Burnout culture for nurses is REAL. You might think that you’re handling the constant overtime, 12-hour days filled with blood and guts and sickness, perfectly fine. But a mental health crisis can creep up on you, and you may not notice you’re in need of a break until you’ve reached a breaking point. It’s good to check in with yourself and recognize when you’re overworked. If you’re in a state of crisis, it’s not good for you or your patients!
Here are four signs you should take a mental health day ASAP.
You feel tired all the time
If you can’t sleep, something’s wrong. And if you are sleeping, but you wake up still exhausted and can’t retain energy throughout the day, something is also very wrong. Sleep can be a vicious cycle for emerging anxiety and depression. If you’re anxious or depressed, it can usually result in a lack of sleep. And then in turn, a lack of sleep can result in more anxiety and depression. If you catch yourself needing more than five cups of coffee a day to keep you going throughout the day, but then find yourself tossing and turning when you try to go to bed, it’s time for a lifestyle change. And it’s hard to reset if you can’t get a break from work. Take a day to look up some natural remedies for retaining your energy throughout the day.
You’re easily set off
You might find yourself crying more than you usually do. Or getting really frustrated at small inconveniences to the point of rage. This usually means you’re exhausted. And you might be even more angry knowing you have a full work week ahead of you and you’ll have no chance to catch up on sleep. Your sensitivity can also manifest in how you treat other people. You might be getting short with people you would usually be more compassionate towards, or your coworkers might annoy you or anger you more than is reasonable. If you’re snapping at people and having mini meltdowns, it’s time to take a step back.
You can’t focus
If you all of a sudden find yourself pivoting from one task to the next without finishing anything, unable to keep your attention on one thing for more than a few minutes, you probably don’t have ADHD. It’s more likely that you’re tired, and maybe a little anxious. This kind of absent-mindedness can lead to careless mistakes, which is not good for a nurse working in an emergency room or the ICU. If you find yourself more scatterbrained than usually and struggling to keep up, take a day to recharge.
“Concentrating on emotional well-being could allow for some mental rest and improve work-related morale,” NYU psychiatrist Marra Ackerman M.D. told Women’s Health. “Practicing mindfulness meditation [during your mental-health day] is one tactic you can use to improve your concentration.”
You can’t stop getting sick
We’ve all been there. That point in your life where you’re working so hard you’re practically always sick with something. Sniffling all the time or a cough that won’t go away (which is extra scary in COVID times) can indicate that your immune system isn’t working as well as it should be. And this is almost always directly linked to a lack of sleep and too much stress. One day of rest can actually make a world of difference for your physical and mental health. Give your mind and body 24 hours to recover and your immune system might bounce back faster than you think.