So how’s your mental health?

A year ago, most of us thought COVID would be long gone or at least a much less of a threat by now. Widespread vaccine access was on the horizon, and it looked like an important corner was being turned. But COVID had other plans.

 

As 2022 dawns, nurses are feeling a squeeze that’s unbearable and caring for patients who are desperately ill. Patients who are coming in for routine care aren’t out of the woods, and the psyche of the nation is suffering.

As the pandemic drags on, physical and emotional exhaustion is rampant. When it gets too much, reaching out for help will bring you to a better place. Helps looks different for everyone, but understanding when and how to get it is exceptionally important.

If you are in a mental health crisis or know someone in crisis, please

 

For a comprehensive list of mental health resources check out the Mental Health First Aid website. You’ll also find excellent resources and information in the Well-Being Initiative of the American Nurses Foundation and its partners.

Here are some resources to help you. You can also read Minority Nurse’s Strategies to Maintain Your Mental Health as a Health Care Worker for additional advice on self care and well-being.

Professional help

Recognizing that you’re not feeling yourself and that you need helps is the first step. Mental health professionals offer excellent support. Talking with someone helps you get things sorted out and will give you an opportunity to talk about everything that is weighing on you. Finding a therapist is difficult right now, but keeping up the search is worthwhile as it can bring back some balance to your life. And you don’t have to commit to a big schedule–find what works for you , even if it is just once or twice a month. If your employer offers an employee assistance plan (an EAP), find out if you have short-term access therapists for no cost.

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Thank a Nurse with RNspire

To find a therapist, ask your insurance company who is accepting new patients or use this online tool to help you find someone in your area.

Medication

For some people, talking helps but they also need medication to manage the imbalance in their brain chemistry. Have you tried medication and didn’t find the relief you were hoping for? It can take a few tries with different medications to get the right results. Medication management requires a  comprehensive approach to consider other medications you’re taking, conditions you have, your response to the drug. Don’t give up.

Faith community

Community and faith leaders are often looked to as pillars of support in times of crisis, and faith communities are frequently excellent supports and resources for those in struggling times. If you have a person in your life who can act as a confidant while also offering the reassurance that matches your beliefs, then maintaining that connection can give you the comfort and guidance you’re seeking. If a prayer group or a meditation group gives you solace, make sure attend whenever possible.

Family, friends, furry companions

The pandemic is affecting each of us in a different manner. Your family and friends might not understand the things you do and see every day at work, but they will recognize that you are struggling. If you have close, dependable family and friends, lean on them for companionship or comfort. If you have a pet, they can offer great solace without any judgment at all. They also are often highly tuned into your moods so just having them close by feels good. If you aren’t able to get a pet but would like to interact with animals more, pet shelters always need volunteers.

See also
Inclusion, Part 2: Changing the Culture

Practices

Find what makes you feel calmer with a goal of just taking care of yourself and relieving your stress. Nurses take care of so many other people and often forget the very basic need for self care. Exercise, meditation, faith practices, or being in nature are all excellent ways to lower your blood pressure and keep you moving forward. But making time for other things that make you feel good count too– binge watching movies, cooking, puzzles, crafts, coffee with friends, video games, a book club night, skateboarding, or  spending a day exploring a new place–if it helps you feel some relief, do it.

 

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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