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  • 07 May 2020
  • 19 min read

9 tips to improve your mental health and ‘switch off’ as a nurse

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Play video: "Try and think about the positives because that's what's keeping me going right now."

As a nurse it can be easy to neglect your own wellbeing, especially during a pandemic. General Practice Nurse, Claire Carmichael, gives 9 tips on how to stay on top of your own mental health and relax.

Topics covered in this article

0.09 Introduction

Tip 1 (0.42) Take a break from technology

Tip 2 (1.50) Do more of what you love

Tip 3. (4.58) Try meditation

Tip 4. (6.34) Re-watch your favourite movies

Tip 5. (7.12) Let your emotions out

Tip 6. (8.44) Exercise and eat well

Tip 7. (10.57) Stick to a routine

Tip 8. (12.02) Come up with some activities

Tip 9. (13.26) Focus on the positives

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0.09 Introduction

Today's blog is all about how to take some time out, switch off from your nursing life, especially at a time like this in the middle of a COVID crisis.

I'm going to hopefully give you some tips to just completely switch off when you get back home.

I, honestly, of all people know exactly how it feels when you get home and you're thinking about work all night.

You don't sleep.

It can be really, really hard to switch off, and it doesn't matter what you do.

But hopefully I can give you some sort of tip and hopefully it's going to help you and you manage to get some of that much needed time out for yourself.

Tip 1 (0.42) Take a break from technology

My first tip has to be put all technology away.

Literally, put your phone away, put it in another room, turn the telly off, turn the radio off, just completely shut everything off.

Because right now, everywhere is nursing, everywhere is COVID and it can make you quite anxious.

I know it makes me anxious when I'm sort of reading all of these stories and people are dying and the death rates.

It's important to recognize that, to know the seriousness of it, but it's really important to support your mental health and not look too much into it, and become obsessed with looking at these things, because it can really bring you down.

And so just switching all of that off, and just having a quiet moment to yourself is going to massively help, I think.

If you've got family at home with you, then maybe take this time where you're shutting off all technology to play some games together, have that really important family time and connect together and make your family unit a lot stronger as a result.

But get your board games out.

If you've got board games, if you haven't got board games, invent your own games to play at home.

There's loads of different things that you can do at home.

So just use that creativity and just have that amazing quality time together.

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Tip 2 (1.50) Do more of what you love

Do more of what you love doing, if that makes sense.

But if you like to knit, do a lot of knitting.

Sometimes people find that really therapeutic.

I don't knit. So I don't know.

Reading, a lot of people read as well, so taking that time out to just completely shut off from the world and read a book, get lost in the story and that's going to really make you feel better, I think as well.

If you're into arts and crafts, do a lot more of that.

Blogging, blogging, whatever is going to take your mind off and distract you from the current situation and your day, your bad day that you've had.

Something that's going to really cheer you up and make you feel a lot better and a lot calmer as well.

Do more of that, because I think that's really, really important that we have these little hobbies that we do on the side, to keep us going and keep us motivated.

But as well as that, just enabling us to have a good mental health.

My own little hobby at the minute, I'm really into crystals.

I just bought the most amazing little thing that cheers me up every day when I see her.

Look at this, back from my childhood, look, isn't she beautiful?

Anyway, she makes me really happy every time I see her.

It cheers me up every day. But it's about finding what works for you, and we're all individual.

We're all completely different and it's about finding what's really going to help you in this tough time, but not just in this tough time.

When this time passes and you have a bad day at work, you need something that is going to help you through that.

Something that's going to de-stress you after a really bad day.

You just need to find something.

And it's really important I think that people do that. Another thing that I'm really into is rock painting.

Some of you may have saw my posts on Instagram, on Twitter, all of that jazz.

But I paint little rocks.

This is my latest one. I haven't finished it, but obviously for the key workers, I have to do that.

That's going in my garden. But I've made like little hearts.

This rock looked like a hearts, So I was like, I'm going to paint that into a heart.

So you don't have to, this shows, you don't have to be amazing at drawing or anything.

These are rubbish in my eyes.

Did a little kidney. Some of you might frown upon that one. Sorry, guys.

It's not a real kidney. Don't worry.

