Post-Pandemic Self-Care is Something Every Nurse Needs
The COVID-19 pandemic is nearing its end, but that doesn’t mean the end of stress, struggle, and trauma for the healthcare professionals who battled it on the front lines. For travel nurses, the past 12-14 months have been some of the hardest of their careers — and for new travel nurses, it was a baptism by fire. As the world returns to normal, it’s vital for nurses and other frontline workers to take time for self-reflection and healing.
The COVID-19 crash is imminent
COVID-19 was traumatic for healthcare professionals. As the pandemic raged on, nurses and doctors bore the brunt of the stress caused by overloaded hospitals, staffing shortages, and fear of the virus. Travel nurses were particularly affected — since they were brought into facilities in high-census areas specifically to combat the virus.
The pandemic caused mental, physical, and emotional trauma for healthcare professionals. Long shifts and staff shortages led to physical exhaustion and an increased risk of virus transmission. Stress associated with the risk of infection, fear for family members, and rapid changes in available information exacted a mental and physical toll. Social isolation and a dramatic increase in patient losses combined to cause severe emotional turmoil.
Some healthcare professionals took a “one day at a time” approach to the pandemic. Fueled by adrenaline, many believed they were handling the crisis well. But now that the virus is largely under control, nurses are starting to feel the pandemic’s toll on their bodies and minds.
It’s time to put yourself first
Nurses spent a large portion of 2020 and early 2021 putting the needs of everyone else before their own. They weathered grieving families, long hours, ignorance about the virus, and other pandemic-related stressors. Now that things are stabilizing, it’s time for nurses to direct their focus inward and give themselves the time and space necessary for self-reflection, self-care, and healing.
Healthcare agencies all over the world fear the pandemic’s unprecedented levels of stress and burnout will cause nurses to leave healthcare altogether. It’s impossible for anyone to carry the burdens of the last year and a half for too long. If you don’t take time to care for yourself, you run the risk of burnout, anxiety, and depression. And if you wait too long, you may never fully recover.
Self-care tips for post-pandemic stress
To shed some stress and rejuvenate your body and mind, build self-care into your routine. Self-care should go beyond resting to include cognitive, emotional, physical, and behavioral well-being.
Journaling is a helpful practice for recording and processing emotions. It’s normal to have a lot of feelings right now (e.g., anger, stress, hopelessness, grief), and keeping a journal helps you to acknowledge and begin moving past them.
Mindfulness, meditation, and yoga are healthy daily practices to add to your routine. All three are useful for calming the mind and promoting sleep, and they have physical benefits for the heart, lungs, and immune system.
Turn to your support system when you need to talk through feelings. Reach out to a friend and consider therapy for additional support.
Self-care is not selfish. Nurses who take the time to care for themselves are better equipped to help others on the job, which means a happier, healthier environment for everyone.