10th of October is World Mental Health Day. It’s a time to reflect. To exhale. To take stock of the challenges you have been facing and to be kind to yourself. That may be easier said than done! As a nurse or healthcare professional, it’s probably in your nature to help others and keep busy. This week we ask, how do those whose job it is to take of others take care of themselves? We also explore 5 strategies for supporting wellbeing for nurses.
Why do we celebrate World Mental Health Day?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has stated that the negative effects of COVID-19 have been felt strongly by health and frontline workers. More than ever, Nurses have been suffering from their mental health and wellbeing.
Encouragingly, the WHO also find cause for optimism – during the World Health Assembly in May 2021, governments from around the world acknowledged the need to scale up quality mental health services at all levels. Fingers crossed we have lots of examples of support for nurses in the near future!
The fact is, nursing is a high-stress profession and even the most resilient, experienced professionals 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.
Remember, working on your mental health and wellbeing is an important part of any successful nurses’ practice. As the support service Nurse & Midwife Support states, “Mental health is not only necessary to living a full life: it is vital for nurses, midwives and students to ensure a well-functioning health care system.”
- In Australia, the highest reported mental health issues are depression and anxiety.
- It has been reported that 20% of adults are affected by a mental illness every year.
- Fewer than 50% of those experiencing a mental illness will access support and treatment.
If you are struggling or would like to speak with someone:
- Nurse and Midwife support have a 24/7 helpline in Australia. Their site has a wealth of advice and resources for all.
- They also provide advice and support for nursing managers and employers.
- New Zealand’s Ministry of Health has shared useful resources for supporting wellbeing for nurses.
- Health Navigator have a list of effective and support mental health and wellbeing apps to explore. Increasingly, apps are being used to support and regulate self-care.
Five Strategies for looking after your Mental Health & Wellbeing
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.
Here are our ‘five strategies for looking after your mental health & wellbeing for nurses’:
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 for nurses.
More informally, remember that World Mental Health Day is a time to raise awareness for the support that is out there for people. Simply sharing some of the resources and helplines linked in this blog on your staff notice board could really help someone!
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 online exercise class may be a workable 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 – a UK 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. Check out this podcast for an interesting discussion on the topic.
Thank you for reading our post on wellbeing for nurses.
We hope you found our mental health and wellbeing for nurses advice helpful. Please get in touch if you have any suggestions or questions.
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