I made a little brain, which I thought this was actually quite cute.

This is my favourite and it's got all the lobes of the brain and then I've put believe in yourself.

You're smarter than you think.

So that when someone finds it they think, wow, that's amazing.

I don't know. And then this was my favourite.

This is my favourite. I've still got this little baby. 

haven't let her go yet, but I was quite impressed that that actually turned out and I've left the back blank at the minute.

I haven't put a message on there.

So literally pick up a rock and paint it, use acrylic paints.

You can buy a really cheap sealer.

Make sure you seal your rocks before you put them in your garden or anything, because they will just wash off and look really rubbish at the end of it if it starts raining outside.

And to make sure you seal them.

As you can see, this one is shiny. I haven't done the back, but that's just to show you the difference.

But that seals it. I've got environmentally friendly sealant that I put on that seals them and waterproofs them and they look nicer.

So that is my other hobby that I have.

Tip 3. (4.58) Try meditation

Meditation is really, really nice for your mental health, for clearing your thoughts and things like that. I find it such a benefit.

It's helped me a lot throughout my life actually for the past few years.

And actually, the amazing thing is if you go into the Headspace app or there's another app called Unmind, these sort of apps are giving healthcare workers now free access rather than charging people.

Between now and it's either July, June or December, there's three different months there, I can't remember which one it is, because so many people are doing amazing things for us healthcare workers.

They're all different days.

But I think, I've got feeling it's December.

Anyway, have a look on the Headspace app.

I'll put the links below to these two apps that I've found.

Unmind is amazing. It's really, really good and they've got a specific page as well for COVID, how to deal with the anxieties around COVID-19 and the pandemic and things like that.

Really, really good, fantastic apps.

There's another app called Sleeperu, something like that. I'll put all the links below.

Anyway, there's three different ones that I've now got on my phone, that are just amazing.

They're just such a massive help and they're free for all healthcare workers.

You do need like an NHS email address though I think to register.

However, if you're not NHS, but you work in a care home or something like that, I don't see why they wouldn't give you it for free.

Get in contact with them, ask them and see what they'll do.

But it's just another way that hopefully can help your mental health and how to de-stress after a really bad day and unwind and switch off.

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Tip 4. (6.34) Re-watch your favourite movies

Maybe you could watch some movies.

I love Disney. I love anything romcom.

I also love Marvel and comic books and things like that.

I'm a very diverse sort of person.

Whatever mood I'm in, I will pick the movie for that mood.

If I'm feeling really down and sad I'll put on something like really ‘romcomy’ or a Disney film.

If I'm in the mood for a bit of action, I'll put on some action.

So find the movie that suits you.

And whilst we're here, comment below, what's your favourite movie and why?

What gets you going?

What cheers you up and lifts your mood?

Let me know.

Tip 5. (7.12) Let your emotions out

And this might sound like maybe an obvious answer.

I don't know. Maybe all of these sound like obvious answers, I don't know.

I'm just trying to give some solutions that maybe you haven't thought of, but talking about your emotions and it's really important that we talk about our problems.

And some people see that as a sign of weakness.

They don't want to look weak, they don't want people to see them crying, to get emotional.

But do you know what?

You're human. You're not a robot.

You weren't built to be this big, macho person, whether you're male or female.

We are human. We have emotions.

We have to release them, because if you're locking that away, it's going to cause you a whole lot more problems inside your body in the long run.

So it's really, really, really important. If you don't listen to anything else from this video, you really need to release that emotion.

I'm a firm believer in that.

And if you don't feel like you've got anyone to talk to, or you don't feel like you can talk to anyone, write it down.

Get a piece of paper, scribble all of your thoughts, what a rubbish day you've had, how awful you feel, how negative you're feeling, all of the bad stuff get onto paper, so it's out.

So you've said it, it's out there, and then you can do whatever you want with that bit of paper.

You can burn it or you can tear it up, put it in the bin somewhere where someone will never find it.

Just to get rid of that emotions that you're feeling.

You really need to voice those concerns and problems that you're having and talk about your emotions.

Because I think the more you do that, it'll just be a whole weight is lifted off you, so please, yes, get help, get support and talk or write it down.

