As healthcare workers, we take care of others all day long. We chose this career path because we enjoy making other people happy and are generally compassionate individuals. However, we often neglect our own mental health in the process, and we can’t take care of our patients if we don’t care for ourselves first. Nursing is already a very challenging job that demands long hours under high-stress levels. Then throw a global pandemic into the mix, and you’ll find many people have been pushed to their breaking points.
This year has been especially trying in the healthcare field, but nurses, in particular, have gained even more responsibility and tend to run the circus. Below you will find mental health tips for travel nurses and healthcare workers.
Burnout is Real
I’ve seen an overwhelming number of nurses on social media expressing burnout and even wishing to leave the field entirely after the coronavirus pandemic hit. For me, it felt like my whole life was uprooted at work, and I was under constant unknowns and ever-changing policies about how to deal with something we knew very little about. On top of all that, we had to live in mostly isolated conditions at home without the usual contact from friends and loved ones.
Nursing school could never have adequately prepared us for something like this or the extreme level of burnout that we felt.
Recognizing There is a Problem
The first step is awareness that something needs to change. Sometimes it takes hitting some real lows to learn how to pick yourself back up and grow from it. Most people wouldn’t know it today, but when I was 16, I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. I’ve had to learn how to take care of my mental health over this last decade and a half, and I’ve truly been on a journey in life to find happiness and peace within myself. So in a way, I was a little ahead of the game with recognizing when I’m under stress and was already prepared with coping strategies during tough situations.
It Takes Work
You’ve got to find what makes you happy. For me, exercise, fun outdoor activities, yoga, and creative outlets like cooking, writing, and photography are things I do for myself. These are things that bring me joy and excitement and help me find peace at the end of the day. I’ve also found that one of the most important things I need in life is balance. I tend to stay very busy and am usually out exploring on my days off, but that can eventually leave me feeling stretched thin. During those weeks where work kicks my butt, I sometimes have to take a day to focus on self-care and relax so I can recharge and find that balance. Hello, mental health days!
A daily gratitude practice is also a small activity that can make a big impact on your mindset. It’s amazing how reflecting on all the positive things you have in your life can make the other problems seem so small.
Take Advantage of Being a Travel Nurse
When I first started travel nursing, I felt like a huge weight was lifted off of my shoulders, not having to be so involved in unit politics and feeling trapped in a job. While on contract, if we find ourselves in a work environment we don’t love, we can leave in just three months, and it seems like there is always light at the end of the tunnel. We also get to choose where we work, including an endless number of beautiful places to immerse ourselves in! I love the outdoors, and some of my favorite ways to unwind are going out for a hike in the mountains or even just lying on a beach.
Travel nursing has brought me to so many amazing places that seem unreal and have absolutely taken my breath away. I’m so grateful every day for the life I get to live. And one of the simplest ways to deal with burnout is taking some time off in between your contracts to recharge! I usually take off at least a month between jobs to catch up with family and take a trip somewhere fun. Plus, you never have to feel like you’re alone in a new city! I have always found that other travel nurses make the best friends because they perfectly understand your crazy lifestyle and are down to get out and explore with you.
Knowing Your Limits
But if you ever find yourself in a tough place that doesn’t seem to have light at the end, there is always help and know that you are not alone. Most employers offer at least a few free counseling sessions at no cost to you under an EAP (employee assistance program). I’ve seen a counselor in the past and know several people who have counselors (including traveling nurses). Nami.org has some great resources as well, or feel free to reach out if you need someone to talk to.
At the end of the day, we have to look out for ourselves and keep our minds and bodies healthy. That way, we can take care of our patients to the fullest and provide them the care they need and deserve.
We hope you found these mental health tips for travel nurses and healthcare workers helpful. Have you found any mental health tips that have worked for you? Comment them below. If you would like more information on mental health click here.