Five Strategies for looking after your Mental Health & Wellbeing
Last week, we interviewed a telephone service nurse who talked about the importance of resilience in nursing. We spoke about her role as a mental health nurse and the topic of mental health & wellbeing for nurses as well as patients came up again and again. She told us how nurses should leave the difficult situations they encounter at work, finding a way to switch off from the stress whilst at home. She also told us that this comes easier to some than others.
The fact is, nursing is a high-stress profession and even the most resilient, experienced professional can suffer from ‘nurse burnout’.
Needless to say, this feeling of ‘burnout’ – caused by stress in the workplace resulting in frustration and fatigue – can occur in any profession. However, those working in healthcare are often much more reluctant to take time for themselves or seek support due to their presence on the ward being so vital. Unfortunately, nurse burnout can have a direct impact on patients too.
A 2020 survey reported that nearly half of nursing staff reported a 10% increase in work-related stress during the year. 44% reported feeling unwell due to frustration and fatigue at work. This week we ask, how do those whose job it is to take of others take care of themselves?
At Prospero, we understand how difficult the job can be out there at the moment. Every day, we are in awe of the amazing healthcare workers we come into contact with. We also know a blog post isn’t going to solve everybody’s problems – however, we are confident you will find some helpful information below. We hope you enjoy our ‘five strategies for looking after your mental health & wellbeing as a nurse’:
1. Work on Positive Communication
It is helpful to check in with colleagues during shifts to support each other. Furthermore, a really important part of the support structure for nurses are the more formal meetings which should take place regularly with nursing managers.
Allocate time during the week to meet with your nursing manager. Discuss the challenges of the job with a view to finding solutions. Nursing teams should work together to try strategies to boost wellbeing. Using web-based surveys among staff or holding group meetings are great ways to involve the whole team in making decisions to improve mental health and wellbeing.
2. Find Time and Space to Exercise
And release! It’s no secret that stress and exercise are linked: the endorphins released by a workout reduce levels of stress. This is a fact that cannot be argued with. However, many nurses may say they simply cannot find the time or are too exhausted by the shift to keep up with a regular routine…
Your medical practice may have access to regular exercise programmes. If you’re lucky, you may have some on-site gym equipment or a space that can be used during breaks. If so, make sure you make use of this – even if just for a quick 10-15 minute workout. This will absolutely help. It will feel tough going to start with, but if you keep up with it energy levels will get a boost.
If there are no such resources at your place of work then there are still options: Running to or from the hospital or involving colleagues in setting up a post-shift aerobics class are good starting points. Check out these easy exercise ideas for nurses which can be tried almost anywhere!
Regrettably, it is likely that staff working in hospitals will have overlapping shifts and will be located in different wards throughout the day. Therefore, setting up an open invite no-pressure-to-join zoom exercise class may be a positive step. It’s easy and free, and if you set up the class then you are not only boosting your own wellbeing but that of colleagues too. What a great feeling!
3. Eat & Drink Healthily
Just as it’s tricky to stick to an exercise routine, eating healthily can be problematic during long or irregular shift patterns. Although hospitals are improving – vegan vending machine, nice! – it’s so easy to grab a quick unhealthy sugar-high snack when break times are limited.
Caffeine reliance is also a real issue in this profession. How many of you feel exhausted until you’ve had those three-heaped-spoonfuls of instant coffee, only to feel completely wiped out a few hours later?
Looking for healthy snack options or decaf alternatives will really improve mental health and wellbeing in the long run. Some of the staff on the training team at Prospero tried cutting out caffeine this year. Despite two quite grumpy weeks of minor withdrawal symptoms, those that stuck with it now report feeling much more level-headed and alert at work.
Returning to the importance of communication, bring these issues to the table at team meetings. Ask managers and team leaders what can be done to improve healthy eating on your ward.
4. Promote Self-Awareness and Emotional Intelligence at Work
Having self-awareness of your emotions does not come naturally to everyone. Identifying the problems and stress triggers at work is really hard when you are overwhelmed by negative feelings, frustration and fatigue.
Nurses are fantastic at forming effective relationships with patients and colleagues and responding to a variety of situations. Every day, effective nurses listen to patients’ problems and assess their emotional state whilst keeping their own reactions in check. As a result, nurses are able to respond calmly and rationally showing understanding and empathy with a patient.
However, if you feel your own mental health and wellbeing suffering at work, raising your self-awareness could be beneficial. If a nurse matches the stress levels and emotions of a patient and reacts accordingly, then the anxiety in the room is only going to be escalated. Adopting a positive emotion-focused approach to dealing with your own emotions is just as crucial for your mental health and wellbeing.
Having the ability to stop and say, ‘I’m feeling very stressed today, and that is OK. I think this feeling could be a result of x and y. What can I do about this? I’ll start by speaking to z,’ gives you a calm, logical approach moving towards solutions.
5. Think about Resilience Training
Resilience training can help professionals learn how to adapt and cope with stressors at work more effectively. This is becoming more common in healthcare, particularly in intensive care units.
Psychologists believe you can learn and practice resilience techniques; that coping strategies can reduce stress, anxiety and depression among nurses. Resilience training may be something to look into for your nursing team.
Thanks for reading!
We hope you found our mental health and wellbeing advice helpful. Please get in touch if you have any suggestions or questions.
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