Looking after your mental health

 Nicky Hughes 26 May 2020 Mental Health Forum

Following Mental Health Awareness Week 2020 Nicky Hughes, RCN Wales Associate Director of Nursing (Employment Relations), shares her thoughts on how we can look after our own mental health.

I am by no means an expert in the field, but as it was Mental Health Awareness Week last week I thought it would be good to consider how we should all be looking after our own mental health.

Whenever I hear the devastating news that another nurse has passed away as a result of COVID-19 I feel emotional and it makes me take stock of what is happening. At one point or another during this crisis, I think we have all felt worried, scared, stressed, overwhelmed, even angry – and of course happy.

Some years ago, I attended a resilience course and remember the facilitator saying that it’s OK to have these feelings, whatever they are, as long as you acknowledge them. It’s normal to be sad or angry sometimes; it’s how we deal with it that makes the difference.

Here are some ideas for looking after your mental health:
Be kind to yourself. All too often I have seen myself and colleagues putting themselves second to ensure patients get the care they need. But let me remind you of the classic airplane adage: “You must put your own oxygen mask on before you can help others”. This is particularly pertinent to the current situation where staff are working long hours in PPE and in stressful circumstances.

Take time out to Rest, Rehydrate, Refuel. It is vital that we make this a priority during our working day. I hear in some workplaces there has been some lovely food and drink provided – make the most of it!

Eat well and exercise. After a busy and intense day yesterday, I really wanted to veg out on the sofa with some chocolate. But I made myself take the dogs for a walk and afterwards I felt so much better.

Take annual leave. It may feel like a waste right now, but it’s so important to take time out to refresh and recuperate – we’re in this for the long haul.

Guided meditation. On Tuesday 26 May from 5-6pm the RCN is hosting a free digital event for RCN members called Time to Meditate. Find out more and register your place.

Remember that RCN members can access Member Support Services to get free, confidential advice, representation and support on a range of issues. There is also information to help you with your mental wellbeing during COVID-19.

The Health Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW) website has guidance on what support is available in each organisation in the NHS, as well as a helpful playlist of information: COVID-19 Compassion Starts with Me.

Mindfulness and meditation work for me but I’m sure you know what helps you to relax and rid yourself of the stresses of the day. Whatever it is, remember to take time for yourself every day – I know that’s not easy, but you deserve it.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on what helps your mental health during these difficult times. Get in touch on Twitter – @nichughes1 – or email CommunicationsWales@rcn.org.uk

Nicky Hughes

Associate Director of Nursing (Employment Relations) RCN Wales

Nicky has 30 years experience of working in the NHS in the specialities of inpatient acute medicine and the community setting, where she managed frontline services such as District Nursing, Prison Nursing, and those caring for the homeless and asylum seekers. In addition she commissioned care from the nursing home sector.

Page last updated - 29/06/2020