibilities of nurses are incredibly taxing on the mind, and psychologists and psychiatrists possess the necessary tools required to assess and diagnose mental conditions. Initially, you can approach a senior nurse who has completed a post-master’s psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner certificate online to identify underlying problems. By utilizing their knowledge of psychopharmacology learned through online platforms, they can help you overcome mental health challenges.

It’s also vital to have people that you can talk to openly. They can be coworkers you trust or close friends. Bottled-up thoughts and emotions can make it very difficult to achieve mental clarity, and it’s important to talk to people and share your feelings.

Set boundaries between work and personal life

Undoubtedly, maintaining a healthy work-life balance as a nurse can be challenging. If you’re not careful, though, your work stress can become a part of your home stress. And you may find yourself taking this stress out on your friends, children, or significant other.

When your shift ends, leave any work-related thoughts and feelings at work. Although easier said than done, keep reminding yourself that you are going home and leaving any work stress behind. You can create a daily routine to disconnect from your work while you commute back home. This routine can include listening to some music, catching up with a friend, or simply admiring the environment around you.

Get enough sleep

The significance of good sleep for nursing professionals cannot be overstated. Proper sleep can improve alertness, concentration, and stamina. It can also reduce stress levels and uplift your mood.

The challenge for nurses lies in the fact that they often work in shifts. That makes it difficult to sleep for seven to eight hours at an end. However, it’s essential to realize that the quality of sleep is often more important than the quantity. You can improve the quality of your sleep by reducing your screen usage before bed, avoiding alcohol and caffeine, and developing a calming bedtime ritual, like reading. Short naps can also provide a boost of energy when taken at appropriate times.

Night shifts can also be problematic since they interfere with the body’s circadian rhythm – its natural clock. A viable way to deal with this is to ensure a regular sleep schedule in the day. It will gradually recalibrate your circadian rhythm over time. Also, consider investing in blackout curtains and white noise machines to block out distractions.

Maintain an exercise routine

Finding the time to exercise regularly can be difficult, but the benefits are substantial. Nursing professionals are aware of the importance of paying attention to their level of physical activity. Experts recommend at least thirty minutes of moderate daily exercise. You should also incorporate periodic stretching and walks during breaks at work.

Regular exercise can positively impact serotonin and endorphin levels in your brain, which boosts your mood.

Unwind by pursuing hobbies

When you’re at home, you need hobbies to help you unwind from the rigors and stress of a nursing profession. Carving out time for activities you enjoy can encourage both physical and mental well-being.

As a nurse, you’ll probably want a hobby that doesn’t require hours of your time. Gardening is a great hobby, and you don’t need to spend a fortune on seeds, potting mix, and tools. Photography and videography are great options if you have a camera. Scrapbooking is another idea, and you can start by collecting stamps, stickers, or anything else that catches your eye. There isn’t any shortage of exciting hobbies that you can explore to destress yourself.

Limit exposure to media

It’s essential to stay informed during a health crisis. However, excessive and repetitious exposure to the 24/7 news cycle can increase threat perceptions and induce psychological distress. It can lead to subsequent mental and physical health problems down the line.

Given how stressful nursing can be on its own, you’re not doing yourself a favor by increasing your exposure to sensationalist, pessimistic, and disturbing news. Choose one or two trusted sources for critical news updates, and set parameters for media exposure. It applies to social media too.

Final Thoughts

No job is stress-free. Nursing, however, is unarguably more stressful than others. From the long shifts to the emotional distress from seeing patients in pain, nurses often push themselves to the very limit. You can’t expect to take care of your patients if you’re mentally and physically fatigued yourself. If you often find yourself in a state of stress and are constantly battling burnout, take a step back, and go through the list of tips we’ve put together.