In nursing, shortages in staffing and increasing pressures are having a major impact in the health and wellbeing of the nursing community. Randstad’s latest research on nursing and mental health highlights that one in five (21%) nurses describe their mental health and wellbeing as “poor” with almost two thirds (63%) of nurses reporting that work pressure is a significant factor negatively affecting their mental health.
When your work is focused on caring for someone else, it’s just as important to look after yourself.
It’s important to know what to look out for when you’re under pressure. It’s not always noticeable straight away, but you may feel more irritable, wound-up, depressed or like your thoughts are racing and you can’t switch off.
Below are 5 top tips for looking after yourself in work:
1. take some time before your shift.
You can’t predict what will happen today. That uncertainty would make anyone feel nervous. Take time to mentally prepare by working through a readiness checklist. It could include:
- Challenging negative thoughts and assumptions. Imagining the worst will fuel any anxiety.
- Taking six deep breaths, to slow your heart rate and put your body into a calm, ready state.
- Purposefully leaving worries behind. Write them down, say them or shut them in your locker.
2. take your breaks.
This means taking your breaks during your shift and trying not to work through them. Sometimes it’s tempting to work through and get the job done but taking a break is important and can allow you to rest and recuperate, even for just a little while. Don’t feel guilty – it’s not a luxury, it's for patient safety as well as yours.
Alternatively, you can explore flexible working arrangements such as compressed hours, term-time working, or flexi time.
3. take care of yourself during your shift.
Sometimes it’s not always practical or easy to eat well. However, prepping meals and healthy snacks before shifts or at the beginning of a work week can help us eat well, feel energised and get the correct nutrients for a taxing shift. It’s also just as important to stay hydrated before, during, and after shifts.
During your shift you could try a number of Mind’s useful tools that are available to healthcare workers like Mind’s breathing window, a ninety-second stress scan, or anchoring techniques.
4. improve your work life balance.
Working long shifts in such a challenging and fast paced environment can leave you exhausted. Try and do something that you enjoy before your shift starts as you may not have the energy to do it after.
Alternatively, if you have the energy after a shift, then having something planned in can be something to look forward to during work. It’s important to take time for yourself and have clear boundaries between work and home.
5. leave ‘work’ at work.
Having a ‘going home checklist’ that you do before you leave the building can help you switch from work mode to home mode. You could:
- Take a moment to think about the shift
- Acknowledge three things that were difficult – take any learning that is needed and then let them go
- Consider three things that went well
- Choose an action that signals the end of your shift – something as easy as doing the same action when clocking out
- Now switch your attention to home.
- Think about how you’re now going to rest and recharge
Of course, these tips may not be for you. But there is lots of information available to us to help us stay well at work.
The Mental Health at Work website is a great tool to find the resources you need to meet your specific needs. Mental Health at Work has a range of guidance and features an excellent toolkit especially for healthcare workers.
If you would like more information on looking after your mental health in nursing, please visit Randstad’s top tips for nurses.