Improving your mental health as a nurse can help you provide better support to patients. Unfortunately, nurses are neglecting their wellness because they are focused on taking care of others. Compassion fatigue is taking over the well-being of nurses.
Neglecting mental health can lead to serious health conditions including:
- Heart disease
- Increased blood pressure
- Decreased immunity
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that nurses are undergoing depression at twice the rate of the general public, therefore, mental health needs to become a higher priority. The depression rates are nine percent of all Americans, but 18 percent of nurses experience depression. That’s double the rate of an average American!
A depressed nurse often has difficulty concentrating and communicating their messages, which can impact the way they react to patient needs, how they manage their time and their critical thinking. All of this can lead to a delay in patient care, medication errors, and lapse in nursing judgment.
However, there’s good news. Nurses can take action to improve their mental health in a few ways.
Take a mental health day - Oftentimes, nurses feel bad for their coworkers if they leave them short-staffed. However, if your coworkers knew you needed a mental health day to clear your mind and come back feeling fresh and renewed, they would likely support you. It’s not uncommon for those in the corporate world to take mental health days and if you can afford it as a nurse, you should take one as well.
Get self-served - Nurses give, give, give, but never take! Take time on a day off to pamper yourself with a self-service you enjoy. Once you feel better on the outside, it may boost your self-esteem on the inside.
Exercise - Nurses tell their patients to exercise to induce happiness, and it’s important to practice what you preach! On your days off, go for a run, or set up at home to do some exercise.
Get outside - Nature can improve your mood as well. When you are caged between the hospital walls for 12 hours day after day, it can become depressing. Before you go home, make it a ritual to take a walk around the hospital. Even 10 minutes can help you feel better.
Nurses often shy away from their mental health worries, and it’s not a common topic to talk to other nurses about. However, the statistics are real and nurses need to remove the stigma within the industry. The job is physically, emotionally, and mentally difficult. When an adverse outcome happens, nurses are often too busy to debrief. They go back to work stressing, not sleeping well, and not taking care of themselves.
Debriefing keeps patients safe
When mistakes happen and nurses often take it to heart. This can have a negative impact on their mental health. Sometimes, even when we put our best foot forward, mistakes happen. Debriefing in a non-threatening environment helps individuals to identify areas of improvement or talk through solutions. Talking about the event often brings up ways to improve, and debriefing with a team improves patient safety and care.
Take care of one another
Be accountable for your nurse friends. Schedule a walk together, or a phone call on your day off. Taking care of each other can help you take care of yourself.
In summary, education is the primary method for nurses who want to evaluate their mental health. You have to know the signs and symptoms of depression, anxiety, or other mental health disorders. Seek a physician for treatment if you can’t cope with a mental health day, self-service, exercise or nature. It’s not something to be ashamed of, but it is something to acknowledge for the safety of you, your family, and your patients.