Mental Health Help for Nurses
During this unprecedented time of fear and stress, nurses are at high risk for mental health issues like anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress. Help is available and you are NOT alone.
Be proactive. If stress, anxiety, fear, rumination or depressed mood is interfering with your functioning:
- Contact your organization’s EAP (employee assistance program).
- Explore tele-mental health options through your insurance and contact your healthcare provider for options. Prepare yourself with how to get help before you need it.
- Participate in mental health screening if offered by your employer and seek support as needed. Do not wait until you are in crisis.
- If you have thoughts about suicide or you are in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
Supervisors and employers of nurses:
- Provide mental health screening. See UCSD Health’s program for an excellent example. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to start a screening program.
- Offer evidence-based programs that prevent and decrease anxiety and depression. Your employees need them. See The Ohio State University College of Nursing’s MINDBODYSTRONG program as an example.
- Expand and add to existing mental health and resiliency resources. Pop up programs, online therapists, support groups, hope huddles, increasing wellness and mental health staff and enhanced telehealth options are possibilities.
- Consider activating a caregiver response team of emotional first-aiders.
- Celebrate victories no matter how small. Start a process to celebrate innovations in crisis; care modifications made in the moment to overcome obstacles to care.
- Honor, thank, appreciate, and recognize your nurses.
- View and support this call to action
Things nurses can do every day to relieve stress and stay well:
- Take back handwashing as your moments of self-care. During the 20 seconds of handwashing recite a meditation or affirmation, sing your favorite song, or pray. Turning these moments into self-care breaks the stress response repeatedly through the shift increasing resilience.
- Take a lap with breath work. When you feel yourself overstressed, take a lap of the department for 1 minute. While walking, breathe in for 4 counts, hold for 7, breathe out for 8. This activates the parasympatheticnervous system, breaking the stress cycle. If you notice a colleague tipping over the edge, tap them out and take a lap together. Talk them through the breath work.
Going home from work
- Note normalcy. Do not do the following exercises if you are driving: Start with your head to the left. Slowly turn it to the right. While turning your head, note everything normal you see, everything beautiful: the sky, a tree, a bird, a flower, the leaves. Turning the head activates the Vagus nerve to break the stress response. In panic modes, we instinctively scan the world for threats. Scanning for normalcy breaks that pattern.
- Meditate or listen to your favorite music prior to sleep. The last things you listen to will embed in the brain. You need sleep to repair your immune system and nervous system. Do not listen to the news just before bed.
- Get seven or more hours of sleep in a 24-hour period.
- Start each day with reflections of gratitude.
- Read 5 minutes in a positive book every morning.
- Focus on things you can control, not those you can’t.
- Take 5 slow deep breaths regularly throughout the day.
- Give yourself grace, no one is perfect all the time.
- Exercise; even a short brisk 10 minute walk can help.
- Hydrate adequately with eight 8 oz glasses of water a day.
- Eat light and often; at least 5 fruits and vegetables per day.
- Limit alcohol consumption to one drink a day or avoid it completely.
- Spend some time outdoors safely while noting normalcy.
- Connect with family and friends while maintaining physical distancing. It is especially refreshing if you can see their faces via an electronic device.
- Hobby, craft, bake, write letters, journal, scrapbook.
- Stay informed, but limit your time with COVID-19 news and updates.
- Pray, meditate, practice mindfulness (be here now!)
- Write down 3 people/things that you are grateful for every day.
- Catch negative thoughts and overturn them to positive; stay hopeful.
- Practice yoga, Emotional Freedom Techniques, or other stress alleviators.
- Participate in virtual support groups and chats from your state nurses associations, specialty organizations, Facebook groups, and others.
- Take time for yourself, doing something you really enjoy, every day. Read a rag mag, watch an old sports program, power nap, Skype your baby nephew-you decide!
Need to think about something else?
- Join ANA Enterprise’s Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation (HNHN), a free nurse wellness initiative where all are welcome. Multiple self-care resources can be found here.
- Enroll in Yale University’s happiness course “The Science of Well Being” for free
- Take APNA’s E program “Motivational Interviewing” for 3.0 contact hours. It’s free and open to everyone.
- Get the mindfulness app Headspace at no cost for nurses if you meet certain conditions.
Below are some key resources, specifically curated for nurses:
Mental Health & Stress
- American Psychiatric Nurses Association Managing Stress & Self Care during COVID-19: Information for Nurses
- American Holistic Nurses Association’s Holistic Stress Management website
- The National Academy of Medicine’s Action Collaborative on Clinician Well-being Resources to Support the Health and Well-Being of Clinicians During the COVID-19 Outbreak
- HNHN blog Six Tips for Nurses Coping with the COVID-19 Pandemic
- The Ohio State University’s (OSU) COVID-19 Resources, including video on coping by Chief Wellness Officer Dr. Bernadette Melnyk
- OSU 8 week online series: Staying Calm and Well in the Midst of the COVID-19 Storm
- American Nurse article “9 Dimensions of Wellness”
- Physicians for Human Rights webinar Science-driven Solutions for Combating COVID-19: Mental Health Impacts with Dr. Gail Saltz and Dr. Kerry Sulkowicz
- Uniformed Service University’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress “Supporting Families of Healthcare Workers Exposed to COVID-19”
- NIOSH Science Blog Managing Fatigue During Times of Crisis: Guidance for Nurses, Managers, and Other Healthcare Workers
- Uniformed Service University’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress “Fight COVID-19 with Better Sleep Health: A Guide for Hospital Workers”
- Nurses House A national fund for nurses in need
Grief & Bereavement
- American Nurse article “Grief Management After a Nurse’s Death”
- HNHN blog “The Tough Stuff: How to Deal With the Death of a Patient”
- Advisory Board article “3 Ways to help your team navigate grief in crisis”
- Uniformed Service University’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress “Grief Leadership During COVID-19”
- AHNA’s virtual “Compassionate Listening Circles” (scroll about a third down the webpage)
- American Journal of Nursing & Johns Hopkins School of Nursing’s Frontline Nurses WikiWisdom Forum: a place to share.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255) https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
- SAMHSA National Helpline 1-800-662 HELP (4357) https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline
- SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline 1-800-985-5990 https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/disaster-distress-helpline
- CDC’s webpages COVID-19 Information for Healthcare Professionals
- ANA & APIC webinar “Be Confident Protecting Yourself and Providing the Best Care to Your Patients During this COVID-19 Pandemic”
- ANA’s webpages Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)
Remember this pandemic WILL end. Stay hopeful: there will be silver linings. Your heroic care of others makes the world a better place.
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