Mental Health Help For Nurses
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 ().
- 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.
- 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 parasympathetic nervous 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.
- 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 every morning.
- Focus on things you can control, not those you can’t.
- Take 5 slow deep breaths regularly throughout the day.
- 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!
- 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. HNHN members are now eligible for free access to Headspace Plus for one year. Log into your HNHN account to get it set up here.
Mental Health & Stress
- American Psychiatric Nurses Association Managing Stress & Self Care during COVID-19: Information for Nurses
- 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 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
- American Nurse article “9 Dimensions of Wellness”
- Nursing@Georgetown’s blog “How Nurses Can Protect Themselves as They Work to Save Others”
- NIOSH Science Blog Managing Fatigue During Times of Crisis: Guidance for Nurses, Managers, and Other Healthcare Workers
- Nurses House A national fund for nurses in need
- American Nurse article “Grief Management After a Nurse’s Death”
- HNHN blog “The Tough Stuff: How to Deal With the Death of a Patient”
- 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)
- ICN’s COVID 19 Year of the Nurse Portal
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