Few, if any, professions faces as many challenges as nursing and its adjacent career fields. The nature of nursing involves navigating difficult life events and engaging in critical decision-making on a daily basis, which can make the already-tough task of maintaining a healthy work-life balance even more challenging. The stress of working coupled with the infamous and grueling culture of survival in the nursing profession both contribute to the worsening mental health in the industry.
Mental health is defined by the World Health Organization as “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.” Struggling with mental health can make it even more difficult to concentrate, communicate, manage time in a proper manner, and think critically, all of which are necessary components of performing successfully as a nurse. This means that poor or unbalanced mental health can cause potentially risky delays in the delivery of patient care, errors with the distribution of medication and lapses in judgement, all of which are potentially fatal deficits.
Finding the Right Balance
Being a nurse can feel physically and psychologically taxing. The American Nurses Association defines being a healthy nurse as some who “actively focuses on creating and maintaining a balance and synergy of physical, intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual, personal and professional well-being,” an individual that “lives life to the fullest capacity, across the wellness/illness continuum, as they become stronger role models, advocates, and educators, personally, for their families, their communities and work environments, and ultimately for their patients.”
Achieving this balance can be hard, as managing stress, separating work and home lives, and processing emotions all influence an individual’s mental health. For some individuals, not being able to properly deal with their stress and emotions can cause them to go to drastic measures to cope with their circumstances and numb themselves with alcohol and other drugs. This can further diminish the work performance of many nurses and compound the stress and imbalance that contribute to improper patient care, substance abuse, and overall poor mental health.
Steps for Proper Self-Care
It’s important to remember that you have to take care of yourself before you can take care of others, and self-care in nursing goes hand-in-hand with patient care. In order to properly function within the healthcare field and as caregivers, role models, advocates, and educators, nurses must possess a sound and healthy mind. Stress management and other positive mental health habits and exercises should be made a part of nurses’ daily routines. In order to promote proper mental health, nurses should: engage in activities such as meditation, relaxation, and recreation to encourage better mental health; organize and adhere to a calendar; distinguish lines between the work and home life; compartmentalize and manage time; segment specific slots of time for friends, family, and cultivating healthy relationships; prioritize adequate sleep and healthy sleeping habits.
Promoting Mental Health in Nursing
Balanced mental health is an important aspect of any individual’s day-to-day life, and we have to understand the ramifications that poor mental upkeep will have not only on the individual but also on those they come into contact with. In order to best increase the quality of life and care for patients, families, and the nurses themselves, we must acknowledge the challenges that nurses face on a daily basis. Nurses are some of the hardest-working people in the healthcare industry, and we have to remember that they are people too.
As the backbone of the industry, they deserve respect and the proper amount of time devoted to maintaining their mental health. If you know a nurse, make sure to thank them today and encourage healthy habits. If you’re a nurse yourself, Recovery Unplugged would like to thank you for your hard work, and remember to take care of yourself first.