Did you know that according to data compiled by The American Institute of Stress, 94% of workers report feeling stress at work? Of course, we all have bad days; however, this consistent stress can take a toll on our minds and bodies.
There’s no denying that travel nursing is one of the most taxing careers on mental health. Although caring for patients can be extremely rewarding, it can also be very challenging. High levels of stress can lead to exhaustion, burnout, anxiety, and depression. When left untreated, these symptoms can worsen and affect daily life and work performance.
This is why it’s so important for travel nurses to make their mental health a top priority. If you are struggling with your mental health as a travel nurse, there are a few things you can do to take care of yourself while bouncing from assignment to assignment.
Focus On Yourself
As a traveling nurse, you’re focusing on others 24/7. This can make focusing on yourself and your own needs difficult. Not only will being in the wrong headspace affect you and how you feel about yourself, but it can also impact how you take care of your patients. One of the best ways to shift priorities and focus on yourself is to schedule time in your calendar to relax.
Whether every day or once a week, carving out time to treat yourself is essential. You can work out, socialize with friends, read your favorite book, explore the city, or take a hot bubble bath. Whatever activity you choose, as long as it helps you recharge your internal battery and unwind physically and mentally.
It may seem easier to shut your friends and family out and work through your struggles alone. However, this can be even more detrimental, as loneliness is associated with higher rates of depression and anxiety. Understandably, working odd hours makes communicating with loved ones hard. But organizing time to speak with them can improve your mood and make you feel more connected with those who matter most to you.
Get Some Sleep
It’s no secret that no matter what field you work in, getting an adequate amount of sleep is crucial not only to perform but also to feel your best. It’s easy to let this fall by the wayside when you’re on an assignment or working long hours. Nonetheless, creating a healthy sleep routine can drastically change how you feel.
Sleep deprivation can lead to mood swings, delayed body signals, decreased coordination, reduced decision-making processes, and a weakened immune system. These symptoms can quickly affect work performance, possibly leading to unintentional HIPAA violations or charting errors.
When settling into a new space, try to make it feel like home as much as possible. Keeping it cool, dark, and quiet can help you relax and fall asleep. If this isn’t possible, wear a sleep mask or get blackout curtains and use a portable fan (which can also double as a white noise machine). It’s also vital to stay off your phone for at least an hour before you go to bed. Instead, spend that time reading, meditating, or doing yoga.
Move Your Body
Along with sleep, you must prioritize your physical health through movement. Daily exercise improves your brain health, boosts your energy, strengthens your heart, sharpens your judgment skills, and more. However, don’t fret if you can’t get to the gym for an hour every day. Small acts of physical activity can still make a difference. Consider taking the stairs instead of the elevator, stretching when you have some downtime, and taking a short walk before or after a shift.
Eat a Balanced Diet
Eating a balanced diet can help keep your immune system boosted and decrease the likelihood of feeling sluggish throughout the day. Unfortunately, a hectic schedule may make eating healthy challenging. A quick tip is to make small changes to your meal structure. This way, you can add the necessary nutrients to your diet without feeling like a chore. Some changes include keeping healthy snacks on hand (such as nuts, fruits, and veggies), drinking water throughout the day, and avoiding refined or processed foods as much as possible.
Implementing mindfulness techniques in your daily routine can significantly improve your mood. For some, this may include breathing exercises, nature walks, or listening to classical music first thing in the morning. For others, it could be journaling, meditating, or repeating affirmations. To maximize the effects of mindfulness, combine these techniques to suit your schedule best.
Because most of these techniques are small and subtle, you can perform them as much as you’d like throughout the day. They can be done anywhere and take up very little time, making them valuable tools in stressful situations.
Many situations can lead to a more stressful environment within the healthcare system. For example, healthcare data breach statistics show that ransomware attacks significantly affect patient care. They can lead to increased hospital stays, hospital transfers, medical procedure complications, and mortality rates. Thus, finding ways to alleviate stress and anxiety can help you handle difficult situations better.
Ask For Help
One of the most important lessons in life is that asking for help is never a sign of weakness. Whether the task is washing your scrubs because you’re short on time, asking for a second opinion on an X-ray, or helping a patient with scanxiety, no task is too small or too large. In fact, asking for help shows others that you have a deep understanding of yourself and are aware of your physical and mental health.
If the help that you are seeking is therapy or medication, there are countless resources available. You may access many of these through your health insurance, or you can use online resources such as Talkspace or Cerebral. Online mental health tools allow you to keep the same therapist while moving to new assignments. This can provide a sense of normalcy and consistency. Lastly, you can contact the hospital’s HR department to see if they have any recommendations or support groups for traveling nurses.
Prioritize Mental Health While Away From Home
All in all, prioritizing your mental health will not only make you a better travel nurse, but it will also help you feel like the best version of yourself. Actions such as eating well, getting enough sleep, exercising, making time for your hobbies, and keeping in touch with family and friends may seem small, but they can help you feel energized and content in your career.
If you’re looking to make a difference as a travel nurse, be sure to check out our job board here, where you can directly apply to open, fitting opportunities. Looking for something different than what you see? Send us an updated resume, and we’ll connect you with a recruiter who can help you find the right position.