Five ways nurses can look after their mental health

big black nurse

As nurses, you may be used to caring for patients at the expense of your health. The long shifts, minimal rest, and the number of cases you have to tackle in a day can slowly weigh on your well-being. As a result, you may start feeling withdrawn from work, constantly feel tired, and have trouble keeping your mood in check. Working more and having little to no time to rest can impact your mental well-being. This, in turn, affects the way you do your job and can disrupt achieving positive patient outcomes. Therefore, while helping others take care of themselves, you need to extend the same courtesy to yourself, and here’s how:

Go For More Senior Positions and Study Online

There are many benefits to choosing an advanced position at work. When you move higher up the hierarchy, you can select your schedule and no longer deal with repetitive tasks. For instance, as a family nurse practitioner, you can channel your energy into diagnosing and treating patients with complete autonomy while a junior nurse handles the paperwork. 

This saves you the trouble of staying back longer unless you’re dealing with an emergency. If you’re eager to become an advanced nursing professional, you can quickly reach this level in no time. You may dread balacning work and studies, but don’t let that hold you back from climbing up the career ladder. By going for an online degree, you can fast-track your education and get the skills you need to become a certified FNP or a nurse leader without the added stress of rushing to campus classes.

Learn To Draw Boundaries

There is no denying that, as a nurse, your patients have to take priority. But when you’re done with your shift, you must focus on yourself and think about your well-being. Once you’re done for the day, learn to draw up boundaries and don’t take on extra work unless you can handle it. If your co-worker tries pushing their workload on you, tell them you’re unavailable and need to leave. 

When you get home, switch off your devices, inform your colleagues to page you if there’s an emergency, and try to log off from work completely. While this may seem selfish, it is not. You must figure out the fine line between helping your peers and making time for yourself. It will help if you discuss your schedule with your nursing manager beforehand. Let them know the days you can work longer and when you need to go home to rest. This makes it easier for the nursing manager to delegate tasks ahead of time and assign you to work according to your shift. 

It’s okay to lend your peer a hand now and then but let them take accountability for the patients they’re supposed to manage. If you continue stretching your working hours for them, you’ll start getting fatigued much faster. Additionally, you’ll be far more helpful to your patients when well-rested.

tired nurse

Look Into Therapy

When you think of therapy, you may automatically assume that these mental health professionals only work with clients with severe mental health problems. However, that is not the case. Therapists are mental health specialists that work with all matters related to your mental and emotional well-being. If you’re stressed, exhausted, irritated easily, and have anger management problems, these experts can help you out. As a nurse, you may also carry the burden and trauma of losing patients. Coupled with increased stress, this may also affect your mental health. 

Therefore, it’s best to visit a therapist to let go of all the mental baggage you carry. These professionals can help you healthily express yourself, understand your predicament, and offer practical and realistic advice without guilt-tripping. As a result, you find healthier ways to cope with your stress, get better at identifying when you need a break, and in case you encounter a traumatic case, know how to prevent it from getting to you.

Figure Out Ways To Relax

The way you choose to unwind when you’re not working is a subjective notion. Everyone has their way of relaxing after work, and you need to figure out what makes you feel de-stressed. Maybe you enjoy hanging out with friends and shopping on your days off, or you like meditating and practicing mindfulness at home. Some nurses may enjoy listening to music, while others use what little spare time they have to catch up on their sleep. It would help if you focused on what makes you feel rejuvenated when you’re off the clock and make sure you make it a part of your routine. This can be as simple as journaling your day and reflecting on your professional nursing role. 

Develop A Healthy Lifestyle

A significant part of your mental health depends on your lifestyle. If you’re not eating well or sleeping properly, it can impact you mentally and emotionally. As a nurse, it is understandable if you don’t have enough time to sleep properly. But you can still find ways to rest even if you’re not getting continuous sleep. Try to squeeze in a quick power nap during a break. If you get home early, get at least six hours of rest without interruption. 

Make sure you have a healthy diet free from greasy meals and instant food. You need fresh, healthy meals to give you the nutrition you need. Introduce exercise into your routine. Walking, yoga, swimming, and jogging are good for physical and mental health. These instant stress relievers help you clear your mind, especially when you feel exhausted by your train of thought.

Final Thoughts

Being a nurse is hard work and can weigh down your mental well-being. As a nurse, you have a duty to your patients that may not carry out efficiently if you don’t look after yourself. You must find your way out of this state if you’re going through mental turmoil. There are many ways to achieve mental stability.  

Aim for higher positions at work and opt for online degrees instead of on-campus ones.  Furthermore, learn to reclaim your space and speak to a therapist to make sense of your mental health better. Also, you need to know how to relax and focus on building a healthy lifestyle to help you manage your mental health better.