Nursing has always been a mentally, emotionally and physically demanding job, but perhaps never more so than during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the American Nurse Journal, nurses are experiencing unprecedented levels of burnout, anxiety and depression. Read on to learn ways you can support your mental health and when to seek professional care.
What nurses can do to support their mental health
When you take care of yourself, you’ll feel better, have more joy and energy, and be able to provide better care to your patients. Here are some tips for supporting your mental well-being through self-care:
Practice stress management
The following activities can help you manage your stress levels:
- Spend time with family and friends
- Do a hobby you enjoy, such as gardening, knitting, reading, hiking, traveling or painting
- Do deep breathing exercises
- Practice yoga
- Step outside for some fresh air each day
- Join a support group for nurses
- Limit how much news and social media you consume each day
Get better sleep
Aim to get seven to nine hours of sleep every 24 hours. Sleep can be a challenge for nurses, particularly if you work long or unusual shifts or experience significant stress. Try these tips for a better night’s sleep:
- Aim to go to bed and wake up around the same time each day (as much as possible with your schedule).
- Make your room a sleep haven. Turn down the temperature, install blackout curtains or shades, play a white noise machine and invest in a supportive pillow.
- Limit electronic devices. Put your phone, computer and tablet away an hour before bed. Studies have shown the lights from these devices can disrupt your sleep.
- Avoid heavy meals a few hours before going to sleep.
- Limit alcohol consumption. Drinking alcohol may make you feel sleepy at first, but it can ultimately disrupt your sleep. If you choose to drink, limit it to no more than two drinks a day.
Get regular physical activity
Getting regular exercise can help boost your mood and energy level. Pick an activity you enjoy that works for your schedule. If you work the night shift, consider hitting the gym or doing a workout video before work. Aim for 150 minutes of moderate physical activity (like walking) or 75 minutes of intense activity (like a HIIT workout) each week.
Eat a well-balanced diet and stay hydrated
Fuel your body with nourishing whole foods like fresh or frozen vegetables and fruit, lean proteins, healthy fats, and whole grains. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated since dehydration can lead to fatigue.
Seek workplace resources
Here are three ideas to address stress in the workplace:
- Walk a lap around your floor for a minute or two and take some deep breaths. You could also ask a trusted colleague to join you.
- Practice mini-moments of self-care. When you wash your hands or take a break for coffee or a meal, silently recite a meditation, inspirational quote, prayer or favorite song.
- Contact your supervisor or your organization’s human resources (HR) department or employee assistance program (EAP) if you feel overwhelmed, overworked or bullied. They can help point you toward the appropriate resources to address workplace issues.
Get professional support
Talk to your primary care provider or a counselor if you struggle with chronic stress, fatigue, anxiety, depression, compassion fatigue or substance abuse.
If you are in crisis or have suicidal thoughts:
- Text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741
- Call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
- Go to your nearest emergency department
How CareLinx supports nursing professionals
At CareLinx, we believe in supporting the mental, physical and emotional well-being of nursing professionals. We offer career opportunities adapted to your needs and preferences so you can find a rewarding, flexible career doing work you love.
Interested in working with CareLinx? Learn more about our Nurse OnDemand program.