May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and AAPACN recognizes the struggles long-term care professionals are facing right now to keep their mental health balanced during to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nurses may be feeling stressed, tired, overwhelmed, or depressed by the hard decisions they must make every day and the situations they observe. To help long-term care nurses during this difficult time, AAPACN offers the following mental health tips that nurses can implement today.
1. Talk about your experiences
Talking about your experiences can help you process what you are going through and helps to relieve stress. Knowing someone else can relate also helps you not feel so alone. It’s more important than ever to reach out to others to help navigate these difficult times.
- Discuss the day to day challenges you experience with your coworkers.
- Connect with others in your field on the AANAConnect or DNS Network communities and in nursing groups on social media.
- Seek professional help by utilizing your Employee Assistance Program or contact a mental health professional.
2. Limit your news consumption
Tuning in for news on COVID-19 has now become part of many people’s daily lives. Millions of people around the world who now find themselves in lockdown are frequently accessing numerous social and news media platforms to seek up-to-the-minute information. With the surge of technology, social media, and a 24-hour news cycle, in any given day, it can feel like the world is falling apart. One way of coping with this continual exposure is to not get overloaded with the news. Pace yourself with your consumption.
- Put a limit on how much you look at the news or go on social media. Limit your use of media in general, but especially around news consumption.
- Be mindful about how you’re feeling when you are on media platforms. Are you feeling more anxious or overwhelmed than before? If so, put down your device or turn off your TV and focus on something else.
- Shift your focus to other topics and events. What’s something positive that has happened in your neighborhood this week? What other personal goals would you like to work toward right now?
3. Take a break
As nurses, many of us feel that we have too much to do, and it is easy to convince yourself that you do not have the time to take breaks. However, taking several breaks throughout the day can actually give you more energy and make you more productive. You might find that recovering from work stress can restore energy and decrease the development of fatigue.
- Take mini breaks throughout the working day. Mini breaks help to support your wellbeing and increase productivity.
- Plan to do something in your break that you enjoy – the anticipation of pleasure will motivate you to keep to the break.
- Set an alarm on your phone to prompt you to take a break every couple of hours or ask your coworkers to remind you to take breaks.
4. Practice healthy habits
Old habits die hard. Healthy habits are hard to develop and often require changing your mindset. A healthy habit is any behavior that benefits your physical, mental, and emotional health. These habits improve your overall well-being and make you feel good. While our usual methods of wellness may be temporarily unavailable, there are still ways to practice healthy habits.
- Gyms may be closed, but there are still plenty of options and ways to get creative with how you stay active – dance to your favorite songs, climb stairs, or spend more time playing with pets or children.
- Practice yoga and Pilates using one of the many free online classes or download a meditation or deep breathing app to help you stay grounded.
- Try to go to bed at the same time every night. During times of uncertainty and stress, sleep is crucial to allow the body to rest and heal.
5. Establish routine
A few months ago, we had our routine. But now businesses and schools are closed. Our work, home, and social lives have been turned upside down, and we’re having to find new ways to live. One of the biggest challenges we’re all facing is how to manage the enormous disruption to our normal lives. When so much seems out of our control, it’s important that we try to establish structure to our days to provide some stability.
- Start every workday by writing out your to-do list for all the projects or work-related tasks you need to do, and then prioritize that list.
- Make a point to tell your coworkers “good morning” each day.
- End the workday by identifying three things you’re grateful for, and something you’re looking forward to.
For more wellness tips, go to the AAPACN Wellness for LTPAC Professionals webpage, which includes resources to help support you and your colleagues during this stressful time.