Keeping a clear head: Tips for maintaining mental health as a healthcare professional
October 9, 2017
Healthcare professionals often put everyone else’s health and wellbeing ahead of their own.
But when it comes to mental health, the old traveller’s saying “put your safety mask on first, before helping others” rings true.
Healthcare professionals need to maintain their own mental health and wellbeing so that they can perform their roles better, avoid burnout, and feel good in the process.
Read on for some tips on how you can maintain mental health as a healthcare professional.
Sleep it off
One of the most important things healthcare professionals can do for mental wellbeing is to get enough rest.
A plethora of studies reveal the link between sleep deprivation, insomnia and poor mood, concentration and mental functioning.
Deploy a few daily habits to improve the quality of your shut eye: go to sleep at the same time every night, turn off your screens (mobile phone, TV, laptops etc.) at least an hour before going to sleep, try wind-down tactics such as a hot bath, reading a book or listening to relaxing music, and avoid caffeine and excessive alcohol in the evenings.
Take time out
At least one day a week, pursue some kind of ‘active’ rest – whether it be mindful journaling, a yoga class, painting, playing a musical instrument, a massage, sauna, or simply sitting in a beautiful park or garden.
Healthy time out will have a positive impact on your mental health and wellbeing, and allow you to seek balance between life’s other demands.
Often when you’re busy and stressed, the first thing to fly out the window is adequate nutrition.
But numerous studies show that diet impacts mental health.
If you’re too busy to prepare your meals, just add a few good things each day: some nuts for brainpower if you’re working a long shift, bananas to ease stress (the tryptophan relaxes the nerves), and if you must have that pizza when you get home add a few greens on the side.
A healthy, protein-fuelled breakfast will also keep your blood sugar levels even throughout the morning, so you won’t be reaching for sugary snacks and endless cups of coffee throughout the day.
So many studies show the benefits of regular exercise on mental health and wellbeing.
Exercise lifts mood, poses a healthy distraction from mental stressors, decreases anxiety and has a swag of physical benefits.
If you exercise outdoors, you get the added benefit of absorbing vitamin D from the sun, and it will also help you to sleep better at night.
Connect with others
Humans are sociable creatures, and building relationships and communities is often cited as a leading ingredient for happiness.
Whether you chat to your neighbor over the fence, debrief with a good friend over a meal, or Skype with your sister in another country, make time for real, human connection.
Recognise when to seek help
Sometimes a little perspective is all we need to realise our problems aren’t so big.
Speak to a close friend or family member, or if you’re if you’re struggling with your mental health, please don’t hesitate to seek professional help.
If you need to speak with someone now, view a fill list of mental health helplines here.