The levels of workplace stress are extremely high among nurses. A recent study found that 92% of nurses reported moderate to high levels of stress on a regular basis. In fact it has been identified that the stress in the workplace can lead directly to mental health issues. The most commonly reported reason that nurses weren’t seeking professional advice was fear of embarrassment. This is why it is so important for us to talk about stress and our mental health. It needs to be a subject that is always out in the open, especially in the workplace.
Talk to your manager
Your manager, or someone from occupational health should be your first port of call if you are want to talk about your mental health, or levels of stress at work. It may be that they can suggest making changes to your working patterns, or find better ways of managing the work that you have. There needs to be a balance. Your manager should also be able to suggest a professional that you can speak to about your concerns and worries. The Canadian Nurses Association can also help you get some advice if you would like to talk to someone outside of your workplace.
Form a colleague support group
Your work colleagues are the people that most understand the job that you are doing. They can be an incredibly valuable support network when you need it. Put up a notice in the staff room, or on a notice board and form a support group to talk about stress in the workplace and mental health. You can do this in a meeting, or you might find it easier to organise a WhatsApp group that people can access informally, just make sure that you follow the CNA guidelines on social media. An online chat room is another alternative, especially if you are working long hours or shifts, or your colleagues are working in different locations.
In a nursing environment, it is not always easy to take a longer break. If this is the case, try and take small microbreaks, even if it is just five minutes. In a study of doctors and nurses, microbreaks have also been reported to improve mental alertness, focus and physical performance. Another 2018 study, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that taking microbreaks has a positive impact on general job engagement. You can use your break this time to follow a mindfulness or meditation app, or sit down and run through some simple breathing exercises. You are aiming to have a little time just to take you away from the hustle and bustle of the working environment. It can help you manage your stress and get things into perspective.
Take a mental health day
Taking a mental health day, also known as a duvet day can sometimes be a small way of giving yourself space. This is a day when you relax at home, or in the great outdoors. It is not a day when you catch up with chores and paperwork. The rationale is that taking time to look after your own wellbeing shouldn’t count as a sick day. You are not purposefully skiving off work. It is in contrast a way of minimizing the risk of getting run down and contracting an illness – this is especially important if you are working with the elderly or very young children that have compromised immune systems.
Looking after your mental health is of the utmost importance if you are a nurse. If you are concerned about your wellbeing, make sure you talk to a manager or a professional and they can help you find solutions.