Mental Health Best Practices for Nurses
When you work in an industry that revolves around caring for others, it can be hard to find time to look after your own wellbeing. Compassion fatigue, secondary trauma and burnout can soon become problems for nurses who don’t look after themselves. But practising self care can not only make you feel better, both physically and mentally – it can also improve interactions with your patients. You’ll be less tired, more energetic, and more resilient.
These mental health best practices can easily be incorporated into your daily routine and will help you become healthier and happier!
1. Stay Hydrated
It seems obvious, but when you get caught up in a hectic shift, it’s so easy to forget the basics. If you’re busy running from patient to patient, your own physical needs quickly fall by the wayside. That’s why staying hydrated is one of our most important self care tips for nurses.
For us, the simplest method is to buy a good quality water bottle and set yourself a goal of how much to drink each hour or each shift. You can buy something with a filter, a bottle that keeps your water cold or even one with markers to measure how much you should be drinking. Setting yourself a reminder on your phone or smartwatch or taking a swig every time you pass by the nurses’ station can also help. No matter what, drinking plenty of water will help keep you in good physical and mental shape, and avoid that post-shift headache.
2. Eat Clean
Another common self care tip that’s quickly put on the back burner when you’re under pressure is maintaining a healthy diet. While it’s tempting to head to the vending machine for a quick sugar or caffeine hit when you can find a spare moment, we all know those highs are short-lived and often followed by a nasty crash.
Instead, make a commitment to incorporate as many unprocessed, whole foods as possible into your diet. This might be something as simple as snacking on hummus with carrot sticks, a piece of fruit or a handful of nuts. For bigger meals, try to get some whole grains in there like brown rice or quinoa, along with plenty of veggies and a source of protein. We find meal prepping to be a big time saver when it comes to eating healthy – that way you have something tasty and sustaining ready to go when you head out the door.
3. Keep Active
We all know that being physically active is great for our bodies and minds, but it’s not always easy to squeeze in around shifts, especially when you’re on your feet all day at work! We suggest finding an activity you enjoy and look forward to, rather than dragging yourself off to the gym each week. Try out different options like yoga, boxing, swimming, or taking a walk in the great outdoors – these activities can be just as good for your mind as they are for your body. The whole point is to get your body moving and free up some space in your head.
4. Get Enough Sleep
Sleep deprivation seems to come hand-in-hand with shift work, especially when you’re burning the midnight oil. If you’re struggling to keep up with your Zzzs when you’re working odd hours, have a go at creating a relaxing sleep environment. This might include investing in some good earplugs, an eye mask and maybe even blackout curtains. Small changes like this can ensure you wake up feeling refreshed and ready to go – even if you’re starting your day at 2pm!
5. Be Mindful
Meditation and mindfulness practices are a great way to alleviate stress and help you get through the tougher moments during your shift. All you need is 10 minutes each day, and you’ll start seeing a difference in the way you manage even the most demanding patients. Check out one of the many smartphone apps available and listen on your commute to work, before you go to bed or first thing in the morning.
Being self-aware is also crucial – you need to recognise the unique ways your occupational stress may be impacting you both inside and outside of work. Recognising the stressors at play ensures you can address any issues before they worsen.
6. Stay Connected
We know how emotionally draining it can be to work as a nurse, so it’s important you have a support system of family, friends, religious counsel, mentors, and industry peers who are facing similar challenges around you. This can be to help offload at the end of a difficult shift or distract you with a fun night out. At the same time, remember to look after your time and energy by having healthy boundaries and knowing when to say “no” to social commitments in order to say “yes” to yourself.
Additionally, part of good self care is knowing when to get help – even when you’re in the midst of caring for others, don’t forget to seek medical advice and/or counselling for yourself when you need it. After all, you are your most important instrument at work!
7. Treat Yourself
You work hard, so why not treat yourself to a little bit of indulgence every now and again? We’re talking a relaxation massage, a pedicure, your favourite meal, or a long soak in a bubble bath. It doesn’t have to break the bank – just create a bit of “you” time where you can release any existing tension in your body and mind. They’ll both thank you for it.
Here at WESolutions, our team of nursing recruitment specialists know how important it is to follow physical and mental health best practices. We are always available to chat with our nurses about how they can make small changes to their daily routines to see big differences in their physical and mental wellbeing.
For more self care tips for nurses, or if you’re on the hunt for your next nursing job opportunity in the UK, give our team a call today.