Looking after your mental health as a psychiatric nurse

Working as a psychiatric nurse can have its challenges. You can spend a lot of time helping others with their mental health, only to neglect yourself. There’s no easy way to take a step back and switch off from work at the end of your shift, but there are some things you could try.

Have a support network

Surrounding yourself with friends and family means that you can unwind and concentrate on non-work-related things when you’ve finished your shift. At work, however, the support of your colleagues can be crucial, and outside of work, these will be the few people who really understand if you need to talk. It also helps to keep in touch with your student friends, as they will face similar challenges.

Even if you’ve studied online qualifications such as PMHNP programs, you may have kept in touch with those you studied with online. While you can’t discuss specific patients with them, you can talk generally about the more common issues you all face, and offer support to each other long after gaining your qualification. 

Make the most of your time off

When you have time off, make sure that you use it to recover physically and mentally. Spend quality time with family, and see friends you rarely get to see in person. Do regular exercise, even if it’s just walking. Plan to do something you enjoy. For some people, this may involve booking a spa day, going for coffee or drinks with friends, or spending time on a hobby. If you find yourself constantly checking your phone, provided that you have a way for your family to get hold of you, it might be worth leaving your phone at home. 

Set boundaries

Even though working as a psychiatrist nurse means having to be more available than in other careers, taking on extra shifts and working longer hours than planned, it’s important to set some boundaries. Ensure that you get a day to yourself from time to time. This doesn’t mean that you need to refuse all extra shifts and to cover for other staff. However, it means that you might have to say no sometimes. The role of a psychiatrist nurse is important, but so is taking care of your own mental health so that you’re well enough to help patients with theirs.

Switch where you work

If things are becoming particularly stressful for you, you might consider switching to a community-based role. This is more likely to have routine hours, allowing you to plan time for yourself and your family. It may not reduce your stress completely, but if you think that you’re at risk of burnout, or are taking on too much of a workload, it might be worth talking to someone at work to see if there’s a way of dealing with this before it gets out of hand.

Working as a psychiatric nurse can be stressful, but you can also help people. It’s important to find the right balance between your work and personal life. 

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