The job of nurses and other healthcare professionals can be gruelling, with long hours and tough tasks. It can be emotionally draining and it can be difficult not to take your work home with you.
In preparation for this article, I sought the help of a palliative care nurse to understand what she does to ‘switch off’ after a difficult shift. But it’s important to recognize that different techniques work for different people. So, these tips act as a guide of things you can try in order to ‘switch off’ when you return home from work.
Occupational Health & Resources
It’s important to know what services are available to you as a part of your employment. You may find that you can access counselling or other resources to help combat stress and poor mental health. If this is the case, make the most of these services and help them to manage your wellbeing.
Talk to someone
This could be your partner when you return home from work or a friend who you can call. No matter who it is, talking to someone about your day can help to work through stress and mental health.
“I only allow myself to talk about work the first 10 minutes of being at home to get things off my chest. If I moaned all night it would have a negative impact on my mental health and also the person having to listen – it becomes their burden when it shouldn’t.” – Palliative Care Nurse
Remind yourself of why you do your job
There’s a reason that you’ve taken on this job or contract, and sometimes it helps to reacquaint yourself with the reasons why. Do you enjoy making a difference in your patients lives? Do you like making someone’s life better because of the work you do? It’s these thoughts that will help to push you through the tough days. You may even want to write these down so that when you’re struggling you can always come back to them.
“If I have a super bad day, I try to think of the reasons why I continue in the profession, the good things that have happened to remind myself it’s not always bad. There was a reason I went into the profession, and I remind myself that every day is different.” – Palliative Care Nurse
Do something that doesn’t require concentration
For some people a distraction that doesn’t require much concentration will help them to relax after work. Watching films, listening to music or playing games are the kinds of things that may provide some relief.
Or, do something that does require concentration
As I said, not everyone is the same and, for others, finding a distraction that requires concentration may work better. Hobbies, such as reading, writing and learning a new recipe, require slightly more focus. By losing yourself in your hobbies, it may push the other thoughts away.
Regular exercise – running, walking or even yoga – is a popular method of de-stressing and winding down. A regular routine can help to boost self-esteem and aid in stress management. It will also improve overall physical and mental health.
With yoga you can build in meditation and breathing exercises into your practice. It can make a huge difference to stress levels by trying to be more present in the here and now, rather than worry about things that have been and gone.
“Getting into a good routine for sleeping sets my body clock into knowing what’s expected next. I eat breakfast, shower and get into bed at similar times each day. I will also put my phone down at a certain time and actively try to sleep to keep to my routine.” – Palliative Care Nurse
It’s important to keep to a regular routine to help combat burnout and stress. Think about meal planning before you start your working week. Build in time for yourself to relax and have some fun. Make sure to keep to regular exercise and sleep patterns. By preparing yourself for the working week, you give yourself a better chance at managing your mental health and switching off at the end of each shift.
All in all, this is all about finding what works for you. Not every person can sit and meditate for 30 minutes each day. Not everyone enjoys exercise or cooking. But the main takeaway is that there are many tried and tested methods of ‘switching off’ after a day at work. You just have to prioritize your mental health and overall wellbeing when considering which method best suits you.