Improving Your Mental Health During COVID-19
"The role of the VA nurse is more important than ever, making self-care a critical part of getting the job done."
Nurses and NOVA members are on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic and risk their lives every day to care for their patients despite the fear of being exposed to the virus, long hours, and risk of inadequate or not enough personal protective equipment. The stress of working and the traumatic situations encountered during the pandemic can make it difficult for NOVA members to stop and think about their self-care.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), a mental health organization that advocates for, educates, supports, and raises awareness of mental illness and those affected by it, 1 in 5 adults in America experience a mental illness and nearly 1 in 25 adults in the nation live with a serious mental illness.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month and NOVA has some tips on how to improve your mental health. Below are four tips NOVA members can use to protect their mental health and well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
Find Ways to Keep Positive
Sometimes it can be hard to focus on the positives in life. Try and find hopeful stories in your community, support local businesses help families and children in need, or if you are able, donate critical supplies or money.
“My experience has been very positive,” said Yvette Twum-Danso MSN, RN, CCRN-K. “I work the COVID-19 screening and testing areas every other weekend. I have adequate PPE, supplies, effective communication to perform my nursing leadership functions. On the weekend, we have executive leadership support, many times lunch is provided for the employees. The executive leadership verbalized a ‘thank you.’ When the weather changes we have a successful system in place to accommodate the nurses. My overall experience has been second-to-none.”
There are ways to find the positives during the pandemic, sift through the noise and you can find it.
Validate Your Emotions
It’s normal to feel a wide range of emotions during this stressful time, and there’s no right or wrong way to process them. Leaders may be a resource to help alleviate fears and navigate workers’ emotional response.
“I have worked in a leadership role to ensure nurses are safe and have all the PPE they need to do the job,” Catherine Giasson, DNP, MHA, RN, NE-BC said. “A great deal of time is spent calming staff fears and educating nurses on how to manage COVID-19.”
Self-encouragement can be helpful in accepting and processing how you feel: you are doing the best you can, you are human, and your emotions matter.
Let It Out
Expressing thoughts by talking or writing about it can help people who are experiencing anxiety and may even diminish those feelings. Try keeping a journal, talk to family members or trusted friends, or quickly jot down notes throughout the day and throw out the negative thoughts.
Self-Care by Having Fun
Make your time outside work count for self-care by doing activities you enjoy. Whether you enjoy staying active through exercise, a family game night, or watching a movie on Netflix, that dedicated time can help boost your mood.
“I practice self-care by exercising, gardening, and spending quality time with my husband and daughter,” said Twum-Danso. “I attend church virtually. I watch Netflix and play board games with my family. I video chat with my family who reside in different states. I take naps and go to bed in a timely manner.”
For Thelma Roach-Serry, BSN, RN, NE-BC, she carves out some time to reset while also spending time with her family to unwind. “Taking time to laugh with others,” Roach-Serry, said. “Making ‘me’ time to rest, exercise, eat well, mediate, reflect, and read. Doing activities with family to be creative and have fun.”
Kelly D. Skinner, DNP, APRN, NP-C, GNP-BC, CRRN, WCC, CFCN, likes to keep things in full swing while taking some time to destress. “Keeping busy for me is key,” Skinner said. “I like to remain productive, but when I am feeling a little stressed, a hot bath and a good night’s sleep is the perfect panacea.”
Take these tips to help you protect your mental health and well-being and remember NOVA members play a valuable role during the pandemic, remember, you are making a difference.
Do you feel that you are in crisis? Below are some phone numbers and websites to help you out.
Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) suicidepreventionlifeline.org
Veterans, Military and Families Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255 Press 1 veteranscrisisline.net