Everyone experiences stress at their job at some point or another—travel nurses included.
On top of your daily pressures as an RN, as a traveling nurse, you may experience additional stress from beginning a new position in a new environment every 13 weeks. While every assignment will feel a little different from the last, there are a few things that you can do to prioritize your mental health and curb stress while working on the road.1. Get a Good Night’s Rest
We understand that getting a good night’s rest often falls to the back burner for nurses, especially while you are on an assignment or if you work untraditional hours. But, creating healthy sleeping patterns while travel nursing is crucial when prioritizing your mental health.
A lack of sleep will not only impair your ability to take initiative, make appropriate decisions, and use good judgement while working, but sleep deprivation can also have a negative impact on your mood, make you feel more stressed and anxious, and affect your physical health.
Here are a few tips for maintaining healthy sleeping patterns:
- - When you move into a new space, make sure your bedroom feels like home. Keep your room cool, dark, and quiet and wear a sleep mask or use light-blocking curtains if there is too much ambient light seeping in.
- - Establish a nighttime routine to alert your internal clock each night (or whatever time of day it is due to your work shifts) that it’s time for bed.
- - Make your bedroom a “no tech” zone and eliminate any screen time at least an hour before you go to sleep.
- - Right before bed, take the time to disengage your mind in a positive way. Take a warm shower to relax or curl up with a good book.
2. Take Time to Decompress
While it can be hard to move your mind away from work mode, especially if you’ve just finished a difficult shift, it is important to remember to take time for yourself. Ultimately, if you give yourself time to decompress and recharge mentally and physically, it will help you avoid burnout and allow you to take even better care of your patients.
Schedule your self-care time in advance! Whether you plan to take a nap, meditate, use your break to go for a walk, or just sit with your favorite coffee drink, having time set aside for yourself each day will give you peace of mind and take the stress out of destressing.
Also, make sure you’re spending time “out of the office.” As a travel nurse, you have the unique opportunity to visit new cities and places—take advantage of what these destinations have to offer! Seek out places where you can get involved with your favorite hobbies, make a list of all of the restaurants you want to try, and don’t forget to get recommendations from your co-workers and colleagues.
3. Make Movement a Priority
Do you ever notice how your body feels when you are under a lot of stress? It’s not unusual for your muscles to become tense, especially in your neck, face, and shoulders, which can lead to discomfort and painful headaches. Making movement a priority is a great antidote to stress.
In addition to releasing endorphins (a.k.a. happy hormones) into your brain, partaking in physical activity can also help you:
- - Relax your muscles
- - Relieve tension and stress
- - Boost your mood
- - Improve your memory
- - Sleep better
- - Feel more energetic throughout the day
But, don’t feel like you have to become a fitness fanatic to reap these benefits. Even things like taking a long walk during your break, opting for the stairs instead of the elevator, doing some simple stretching exercises during your idle time, or spending a few minutes each morning to go through a yoga routine can be beneficial. Your body and mind are closely linked—so when your body feels better, your mind will too.
As a nurse, you have probably advised countless patients to maintain a healthy diet—so follow your own advice! Just like staying active can have a positive impact on your mental and physical health, sticking to healthy foods will also make your body and mind feel better.
If you are having trouble sticking to a well-balanced diet, try these small changes that can make a big difference:
- - Choose whole foods. A whole food is something that has been refined or processed as little as possible. So, opt for foods that are in their natural state, like fruits and veggies, and try to avoid packaged foods that are processed with extra sugars and additives.
- - Keep snacks handy. Don’t give yourself a reason to go to the vending machine! Keep your favorite healthy snacks (like mixed nuts, seeds, fruit slices, or veggies) on hand for when you are in need of that mid-shift boost. Pro tip: Snacking on something that has a little bit of a crunch will take you a little longer to eat, giving you and your body time to feel fuller and more satisfied.
- - Drink plenty of water. If your position allows, make sure to keep a water bottle at your side whenever possible. By doing so, you’ll be able to ward off some of those unnecessary snack cravings since staying hydrated helps you feel fuller and more energized.
Whether it’s making an effort to eat an extra serving of vegetables every day or cutting out sugary snacks, eating right doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Even the smallest steps will bring you closer to your goals.
5. Ask for Help
You should never view asking for help from a professional as a sign of weakness. Rather, it just proves that you are in tune with your body and your mind. If you feel like talking with someone outside of your immediate support group would be beneficial, consider working with an employee assistance program to find counseling options. CoreMedical Group offers free counseling through our EAP to all of our travelers.
Alternatively, you could seek out help from a professional counselor in your community or take advantage of a teletherapy app like Talkspace or BetterHelp. These mobile application pair you with a licensed therapist and work via secure text, video, and voice messaging platforms, making them ideal for nurses who are traveling.
If you’re a current travel nurse with CoreMedical Group, you also have access to our telemedicine counseling services partnership, regardless of if you are enrolled in one of our Anthem Medical plans or not.
When you prioritize yourself and your mental health, you’ll find that becoming a travel nurse can be a very rewarding career choice. Think travel nursing may be a good fit for you? Here’s a look at our Ultimate Guide to Travel Nursing.