Nurse exhausted from the work day

7 Mental Health Care Tips for RNs

Mental health care is an important topic for all nurses to consider. The old saying “You can’t pour from an empty cup” has loads of truth and advice for nurses.

You probably chose nursing as your profession to help others. You imagined yourself skating through your shifts mentally and physically energetic. As time goes on, however, the long shifts, crazy schedules, and demanding patients take a toll on your mental health care. 

Are you feeling the effects of compassion fatigue? According to an article published by the American Nurses Association, compassion fatigue is a combination of physical, emotional, and spiritual depletion associated with caring for patients in significant emotional pain and physical stress.

The more nurse fatigue you experience, the harder it may be to improve mental health for yourself.  It is important to find simple ways to improve mental health that keep your proverbial cup full so that you can easily help others.

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7 Simple Mental Health Care Tips For Nurses

1. Show Gratitude

When you're tired and stressed, it's easy to forget about things in life you appreciate. By expressing gratitude, you acknowledge the important people, things, and events in your life. Showing gratitude can positively influence your behavior and attitude.

Ways to Improve: Track gratitude daily in a journal or a free app, such as Happier or Attitudes of Gratitude Journal.

2. Get Your Rest

One study found that nurses working night shifts and rotating shifts rarely obtain optimal amounts of sleep. Most night shift workers get 1 to 4 hours less sleep on days they work.  Lack of sleep can impair your ability to make decisions, take initiative, and use information. This can be detrimental to patient care, satisfaction, and outcomes.  

Ways to Improve: According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. Go to bed and wake up and the same time every day, even on days you don’t work the night shift. Keep the room cool and dark. Limit tech time in the bedroom.

3. Disconnect

You are probably busy even on days you are not working. Most nurses have families and other responsibilities. You need to take time to disconnect.

Ways to Improve: Go off the grid. Leave your phone behind for a day. Spend time doing something fun with someone face-to-face. This is great for recharging. 

4. Practice Mindfulness

According to Self-Healing and Self-Care for Nurses, mindfulness is maintaining an awareness of moment-by-moment of thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and the surrounding environment. It is closely related to meditation and can be practiced almost anywhere.

Ways to Improve: Start your day with a basic yoga sun salutation. Take a break, sit with your eyes closed, and check in with your breathing. Use guided meditation at the end of your day.

5. Stay Organized

Your busy nursing schedule requires you to be organized. A little organization can improve your mental health when you are already stressed about work.

Ways to Improve: Pack your lunch and set your clothes out the night before. Keep all of your nursing gear in one bag that goes with you every day.

6. Practice Physical Self-Care

Activating the part of your nervous system that controls your physical body improves physical self-care. This part of your nervous system controls your blood pressure and pulse. Being in good physical shape is a great way to improve mental health.

Ways to Improve: Practice deep breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga.

7. Seek Help

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It shows that you are in tune with your mind, body, and spirit. Knowing when to seek help from a mental health care provider is important. 

Ways to Improve: Ask your nurse manager if the hospital offers free counseling through an employee assistance program. If your employer does not offer assistance, seek the help of a professional counselor in the community.  

Practicing ways to improve mental health is important to all nurses. You must keep your mental health cup full in order to pour from it and help others.

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