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3 mental health tips for traveling nurses

“Put on your own oxygen mask first before assisting others.”

We’ve all heard flight attendants recite this spiel. And as a traveling nurse, you’ve likely heard this directive more than once. This reminder is particularly poignant when it comes to everyday self-care. According to the World Health Organization, “Mental health is the foundation for the well-being and effective functioning of individuals” and “is a state of balance, both within and with the environment.”

Nursing can be demanding physically, emotionally and mentally, and you can often experience a whirlwind of emotions in a single shift. While we all have bad days, consistent stress leads to physical exhaustion, compassion fatigue and burnout.

That’s why it’s vital to build a toolkit of practices to help you maintain resiliency, especially during times of increased stress. We’re sharing three key tips to keep your health – and your spirit – strong.

1. Know your resources

Just as physical therapy is crucial after a surgery, talk therapy appointments can help maintain a healthy attitude and avoid burnout. Among varying shift schedules, assignment location changes and everyday life events, finding a therapist and making time for appointments can seem daunting. Check with your hospital or clinic’s HR department for recommendations on local therapists or counselors.

Don’t love the idea of finding a new therapist every 13 weeks? The rise in technology has made connecting with a professional easier than ever before. Apps like Better Help and Talk Space are easy to download and make meeting with a therapist easy and schedule-friendly. Not ready to talk to someone just yet? Use a notebook journaling app like Daylio or Journey to record your thoughts.

2. Schedule time for yourself

If your full-time job requires providing patients the best possible care, you owe yourself time to maintain your happiness. Being a caretaker is a great quality, but you can’t fill another’s cup with an empty pitcher. Consider creating a daily post-work ritual, such as stretching or listening to soothing music to allow your mind to decompress and lower your heart rate. If you struggle to wind down, meditation apps like Calm, Headspace and Shine provide sessions ranging from five minutes to an hour.

Make sure you carve out time to relax and treat yourself once a week: Get a massage, read a book or sign up for a new exercise class. If you’re in a new area, check your local community center for upcoming events and volunteer opportunities.

Tip: Even small moments throughout the day can help boost your mood: Use the 20 seconds you use to wash your hands to recite an affirmation, pray or sing part of a fun song (it’s no coincidence the chorus to Toto’s “Africa” is exactly 20 seconds).

3. Get a change of scenery

One of the best benefits of travel nursing is the opportunity to explore new places. A change of scenery gives you a chance to step back and return to work with a fresh, new perspective. At Ethos, we provide our nurses with the freedom to travel while helping them navigate the entire journey. Consider applying for an assignment in a state on your bucket list to grow your skills. While you’re there, visit a new park or a nearby museum, or plan a day trip with a friend to rejuvenate your energy and make lasting memories. Even short trips can positively impact productivity and happiness at work, so schedule that adventure today!

Self-care is key

If the past year has felt overwhelming, you’re not alone. A Mental Health America survey of more than 1,000 health care workers reported 93% of respondents have experienced stress, and 82% experienced emotional exhaustion during the pandemic.

Maintaining your mental health is vital, especially in times of crisis. By creating routines and habits to care for yourself daily, you put your health first and increase the quality of care you give to others.

How do you practice self-care? Share your tips with us on Facebook and Instagram!

Jeff Stoner

Jeff Stoner

Jeff Stoner, RN BSN CCRN, is the founder and CEO of Ethos Medical Staffing and is a former travel nurse. Jeff, along with his wife Lindsey (who is also a travel nurse), is dedicated to empowering medical professionals in their exploration and pursuit of adventure, opportunity and service. You can connect with Jeff on LinkedIn.

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