Creating a Balance For Improved Mental Health
The demands put on us can often make nurses feel overwhelmed at times. Work days are spent hustling through patients while home life is a balancing act of sleep and attending to personal and family needs. This can have an impact on your mental well-being, which only makes the demands feel even greater.
There are methods available that can help you to better cope with the pressure that you might feel and to better balance your work and home life.
The Importance of Good Mental Health
Just because a nurse may be free of anxiety, depression, or other psychological issues does not necessarily mean you are in good mental health. Living in the middle ground between feeling bad and feeling good will eventually wear you down to feeling bad unless you do something about it now. Your mental health is in trouble unless you can agree with the following:
- You feel a sense of contentment
- You possess the ability to laugh and have a good time
- You can deal with stress and bounce back from troubling events
- You have a sense of purpose, both personally and professionally
- You can easily adapt to change
- You are able to build and maintain positive relationships
- You are confident
All of these characteristics are essential to a positive outlook on life, and ultimately, healthy mental health. The absence of one or more can be caused by an unhealthy balance at work and home and can have negative consequences for both.
Take Care of Yourself First and the Rest Will Follow
Taking care of your physical needs is the first step towards a healthy balance in your life. This goes above and beyond a quick salad in the cafeteria or a cat nap on the sofa while your toddler watches Dora. Start making a conscious effort to improve your mental health by first focusing on the physical:
- Get enough sleep. This is one of the biggest obstacles for many nurses who are trying to balance work and home, but sleep is essential to your well-being. Allocate at least 7 hours of straight sleep between each shift in order to be able to function more effectively and better handle stressful situations.
- Eat a Balanced Diet. It is not always easy to eat right when constantly on the go, but it is possible if you are planning for it. Shop for easy to make healthy foods to keep at home, and bring your lunch to the office. What you eat directly affects your mood and energy levels and will allow you to feel better overall.
- Get Some Exercise. It is not easy to find the energy to hop on a bike after a working a long shift, but concentrated exercise does wonders for the spirit. 30 minutes of exercise each day releases endorphins into your body that make you feel good. This doesn’t have to cut into your already stressful schedule, start walking to work or taking the stairs, and those 30 minutes will add up fast.
- Get Outside. Natural sunlight is a mood lifter, so put yourself in it for 15 minutes every day. Combine it with much-needed family time by planning a walk to the park after work, weeding out the garden on your off day, or just sitting on the back porch on getting caught up on each other’s lives.
When You Do Feel A Funk Coming On
If you do start to feel down, make some quick changes to turn that around. Volunteer to help someone else to build your own self-esteem or make a point to learn something new. Choose any activity that you know to typically help bring your spirits up. This may seem like a selfish act to some nurses, but the only way to be able to function at work and home effectively is to first take care of yourself. Whether that be in a bathtub with a “do not disturb” sign on your door or by taking a sick day and spending it at the beach.
What is important is to find ways to experience joy every single day. This will be different for every nurse, and no one way is better over any other. Your sense of self may improve after a quiet session of yoga, while another nurse may need the excitement of an intense bike ride. When working to improve on your mental health, the fulfillment you feel at the end should be able to justify the means of getting there.
If you do feel like the toll of being a nurse is creating mental health issues that you can’t resolve, seek the advice of a professional counselor or therapist. Anxiety and depression are often side effects of a crazy life, where you feel stripped of any time to yourself. A professional will be able to help you identify stressors in your life and teach you methods of coping with them so that your mental health is restored, along with your ability to balance nursing with your personal life.