It’s no newsflash, but we’ll say it anyway: It’s been a tough couple of years since the onset of COVID-19. And if you’re a healthcare provider, perhaps you’ve been stressed for even longer.
We’re dedicating this piece to exploring mental health issues among healthcare professionals, especially amid the unknowns of the pandemic. Healthcare stress in our industry is real, but we all deserve to feel our best and push through the trials the job can understandably bring.
Sometimes we can’t always turn around a mental health situation on our own, but there’s no shame in seeking professional mental healthcare if you need it, no matter your career. The bravest thing is to ask for help. Read on to explore some of the causes of nurse anxiety and tips for treating depression in healthcare workers.
How has COVID-19 affected nurses’ mental health?
The pandemic has impacted the mental health of many of us around the globe, perhaps more than we’ll ever know. Regardless of whether you work in healthcare or not, you’ve likely experienced (or you’re experiencing) the stress of avoiding the virus, learning the ins and outs of the “new normal” and quarantining. In short, COVID-19 shocked and shook the world.
On the front lines were healthcare workers—including nurse practitioners and advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). They were dealing with staffing shortages, full ICUs and even dwindling personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies. Nevertheless, they were fearlessly working in high-contagion zones to save as many lives as possible from the beginning, back when the world was still figuring out the reach and severity of this virus.
A recent study showed nurses’ sleep quality, depression, anxiety and stress increased during the coronavirus pandemic. Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) also went hand-in-hand with this health crisis. Nurses were concerned about contracting the disease or giving it to others in high-risk work environments.
How to prevent burnout?
For many, COVID-19 has strained our mental health like never before. As a healthcare professional, chances are you already know it doesn’t take a pandemic to put you at risk for burnout.
The term may be familiar, but we may not actually know what it entails. A person experiencing burnout may feel emotionally exhausted, removed and generally dissatisfied. They may also experience compassion fatigue simply because they deeply care for their patients. If that sounds like you, read on for some tips on how to take care of yourself:
- Learn to say “no”: This is way more difficult than it sounds, but saying “no” to tasks and commitments that are too much is a necessary form of self-care. This includes things like turning down those late-night post-shift drinks you don’t want or forgoing a project at work that you know will push you over the edge of a reasonable workload. Saying “no” is an excellent way of setting boundaries and prioritizing your mental and physical health.
- Check-in with yourself: Pause for a minute, take a deep breath and simply be with your body and mind. Is something causing you physical or mental stress? Pinpointing the source of your anxieties is vital to tackling them at the root.
- Delegate: The truth is that most of us do too much. You don’t have to do every daily task yourself. Sit down and figure out what tasks you can delegate to others, even if it’s just having your partner or roommate pick up the takeout this week.
- Try to keep your body healthy: Release some endorphins by doing physical activity that you enjoy in your free time, and eat food that nourishes and energizes you. Be sure to drink plenty of water and cut back on alcohol or other depressants.
- Seek professional help: Therapy is a great way to check-in with your emotions and unpack your stressors and anxieties. Nowadays, you can even go to therapy online. Don’t let your busy schedule hold you back from reaping the rewards of working with a mental health professional.
How to take care of your mental health
“Self-care” is more than just a buzzword. It’s a life-long journey where we learn to give ourselves what we need. Here are some self-care practices that can help you prioritize your mental health.
- Get sleep: When you sleep right, you feel better. You know you’d tell your patients that. So, “physician, heal thyself”! You’ll better equip yourself to tackle a tough day. Your mind and body will respond to stress in healthier ways.
- Allow yourself to relax: Everyone is different, so try to find an activity that relaxes you. If yoga’s not your thing, try meditation. Or, if you prefer more active forms of relaxation, try journaling or taking a walk for pleasure and wellbeing.
- Give thanks: No matter how hard times are, we can all find a few things to be thankful for. We won’t say this is always easy, but give it a try when you feel ready and able. Sit down and take stock of the good things in your life. Whether it’s that new house you were able to buy, your family or your health, revisit your gratitude list when you’re having a rough day.
- Set reasonable goals: We’re often our hardest critics, so don’t set yourself up for failure. That is part of treating yourself with patience, respect and kindness. Set those big goals, celebrate when you reach them, and give yourself bite-sized ones to tick off throughout the day. You’ll feel a sense of accomplishment.
- Let others in: When you work a tiring job and are around people all day at a hospital or healthcare facility, you may feel the urge to isolate yourself at home; however, being around loved ones can bring you a lot of joy. Try to open yourself to receiving the support these special individuals bring.
Mental health for nurses in summary
As healthcare workers, mental health affects so many areas of our lives, both on and off the job. Remember, when you work in a stressful environment where difficult situations challenge you daily, your mind can easily take a hit. That, in turn, can negatively impact your relationship with yourself and others. It can also mean that you feel run down and not the best version of yourself.
Never forget, you’re not alone!
As a company founded by medical professionals, we deeply care about healthcare workers’ mental health. Take care of yourself and those you love, and let us take care of your scrubs.