2020 was the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife in honor of Florence Nightingale's 200th birthday. Yet, instead of celebrating, nurses worldwide experienced unprecedented levels of stress due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nurses must take precautions to preserve their mental well-being and avoid burnout. Fortunately, there are many resources to help you cope more successfully and develop more resiliency in your practice. Below are
7 Simple Steps to Improve Well-being
Try these seven tips for improving your mental health over the next week. Track your progress. Note how many you implemented and if they were successful. In subsequent weeks, try to add more to this list or explore others to add to your self-care plan.
- Keep a Routine
Scheduling demands can make it more difficult to keep a routine, especially for nurses. Whenever you can, eat at least one meal and try to go to bed at about the same time each day. Whether reading a book, watching your favorite TV show or walking the dog, focus on finding 15-30 minutes a day for yourself. Finding consistency in your schedule can improve your overall mental health.
Simple Goal: Try to keep the same sleep schedule for the next week.
- Go Outside
Most nurses work inside all day, which can negatively affect mental health. Aim for just a few minutes of outside time by walking, gardening or reading a book. Sunlight and nature can help with relaxation and stress relief. Exercise can help improve your mood. As a nurse, you teach patients to combat fatigue and mental stress through exercise — time to practice what you preach!
Simple Goal: Schedule 15 minutes of outdoor time each workday and 60 minutes on days off.
- Limit COVID-19 News Intake
Whether you work directly with patients who have COVID-19 or not, you are still surrounded by it every day through the 24-hour news cycle. This constant noise can impact your mental health. Unplug from the news or social media and instead focus on something that brings you joy. This process will look different for everyone: watching your favorite Disney movie, listening to podcasts you enjoy, or laughing at TikToks by your favorite influencers. Try to find what works best for you.
Simple Goal: Limit news about the coronavirus to just 30 minutes per day.
- Connect With Loved Ones
Seeing a familiar face (whether in person or through video) has a more positive effect than just texting or talking on the phone. Find a time to video call your family members, neighbors or friends and make a rule to not talk about the coronavirus.
Simple Goal: Schedule two video calls with family or friends within the next seven days.
- Practice Mindfulness
Taking just five minutes a day to practice mindfulness can help you feel calmer and more in control. One can utilize guided mediation, visual imagery, prayers or deep breathing. If you don't know where to start, there are several apps (e.g., Calm, Headspace) that can help you practice mindfulness in your spare time.
Simple Goal: Take five minutes each day for the next week to practice mindfulness.
- Delegate When Possible
Are others asking if there's anything they can do to help? Let them know! Keep a list of how they can help you — walking your dog, grabbing groceries or mowing your lawn. Are your loved ones unavailable? There are plenty of apps and services to help.
Simple Goal: Look at your to-do list and choose one thing that you might be able to delegate.
- Ask for Help
Prolonged and intense stress can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) if left untreated. Finding help now is essential to preserving your emotional health. Check to see what supports your employer offers. Apps such as Happy, 7Cups, and BetterHelp all provide emotional support services, some entirely for free and some paid.
Simple Goal: Find out what resources are available to you at your work or explore a new resource.
Emotional and mental health are as important as physical health to your overall well-being. Some mental health experts predict that distress could emerge months later after the pandemic, like the aftershocks of an earthquake. Learn new strategies now to build your resilience. Take the time to care for yourself — after all, your patients deserve you at your best.
Learn more about the University of New Mexico's online RN to BSN program.
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