Few professions are as rewarding as nursing, but it’s far from being an easy job. When you spend a lot of your day looking after highly stressed people and helping others cope with their fears or losses, it’s hard not to absorb some of that stress yourself. There will be days when you reach the end of your shift feeling emotionally exhausted. Knowing how to deal with that is vital to protecting your long term mental health and staying the course in your job.
Build your support network
If you have family or friends who can be there to hug and look after you when you’re low, that’s a big help, but most people don’t want their loved ones to take the strain all the time, and it can be difficult to talk to them about things that they won’t understand. A better strategy is to immerse yourself in the nursing community. Whether you’re just beginning your training, studying for a PhD in nursing, or working on a busy ward, other nurses will understand what you’re going through and be there to provide support.
Work out what helps you relax
There’s no one size fits all solution when it comes to relaxing and feeling better. Some people benefit from quiet meditation, others from stomping around to loud music. The important thing is to find things that work for you. Often a ritual element adds to the effectiveness of activities like this, such as popping into the same coffee shop every day after work or participating in a different activity each night of the week. Just make sure there’s enough quiet, undemanding time in there to let you chill out.
Stay fit and healthy
Keeping your body in good condition helps you cope with emotional as well as physical stress. Regular exercise helps prevent a build-up of stress hormones in your bloodstream and is particularly helpful straight after a stressful event. Drinking plenty of water speeds up your metabolism and also helps to flush cortisol out of your body. A balanced diet ensures that you have all the right micronutrients and lowers the risk of developing chronic depression or anxiety. Also, crucial to staying in shape is getting enough sleep – it may be challenging to do, but it will make it much easier for you to retain control.
If you’ve already tried things like the above and you’re still really struggling, speaking to a professional counselor can be a big help. Online counseling is an excellent option for nurses because it’s easy to fit appointments around shifts, and you won’t have to squeeze any additional travel into your already busy routine. You can discuss whatever you need to with a professional counselor in complete confidence, without having to worry that you’re passing your distress on to somebody else.
Above all else, it’s important to remember that you can’t take care of other people unless you take care of yourself. Your emotional well-being matters, so if at any point, you need to do so, don’t feel bad about stepping back and showing yourself the same kindness that you show to others.