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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. 

Supervisors and employers of nurses:

  • Provide mental health screening. See UCSD Health’s program for an excellent example. Contact info@afsp.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:

At work

  • 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.

At home

  • 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?

Below are some key resources, specifically curated for nurses:

Mental Health & Stress

Family Support

Fatigue

Financial Help

Grief & Bereavement

Support Groups

Hotlines

General 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. 

These resources were compiled, in part, by Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation’s Strength through Resiliency Committee.

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