Staying Mentally Healthy

mental health

Over the past couple of years, mental health has become a topic of conversation in the news.  As healthcare workers, we deal with the mental health of our patients daily.  After a rash of violent mass shootings and a growing number of celebrities committing suicide, the public is more aware of increasing mental health issues.  The public is beginning to want more done to recognize when someone is in distress.  I have always said most people don’t mind going to a doctor for physical health but resist treatment for mental health.

The reason we became nurses are many but one was to help others.  What do we do to care for our own mental health?  According to a BBC News article nurses are four times more likely to commit suicide as others working outside of medicine.

The good news is research reveals a range of ways to help you stay mentally healthy.  A healthy mental attitude will help you make the most out of your life.

Form healthy relationships

One thing I noticed when I started my nursing career was the number of nurses who were divorced.  Many of them were on a second marriage and some a third.  I personally was divorced from a man who was abusive.  Several nurses I spoke with said the same thing I said,  “I thought I could fix them”.

The main thing I learned I realized from that experience was that a deep meaningful relationship is necessary for your mental health.  As a traveler, you have the opportunity to use your communication skills to build a rich social network.   Listen to others you spend time with and be compassionate and genuine,  Share your thoughts and feelings when appropriate.

Make each day a positive experience.  Try not to make it about the difficulties you experience but the good times.  You can boost your wellbeing when you savor the good times and make the great feelings last.

Keep your perspective

Learn how to process your emotions and let the bad things go.  Keeping your feelings to yourself, avoiding difficult emotions and continuing to stew over a problem is not healthy.

How do you process emotions? Be open to experiences and accept all the feelings and thoughts no matter how difficult.  When you are confronted by everyday problems look for the positive solution by being constructive and flexible.

Do not underestimate your ability to cope by overestimating the likelihood of a negative outcome.

Work-life balance needs improving

Nurses have more than one role in life.  You are an employee but could also be a student, parent, partner, teammate, club member or other roles.  I am guilty of overextending myself and being pulled between all the different responsibilities. How many times have you had to sacrifice an important part of your life from overpromising?

Achieving a greater balance will foster wellbeing.  How satisfied are you with the different areas of your life? Do you devote the amount of time and attention to each to achieve a healthy balance?

Learn to take time to wind down and destress to enjoy relaxing activities as part of a balanced life.  What relaxing activity do you enjoy?  Gardening, reading , listening to music, singing, walking are all great ways to end a stressful day.

Sleep

Do you get enough quality sleep?  Sleep is essential for physical and mental health. No two of us has the same exact requirement for a good nights sleep. Each person’s sleep pattern is different and may vary as we age. Some people require more than eight hours of sleep but others less sleep is needed to feel rested.

Travel nurses experience stress from changes in shift work, changes in routines and changes in the work environment. Other stresses can be big life events, worries and finding that next assignment can affect your ability to get quality sleep.

Light, noise and temperature in your room can prevent you from getting the sleep you need.  We all know too much caffeine, alcohol, use of electronics like your phone and TV can all have a negative effect on sleep.

Take care of your body

We all know that a healthy lifestyle supports our mental health. Research shows us that a good diet that includes vegetables and fruit and moderate exercise will boost our wellbeing.  When you add the fresh air of the outdoors to exercise routine you add extra benefits to your mental health.

The answer to maintaining good health is a well-balanced nutritious diet, regular exercise, enjoy time out in nature, and avoid alcohol in excess.

Have a positive outlook

As a nurse, we often see how having a positive attitude helps in the healing process.  When you develop positive emotions in your relationships you experience meaning and purpose in life.  A positive purpose in life leads to a sense of accomplishment.

In order to flourish in life, you must be alive, healthy and growing.   Practice acting with kindness, compassion, and forgiveness toward others.  Express gratitude and appreciation for the things you love.  Know your strengths and use them to create an activity that wil decrease stress.

Live, laugh and love

We have all heard that laughter is the best medicine.  My second husband had a great sense of humor that gave us an intimate connection and brought is so close.  Even though we dealt with cancer that eventually took his life he always kept that positive sense of humor.

Laughing can increase optimism release hormones and improve your mood.  As you travel from one assignment to another remember to live life and laugh often.

Seek help when needed

As a nurse, you understand how important our mental health is in order to be effective in caring for our patients.  Today there is a multitude of treatments for mental health difficulties.  Reach out for help if you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health disorder.  The first step is to find a therapist that you trust and develop a treatment plan.

Delaying treatment or stopping treatment too early will slow recovery.  Untreated mental health issues can lead to relationship problems, issues at work or other stresses.  Remember treating your mental health is every bit as important as treating your physical health.

 

 

 

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Cheryl Roby, RN

Cheryl J. Roby is a retired RN and US Army Nurse Major. She has over 30 years of nursing experience and 26 years of military experience in the Army Nurse Corp. During her nursing career she has traveled as part of her military experience visiting many of the 50 states and once to South Korea. Her medical training began during the Vietnam era when trained as an army medic. She went on to train as an OR tech and then as a LVN/LPN. She completed nursing school and was direct commissioned into the reserve Army Nurse Corp. nurse. She appreciated the challenge of working in various specialties and expanding her clinical and professional skill sets. Her time in the Army Reserves and California National Guard gave her the opportunity to travel to most of the 50 states and working in other medical facilities. During her career she spent years as an OR nurse, Occupational Health Nurse, Hospice Nurse, Forensic Nurse, Nurse Case Manager for developmental disabilities, Parish Nursing as well as being a Nurse Entrepreneur.

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