By Carly Buckland, WR Health & Social Care, Mental Health Specialist
It’s Mental Health Awareness Week, hosted by the Mental Health Foundation, and the focus this year is stress. It’s safe to say that nursing and healthcare is up there in terms of stress levels. A career in this industry is often a balancing act of long hours, physical work, and emotional pressure.
Stress contributes massively to health problems, especially your mental health. It can be that external factors outside of your control are the root of your stress. In this case, it’s worth knowing a few ways to help combat it on your own terms.
1. Diet and exercise
Shift work, long hours, short breaks; all a recipe for grabbing convenient quick meals on the go, or even skipping them altogether. Looking after yourself is key to a healthier, happier mindset - and you don’t need an expensive gym membership and a nutribullet to keep yourself in good shape, both physically and mentally.
- Involve your colleagues and friends
Make healthy eating and exercise fun - get others involved. Arrange for each person to bring in healthy snacks on specific days, ensure you stop and eat together, arrange to walk your dogs, or plan an activity like yoga that you could all do together.
- Exercise when you can
Make small changes - where possible, take the stairs instead of the lift, or walk to the shop rather than drive. Find exercise that you enjoy and feel motivated by - it’s great for mind and body!
- Get decent sleep
Make sure your bedroom is an ideal environment for sleep - especially if you’re sleeping during the day. Invest in a blackout curtain, leave your phone elsewhere, and try to avoid caffeine close to bedtime.
2. Team spirit
Loving your job is important, and the work nurses and healthcare professionals do is rewarding. But enjoying your role can often depend on the team you work with. If you’re surrounded by a positive, sociable group, it plays a massive part in helping to alleviate the stresses of the job - laughter, open communication, and a feeling of ‘we’re in this together’. If you don’t have this, then that negativity will only worsen how you feel.
Have a think; is there anything that can be done to improve this mindset and morale, or am I better off looking for a team that has it?
Don’t spend all of your quality time away from work dealing with housework and the stuff you wouldn’t otherwise have time to do. Be sure to carve out little moments for yourself - read a book, walk the dog, get some retail therapy, spend time with the grandkids - whatever it is that has you at your happiest!
Talk, talk, and talk some more. Bottling up your worries and stresses won’t help solve them. Whether it’s with your colleagues, partner, mum, dog - get it out there. As they say, a problem shared is a problem halved, and sometimes venting can give you immediate relief from whatever is bothering you.
If you’re looking to connect with likeminded people in a similar position, join our nursing and healthcare community on Facebook - it’s a place where you can chat about your work, share your opinions on the industry or stuff that’s in the news, or simply somewhere to meet other nurses and healthcare professionals. Come and say hi!
5. Let go of guilt
Compassion fatigue is a very real thing in the industry. Working closely with patients and their families puts emotional strain on you, and feeling guilty can seem as though it’s part of the job. But it shouldn’t be; stay safe in the knowledge that you and your colleagues are doing everything you can to provide the best level of care for your patients, and support for their families.
Hopefully these tips are helpful to you. Stress is often disregarded; we assume everyone is stressed and overworked! But it’s all relative, and managing and coping with yours is vital for your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.
You can find out your mental health score here, and if you’re ever feeling overwhelmed or as though you aren’t managing, the Mental Health Foundation has loads of other fantastic resources available too.