If you’re a nurse, America owes you a debt of gratitude. Since early last year, you have been on the frontlines of COVID-19 – treating the sick, caring at the bedside, teaching us how to stay healthy, advocating for your patients, and serving as liaison to their families.
We know you’re stressed, you’re tired and you’ve been running on fumes for months. But we also know that you’re strong and incredibly resilient! You’re that bright light of compassionate care and humanity during a scary time. You’re the ones we trust implicitly.
And for that reason, we ask that you remember to take care of yourself, too. Not surprisingly, pandemic stress is affecting nurses’ mental and physical health at unprecedented levels. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or depleted, here are some resources and steps you can take to protect your health and well-being.
- Nurture your immune system. Your immune system is taking a battering right now. Do what you can to soothe and strengthen it so it can keep you healthy. Nourish yourself with healthy foods, regular exercise, and enough sleep (when you can!).
- Get out in nature as often as possible. Studies show that spending time in nature improves mental health and reduces blood pressure, stress hormones, and muscle tension.
- Check out the Well-being Initiative for free resources such as video calls for peer support, self-assessment tools, hotlines, a “happy app” and writing-as-therapy. The Initiative was developed by the American Nurses Foundation in partnership with a number of nursing organizations.
- Practice mindfulness and/or meditation, which can help lower stress levels and keep you tuned into your physical and psychological state. There are plenty of books and free apps to get you started.
- Breathe. By learning breathing techniques for stress relief, you have a powerful tool you can use anytime, anywhere.
- Get support when you need it. Talk with friends, family, peers, or even a professional, depending on your level of needed support. If your workplace has an Employee Assistance Program and you could benefit from the support, sign up!
- Stay connected. Humans are built for social connection. Even if you’re an introvert, make time for periodic phone calls or web chats with cherished friends and family.
- Read positive things. Avoid doom-scrolling, and start your day with inspirational reading or anything else that uplifts you.
- Advocate for your and your colleagues’ health. Make your voice heard in terms of safety protocols and support at your workplace.
- Take time and space to process your feelings. You may feel nothing or all the things. If the latter, when appropriate, take time to process, meltdown, cry, whatever you need to do. No human is equipped to carry this much grief and stress.
- Lean on your nurse leaders. Getting the right support is more important than ever. Collaboration, support, and community will get you and your colleagues through.
- Reconnect to people and things you love. Joy does amazing things for health. Try to find time for small joys and delights – this could be something you love doing, seeing a loved one, or returning to a long-forgotten hobby.
- Lean into your community. Show up for your co-workers and give them support when your “wellness” tank is filled up. Every health care worker knows the struggle right now, so sometimes just an “I know what you’re going through and I’m here if you need anything,” can make all the difference.
Often, it’s those who do so much for others who put their own needs last. Ask for help and support when you need it – and let family members, friends, neighbors, and others know what they can do to help (because they want to!). The world needs its health care heroes right now – and we want you to be healthy, strong, and safe!
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