There are few professions as rewarding as psychiatric nursing, but that is, in part, because of the challenge. When you’re making intense emotional connections every day, there’s a risk of getting overwhelmed and exhausted. Much as you may want to put your patients first in every situation, it’s important to look after your own mental health. These are some of the ways that other nurses manage the situation.
Spend Time with A Counselor
When you’re providing mental health support to others, you should always have a counselor of your own. In many cases, employers provide this, but it isn’t always well advertised. Seeing a counselor regularly gives you the chance to talk about the stresses you’re experiencing in an anonymous context that doesn’t risk breaching confidentiality. It enables you to go over all the things that are bothering you without upsetting loved ones in the process.
Talk to Your Colleagues
If there’s one person who can understand what you’re going through better than a counselor, it’s another psychiatric nurse practitioner. In every area of nursing, good teamwork is vital in coping with the stresses of the job, but that matters most of all in psychiatric nursing. Your colleagues understand the issues with particular patients as well as having similar experiences of stress and, sometimes, the emotional impact of being physically assaulted.
Ask If Duties Can Be Reallocated
If you’re really struggling with particular patients, ask your supervisor if your duties can be reallocated. Although everybody on a busy ward has to do a fair share of the difficult work, what feels hardest to deal with often differs from person to person. No matter how hard we try to control them, personal factors impact our work, and one person might find it easy to take in their stride behaviors that quickly exhaust the patience of another.
Look After Your Physical Health
The practical side of psychiatric nursing is much easier to handle if you’re fit and healthy, but did you know that good physical health also helps to protect your mental health? You’ll be much better able to cope with the strain if you’re eating a balanced diet, staying well hydrated and getting regular exercise. Being physically active helps you to flush stress hormones out of your system, but you should also do your best to make sure you get enough sleep.
Focus On the Good Things
It’s all too easy to take stress home with you after work, especially if you feel a lot of empathy for patients who can’t escape its effects. Try to stay focused on the good things around you. That doesn’t just mean the big things like friends and family and favorite hobbies – it means the little things too, like the feeling of fresh air on your face when you leave work or the taste of freshly brewed coffee when you get home. Those things keep you in the moment and let you put the day’s events behind you.
If you can avoid burnout, you’ll find that all these coping techniques get easier with practice. The more you take care of yourself, the better you’ll be able to help others.