For nurses to provide the best care for sick patients, nurses have to be healthy themselves. This means good physical health, obviously, and staying ahead of illnesses through good diet, good sleep, and regular check-ups. But mental health can play just as big a part in a nurse’s overall health, and sometimes, can be one of the hardest things to maintain.
According to the ADAA (Anxiety and Depression Association of America) nearly 15 million Americans are diagnosed with a major depressive disorder—something that on average pops up in their early 30’s—and there are lots of factors that can contribute to the issue. Workplace stress, physical exhaustion, emotional exhaustion, all play a part in creating conditions for depression. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that those in the medical field (a rewarding but demanding field) are no strangers to “the blues”. In fact, studies have shown that nurses are diagnosed with depression at twice the national rate.
This finding could easily be alarming—after all, it takes full mental focus to provide health care, especially when dealing with complicated medical cases—and depression and mental exhaustion can impact concentration.
The good news is that depression can be treated… if you know how to spot it. Some common symptoms (collected by NurseBuff.com) include inability to focus, poor time management, slow response time, low productivity, and a tendency to be more accident-prone. If you notice these trends in yourself or in one of your co-workers, it may be time to look for help.
“Nurses feel they need to be perfect and healthy at all times. It is just not possible when they are doing so much for someone else,” explains Nikki Martinez, PsyD, LCPC, a behavioral health counselor. Mental health professionals realize that this is a huge problem. Openly talking about it is the only way to break the cycle, but no one talks about it. When they do talk about it, it takes away stigma and shame.”
And nurses who seek help, explains Blake LeVine, often come out stronger than before.
“Nurses know that admitting a mental health problem puts their job at risk,” says LeVine. “People are scared to admit it. That’s when mistakes happen. Get treated. Nurses feel they have to hide it to protect their jobs, but a nurse that seeks help for depression ends up a better and stronger nurse. Those who seek help have more longevity in their career.”
As for the treatment itself, there are often many avenues that can be pursued, and many ways to improve a nurse’s environment to help improve their mental health. Educating yourself about depression, improving your workload, speaking to a therapist, and focusing on self-care are just a few of the many options. Regular exercise can also go a long way towards stronger mental health. In fact, one study recently found that enjoying yoga can go a long way in combatting depression, anxiety, and stress. Practicing mindfulness and meditation can also help—and there a few great apps (like the app Headspace) that help make the practice smoother and more convenient.
Remember, there’s never any shame in asking for help, so if you feel your mental health may not be at its peak, talk to somebody! Take a moment to get the best of the blues. You’ve earned it.
“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.” – Helen Keller
If you’d like more information about a potential career in nursing, Unitek College has several programs designed to help you reach your full potential. Contact us here for more information.