We all know nurses are resilient and can handle anything (except for maybe bed bugs). As clinicians, we’re often used to brushing aside our own needs in order to take care of others. But as we enter a particularly difficult period during the growing global coronavirus pandemic, you may find that you feel more exhausted, stressed, or anxious than usual. Our already understaffed hospitals are facing the likelihood of not enough beds, not enough equipment, and not enough nurses and doctors. It’s normal to be concerned.
And it’s more important than ever for you to take care of yourself – physically and emotionally. Here are some tips from one nurse to another for how to handle the stress of COVID-19.
1. Start with the basics: food, water, and sleep.
You’re a medical professional, so this may sound really obvious but it’s incredibly important to not neglect your body’s most basic needs. When you’re feeling stressed or unwell, stop and ask yourself: when was the last time I had water? Have I eaten recently? Do I need to rest?
Movement is also important. Light exercise like walking will help you get out of your head, and get your heart pumping. According to a Harvard study, people “who walked at least 20 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week, had 43% fewer sick days than those who exercised once a week or less. And if they did get sick, it was for a shorter duration, and their symptoms were milder.”
2. Connect with your loved ones.
Social distancing doesn’t mean disconnecting. There are a lot of ways to stay connected to your loved ones even when you can’t be physically present. The longer this lasts, the more isolated you’re likely to feel. Make a plan for how you’ll stay connected to your friends and family. We’re seeing everything from online dance parties to digital game nights and more.
3. Limit your exposure to the news.
This doesn’t mean ignore the news – it’s important to be informed. But check the source, and limit how much time you spend reading the news or on social media if it’s causing you stress. You might download one of the apps that limits your time online, or delete apps from your phone entirely. Pay attention to how you feel during and after spending time online.
4. Find uplifting moments.
All around Europe, people are singing and clapping for their healthcare heroes. Spring is here and the flowers are blooming. People are finding ways to show their loved ones they care when they can’t be together in person. Even in times of crisis or chaos, the beautiful parts of life are still happening all around you. What lifts you up? Your loved ones, time in nature, music? For every minute less you spend on social media, you get one minute more to do something you love. Prioritize what makes you feel good.
5. Remember your strength.
You’re a nurse, so you’ve been through adversity before. You passed nursing school and the NCLEX. You can do anything. When facing something difficult, it helps to reflect on a time you’ve dealt with something difficult in your past so you can remember just how resilient you are. What did you learn from that experience, and how can you apply it now?
Thank you for the work that you do. It’s important, and we’re grateful for you. If there’s anything we can do to help, get in touch.