How to look after your mental health at work

How to look after your mental health at work

Mental health has never been so important during a worldwide health crisis as Covid-19 continues to dominate the news agenda.

With staffing shortages hitting an all-time high, it's no surprise nine in ten nurses are feeling more stressed and anxious than usual.

When your work is focused on caring for patients, it's important to remember to look after yourself and recognise how the pandemic might be affecting your wellbeing.

The times we're living in are unique, and that's why we've shared with you our top tips for looking after yourself in the workplace.

1. Taking time out

Take the opportunity to create yourself a readiness checklist before starting your shift. This could include the following:

  • Challenging negative thoughts and assumptions about what the day might bring.
  • Taxing five deep breaths to slow your heart rate and put your body into a calm state.
  • Purposefully leaving worries behind and write them down, say them or shut them in your locker.
  • Practice mindfulness or relaxation exercises.

2. Using your breaks

Sometimes it can be easy to work right through your shift and get the job done, especially in this environment of increased pressure. But taking a break is important and can allow you to rest and recuperate, even for just a little while.

You don't need to feel guilty about taking breaks as they're in place for patients' safety as well as yours.

3. Team morale

It's good to check in with your colleagues during your day and ask how they're all doing.

You could complete a wellness action plan (WAP) and encourage your team to do the same, or look at How are you feeling today, NHS? for a fast and quick way of discussing how their days are going.

4. Look after your body

You'll naturally be thinking about keeping yourself and your patients safe and protected during the virus. But it's important not to neglect other aspects of your physical health too.

When you're on a busy shift, it's not always practical or easy to eat well. Prepping meals and healthy snacks pre-shifts or at the beginning of your working week will help you eat well, feel energised and get the correct nutrients for a taxing shift.

Remember to stay hydrated during and after shifts. When you do manage to get breaks, try to catch up a bit on sleep where you can.

5. Think about your work/life balance

Working long shifts in such a challenging and fast-paced environment can leave you exhausted.

It's now more important than ever to take care of yourself by doing something you enjoy sometimes too. This could be going on a long walk pre-shift or taking time to spend time with family around your busy schedule.

Build in opportunities to do things that relax you and make time to stay in contact with those you care about.

6. Leave work at work

It can be easy to take home work with you. Having a 'going home checklist' that you do before you leave the building can help you switch from work to home mode.

You can do the following:

  • Take a moment to think about the shift.
  • Acknowledge three things that were difficult. Take any learning that is needed, then let them go.
  • Consider three things that went well.
  • Choose an action that signals the end of your shift. Something as easy as doing the same action when clocking out.
  • Now switch your attention to home. Think about how you're now going to rest and recharge.

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