Nurses and midwives work in fast-paced environments that are invariably physically, and mentally, demanding. Taking the time to prioritise health and wellbeing is vitally important and can help the workforce cope with the stressors of the job.
Carolyn McDonald is a Senior Clinician at the Nursing and Midwifery Health Program Victoria (NMHPV), a free, independent and confidential nurse-led service that supports nurses, midwives, and students experiencing stress, anxiety, depression or substance abuse issues.
According to Carolyn, nurses and midwives working through the COVID-19 pandemic are doing it tough.
“You are all working hard and often expected to put in overtime. You have all been under prolonged stress, which we know contributes to burnout,” she says.
Because of the current challenges, nurses and midwives might be feeling exhausted, overworked and burnt out, says Carolyn. It’s why, now more than ever, self-care is so crucial.
“The prolonged stress that nurses and midwives have been under is now taking its toll. Understanding this stress cycle in simplistic terms may be that a – threat exists, body physically triggered into action, then celebrate the end of the stress cycle by being conscious that the danger has ceased, and you’ve arrived back home to a safe place to celebrate that you’re alive,” she says.
Carolyn shares her 7 tips to de-stress after a busy shift.
- As you are leaving the ward area – make a deal with one of your colleagues to meet for a quick debrief. Share your wins and disappointments, as part of your shared role identity to make work less personal.
- Share a joke, use humour, or play to defuse stress at the end of shift
- After a particularly stressful shift, be conscious of Your Body and using deep breathing to, allow the body to move into a more relaxed state. The practice of present moment breath awareness will assist from body up, to regulate the sympathetic nervous system.
- Physical movement. You guessed it, running, swimming, biking, dancing, and engaging in some blood pumping exercise for 20 to 60 minutes. You will feel a shift in mood, muscles will relax, and you’ll be breathing deeper. You may even cry from an emotional release. These are all good signs that you’ve closed off the stress cycle.
- Creative expression, positive social interactions, quality time with pets, engage in anything that signals a return to safety.
- A shower to wash off your day. Be consciously aware of the water as it runs over your skin and allow all the stress to run off the body using the water.
- Become consciously aware of the action of going home and develop a plan for leaving work.
-Walking to the car/transport.
-Reflect on what went well.
-Create a geographical space, or a point where you no longer think of work.
-Reflect on what’s ahead at home, such as relationships or family, and be the person you want to be.
Victorian nurses, midwives, and students can access the Nursing and Midwifery Health Program Victoria (NMHPV) by calling (03) 9415 7551 or visiting www.nmhp.org.au for more information.