Feeling under pressure is a given for most nurses. Nurses working in the COVID-19 unit are not only facing long hours and extended shifts, but the anxiety and isolation when they go back home continue to take a toll on them. When everything seems to be spiraling out of control, it’s essential to take control of your mental health and do your best to focus on self-care. If you’re a travel nurse working on the frontlines of the Coronavirus pandemic, keep these mental health tips in mind to stay healthy and sane.
1. Allow Yourself to Feel All Feelings
As a nurse, your mission is to care for others. Frequently, you prioritize others’ feelings over yours. Don’t. Allow yourself to feel stressed, sad, anxious, scared, and everything else you might be feeling right now. Permit yourself to have a bad mental health day without feeling guilty. Don’t try to sail the pandemic without acknowledging the elephant in the room. Instead, intentionally allow yourself to feel all the feelings and let your body react how it wants to. Know that this is by no means a sign of weakness or breakage.
2. Take a Break from the News
You’re already living and breathing the progress of the pandemic in your daily life. Consider breaking up with the news and social media information overload to give your mental health a breather. Evidence shows that constant news and social media bursts can make people more anxious. Choose one or two sources for your medical news. Limit your news briefings to twice a day to get an idea of how the outbreak is evolving. There’s no need to check the news every hour.
3. Stay Connected to Friends and Family
Travel nurses, in particular, can feel quite isolated and alone, especially since most of the time, their family and friends live miles away from their workplace. However, isolation and the fact that your family and friends are staying at home doesn’t mean you can’t stay connected. Use mobile apps to video chat such as Zoom, Facebook, Whatsapp, FaceTime, or Google Hangouts to see friendly faces. Studies believe face-to-face interaction, even when over a video call, can be useful in preventing depression and anxiety.
4. Practice Conscious Mindfulness
Whether you’re having a rough day or you feel mentally drained when you get back home, mindfulness can help. Meditation can be particularly helpful at alleviating mental pressure, improving mental focus, and reducing stress levels. A short 15-minute breathing session can help you recoup and recharge yourself. Look for mindful meditation sessions on YouTube or download one of the many meditation apps available to get started.
5. Watch Your Diet
When stress kicks in, it’s easy to fold under cravings of sugary and fry foods. Not to mention, right now, nurses working in the COVID-19 unit are burnout and exhausted. High levels of stress can wreak havoc your immune system, leaving you more vulnerable to disease. You must keep eating leafy green vegetables, garlic, ginger, turmeric, yogurt, and other immune-boosting foods to keep your body fueled.
6. Ask for Help
Don’t try to do it all alone. Your workload, your personal life, and everything else that’s happening can take a toll on your body and mental health. Ask for help whenever you need it. From someone who can pick up some groceries or food for you to someone who can check-in on your children while you’re at work via a video call. Whatever it is you need, ask for help.
7. Speak to Someone
It’s common for family and friends who are not on the frontlines of the outbreak to have a hard time empathizing with your experience. Talk with someone who understands what you feel from a nurse or healthcare worker’s perspective. Know when you need to talk to a colleague and when you might need to speak to a therapist or mental health professional. Either way, don’t feel ashamed or guilty of discussing your feelings and thoughts with those that can offer help and guidance.
8. Perform Regular Check-ins with Yourself
No one knows more than you how you react to stress, burnout, and exhaustion, so practice self check-ins. Make sure you stop for a few minutes and self-analyze yourself for signs of anxiety, depression, or chronic stress. Remember that this has been an unprecedented scenario for many workers, and your previous coping mechanisms might not be as useful right now. If you notice you’re having difficulty sleeping, feelings of hopelessness and intrusive memories, talk to someone.
9. Spend Time Outdoors
While parks and most outdoor areas are closed to the public. You can still spend some time outdoors. If there’s a patio, balcony, or backyard you can go out to, please do so. Spending time in nature can help reduce work pressure, stress, and anxiety levels. Whenever you have a chance, whether at work or at home, try to spend at least 15 minutes outdoors and practice regenerative breathing techniques to help you stay calm and centered.
10. Do Something You Love
Obviously, when you go back home from working long hours, all you probably want to do is nothing. However, staying active is key to maintaining your mental health during this time. Actively practicing self-care means you carve out time to do the things you love. For example, watching a movie, baking, cooking, reading, dancing, or maybe even painting. Whatever it is you enjoy doing, spending time with these activities will take your mind off what’s happening and nurture your mind.
11. Practice Gratitude
When everything seems to have lost sense, practicing gratitude can do a lot for your mental health. Incorporate gratitude as part of your daily self-care routine to help you stay grounded, grateful, and hopeful. Every day, think of three things you’re thankful for. Repeat these things to yourself out loud whenever you feel down. Another great way to practice gratefulness is by writing down things we’re grateful for by the end of the day. Affirmations can be quite powerful for our mental health.
12. Consider Positive Self-Talk
With so much negativity around you, it can be easy to fall down a path of negative self-talk. Try to avoid this by first noticing your negative self-talk patterns. Once you caught yourself having those thoughts or feelings, immediately replace them with something positive. Maintaining a positive outlook amid adversity is the best shield you can put up to protect your mental health.
For nurses battling the COVID-19 outbreak and working on the floors treating sick patients, self-care is mandatory. Keep these mental health tips in mind while at work and after work hours to make sure you care for yourself during these challenging times.