Nurses are often the first port of call in hospital and community settings for advice, care and guidance when dealing with challenging patient needs. Aside from their duties, nurses also provide a friendly person to chat to and often liaise with family members during times of trauma, loss or sadness. With experience, nurses become invaluable members of any healthcare team in particularly challenging situations regardless of their specific field, and are often subject to some harrowing experiences. Coupled with longer hours and irregular shift patterns, stress is often put on nurses to perform both their roles and to act as an intermediary for family and clinicians, as well as the emotional toll their roll can sometimes take. This article is designed to inform nurses, clinicians and other healthcare providers of the support available to care teams and techniques they can use to improve both their mental health and to reduce stress in the work place.
Finding time to fit in exercise around a busy shift pattern can often seem daunting, particularly with those nurses who work unsociable hours. The NHS recommends 150 minutes of moderate activity a week to adults between 19-64 from aerobic exercises (running, cycling, walking, swimming etc). This equates to roughly 20 minutes a day, which comparatively seems achievable. Exercise is implicated in vast reductions of stress and mild depressive symptoms due to a change of focus, mechanisms of endorphin release and beneficial outcomes to cardiovascular health and well-being. For the most time crunched individuals, this amount of exercise can be split up at regular intervals during the day.
Often, in today’s busy society, it is difficult to truly switch off and have true downtime. Conventional relaxation may involve passive activities such as watching the television or listening to music. However, techniques such as mindfulness, yoga and meditation are great ways to train the mind, encourage critical thinking and allow the release of stress and tension. These techniques are simple to learn, can be carried out anywhere and are key to a health mental relationship. Mindfulness often involves being aware of the body, mood, mind and feeling and processing this in a rational way, which helps to prioritise self-care and re-establishes the balance of our and others responsibilities. If you find yourself guilty of not taking enough time off or covering shifts but feel burnt out, it is important to address this early and take time to rebalance.
It can be difficult to regulate one’s ability to get a good night’s rest, and often it seems like an unmodifiable factor that we are forced to live with. However, many things can be done to improve our sleep, and getting the right amount of rest can be the difference between a positive frame of mind and productive day and a poor mood and low productivity. Stress can prolong the period of time it takes to fall asleep, and can even inhibit REM sleep where we become deeply rested. Of course, poor sleep is a symptom of stress in general, but improving your sleep routine can help to improve your mood and other outcomes in the meantime. Below are some “sleep hygiene” suggestions to take into consideration;
The next 20 years will provide stunning insights into the effect of diet on mental status, but much is already known of the effect of our nutrition on our mood. Our enteric nervous system describes the innervated sections of our gastrointestinal tract which communicate with our brain stem – and current research suggest our brain and gut are much closer linked than previously thought. The old mantra “5 fruit and veg a day” holds true in terms of the nutrients, vitamins and minerals that are available from rich produce which satisfy our recommended intake. This also affects our metabolism and vitality, providing energy and mental alertness. Following health guidelines on diet and hydration is key to not only ensure overall health, but to promote mental wellbeing and improve our efficiency and productivity