MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS MONTH: 7 MENTAL HEALTH TIPS FOR TRAVEL NURSES
There’s no doubt that traveling nurses experience everyday pressures, both at their jobs and personally, that can lead to stress, compassion fatigue, and physical and mental exhaustion. Over time, constantly taking care of other people can take a huge toll on healthcare workers. That’s why it’s important for traveling nurses to find ways to maintain their mental health.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, meaning it’s the perfect time to reset your mind and refocus on yourself. Even taking small steps each day can help to maintain your mental health and find ways to cope during challenging and stressful times.
Let’s look at some important mental health tips for travel nurses that can be implemented day-to-day to ensure you are taking care of yourself just as much as you take care of others.
- Learn to Prioritize Yourself
As a traveling nurse, it may be difficult to prioritize yourself when you’re so busy taking care of everyone else. Although providing the proper care for patients and their families can be fulfilling, it can also be exhausting if travel nurses don’t take a step back now and then. Without being in the right headspace, it may become difficult to be a caretaker for others.
One of the best ways to maintain your mental health as a travel nurse is to carve out time in your schedule each day or week to relax and treat yourself. This may include reading a book, exercising, getting a massage, taking a nap, or being around friends and family.
Ultimately, you’ll want to give yourself time to decompress from work and recharge both physically and mentally. Everybody has different ways of pampering themselves when the going gets tough, so it’s important to do something you enjoy that helps you unwind.
- Find Ways to Practice Mindfulness that Work for You
Mindfulness is a great practice that can be implemented in small moments throughout your day to help reduce stress and boost your mood. For some, this may include taking time to decompress by listening to soothing music, stretching, journaling, or meditating. Others may use mindfulness techniques throughout the day, such as reciting an affirmation, doing breathing exercises, or reflecting on the positive things in life.
Practicing mindfulness is a great way to take care of your mental health because it can:
- Improve both physical and mental health
- Provide serenity
- Increase attention span and your presence with patients and families
- Help you manage stress
- Allow you to develop higher empathy for others
- Increase work satisfaction
- Decrease incidental overtime
- Reduce the likelihood of burnout and compassion fatigue
Because mindfulness techniques don’t take much time and can be done just about anywhere, you may find them easy to practice and utilize throughout your workday.
- Focus on Physical Health and Sleep
Another important mental health tip for travel nurses is to get a good night’s sleep. For some traveling nurses, this may be challenging; after all, many travel nurses work untraditional hours and night shifts, making it difficult to develop and maintain a consistent sleep schedule.
Not getting enough rest can quickly create problems for both your physical and mental health, including:
- Impairing your ability to make appropriate decisions, use good judgment, or take initiative while working.
- Creating more stress on your body and mind.
- Impacting your mood in a negative way.
In addition, it’s important to maintain your physical health. With your physical and mental health being closely connected, not taking care of one can eventually impact the other. A stronger and healthier body will help you feel better both physically and mentally.
Daily exercise is a great way to put your mind at ease. Some traveling nurses may feel they don’t have time for exercise in their hectic schedule; nonetheless, some movement in your day—like stretching, taking a walk during your break, or choosing the stairs over the elevator—can help to make challenging times with your mental health a little bit easier.
Along with improving your physical health and mood, exercise can also help to:
- Relieve tension
- Relax your muscles
- Enhance memory
- Boostenergy levels during the day
- Improve sleep
Just remember that you don’t have to become a gym rat or fitness fanatic. As a travel nurse, there are plenty of ways to get creative and find time for fitness. Explore the outdoors, follow an app-guided workout, or try implementing some yoga into your morning routine. No matter what you do, find exercise methods you enjoy; this makes exercising a whole lot easier and more enjoyable.
- Relax with Things You Enjoy
Whether it’s hobbies, friends and family, or pets, anything that helps you relax can help to improve your mental health. Head outdoors for a hike, spend a day at the beach, or visit a local museum or park you haven’t been to before.
A great way to relax is to get a change of scenery. One of the many benefits of being a travel nurse is that you can travel and explore new places all the time. You may also find fellow travel nurses to explore the area with. Not only are you giving yourself time to unwind, but you can also make new friends and site see in your assigned location.
Even short day trips can help you revive your energy levels and improve your mood, as well as allow you to make lasting memories.
- Eat a Balanced Diet
Along with staying active, eating a balanced diet is another great way to maintain your physical and mental health. Consistently eating healthy foods can help support your immune system, and paired with daily exercise and sleep, can help decrease your chances of getting sick and experiencing burnout while on the job.
With a hectic travel nursing schedule, it may seem challenging to stick to a routine, healthy diet. However, small changes here and there can help you to get important nutrients in your diet, like antioxidants, vitamin C, vitamin E, active cultures, and others. These changes may include:
- Having Snacks Handy: Keep healthy snacks—like seeds, nuts, fruit slices, or veggies—on hand when you need an energy boost mid-shift. If you snack on something with a little bit of crunch, your body will feel fuller and more satisfied because it takes you longer to chew and eat.
- Drinking Water: Staying hydrated as a traveling nurse can help ward off certain cravings. You will also feel more energized if you drink water consistently.
- Eating Whole Foods: Foods in their natural state that haven’t been refined or processed, like fruits and vegetables, provide key nutrients to keep your body healthy.
Making these three changes can make a huge difference for your physical and mental health.
- Get Help When You Need It
There’s no shame in asking for professional help when you need it. While family and friends are great support systems and can mean well, they may not fully understand what you’re experiencing. A trained mental health professional can assess the status of your mental health and create a treatment plan tailored to your needs.
Professional counselors, therapists, and others provide a safe space to talk, advice on dealing with life’s stressors, and coping strategies to avoid burnout. All of these put together can help you to maintain a healthy attitude and give you an outlet to talk about your struggles.
Just like going to the doctor regularly helps maintain your physical health, seeking out therapy or other mental health treatment options does the same for your mind.
- Additional Mental Health Resources
Even implementing these mental health tips may not be enough for some travel nurses; in those cases, additional support through talk therapy, medication, or support groups may be necessary. Fortunately, there are many options for those struggling with mental health disorders and illnesses. Your travel nursing agency or the healthcare facility where you work may even provide additional resources and support for traveling nurses dealing with mental health challenges.
You may also have access to mental health services through your health insurance company. Many insurance companies have preferred providers or other resources that can offer support. You can also check with the hospital’s or clinic’s HR department to see if they have any recommendations for local therapists or counselors.
Apps like Talkspace and BetterHelp are available for travel nurses who don’t want to switch therapists every time they get a new assignment. With newer technology, it’s a little bit easier to connect with a mental health professional virtually.
Additional resources available:
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can also be reached at 1-800-273-8255.