Tip 6. (8.44) Exercise and eat well

Next tip is exercise. I know, trust me, I am the last person that wants to exercise.

I hate it, and I'm a nurse and I'm really sorry, I shouldn't say that.

I'm going to get struck off for saying this, but I am that person.

I really, really have to try and motivate myself to do any form of exercise.

I prefer things like yoga, which is nice, which is hard.

It's not nice. It's hard, but I hate running.

That's the main thing. I hate running.

I'll do anything but run.

But just doing those little bits of exercise can really, really improve your mental health.

There's been much, much, much research on it as well out there, to say it is proven to help your mental health and boost your energy and things like that, and that's a really, really good tip.

Alongside the exercise, you need to be eating well.

You need to be getting those fluids in, so make sure you're drinking the right amount for your body weight and all of that jazz.

There's an equation. I'm going to put it here.

There's an equation to work out how much you should drink for your body weight, which I was taught at university in some training thing at the hospital, but that's the equation to use.

And just make sure you're getting plus that.

Have a little bit extra as well, especially when it's hot or when you're exercising, because you lose a lot of that fluid through sweat.

And just make sure you're getting the right amount of vegetables and fruit in the day.

Make sure you're eating a well-balanced diet, which is quite easy at the minute, because all the McDonald's and the KFC.

I'm a big, I'm sorry, I love junk food. 

know, but I do eat healthy as well, because I love fruit and vegetables.

I really do. I try and balance it.

I will have a cheeky ‘Maccy’s’ sometimes, but I will also have a really nice healthy meal with vegetables and chicken and salads and fruit for dessert.

All the boring stuff that people don't normally like, I really like.

Especially if you're in lockdown, if you're self-isolating, if you're not on placement at the minute, because you've been called off.

It can be quite easy to slip into bad habits.

So you need to get out of that.

Get on the YouTube, get on any DVDs that you've got, do some workouts at home, in your living room.

There's so much out there at the minute, it's unreal.

You've got no excuses.

Come on, get up and go.

Tip 7. (10.57) Stick to a routine

And following on from that, I just want to say about having a routine as well.

A routine can really, really help manage that sort of thing.

So if you're that sort of person, you're coming on, you've had a bad day, you're stressed, you want to switch off, you just eat and go to bed.

You can get into that routine and I think you need to break out of it.

Maybe come home, maybe go for a walk.

Use that hour of your daily exercise that we're allowed at the minute to get outside in your garden, walk down to the local shop maybe to get your milk or whatever.

Just walk around the block, just get out there and just get some fresh air, have a walk, walk it off and then come back and hopefully feel a little bit refreshed and recharged it.

God, it sounds like this is a health video now.

I've deviated away from the stress relieving.

I'm sorry. Just trying some different things to help you sleep at night as well, can really, really make a difference, because if you're well slept, it's going to make a whole difference when you go back to work the next day.

It's going to help you switch off a little bit more as well.

Tip 8. (12.02) Come up with some activities

Date night. I know, if you have a partner or even for your kids, you could set it up for your kids and like, oh, sorry, I'm going to go on one now.

I'm really, really sorry, but I know there's a lockdown.

Restaurants are shut, cinemas are shut.

That doesn't mean you can't stop date night.

You can set up date night in your own home.

I saw somebody do this and I can't remember where it was, I think it was on Instagram.

But there was a nurse out there and she created this date night for her and her boyfriend and it was really, really cute.

Like she got dressed up and they had a whole night of it and they had a really nice romantic meal together and candles and stuff and it was so cute.

And I thought, do you know what?

That must really boost someone's spirits.

That must be really, really nice. So set yourself up a date night.

If you've got kids and you want to do something with the kids, set up a movie theatre.

If you've got popcorn, maybe go for your non-essential popcorn buy.

But go get some popcorn.

Make some little popcorn tubs.

Get your kids involved, put on a movie, turn out the lights.

Make it like a little movie theatre.

I think that'll be really, really cute.

Let me know if you've done anything like this, because I'm really keen to know now what you've done.

If people have done date nights, if people have done these cute little things, let me know because it makes my day hearing what other people are doing and it's really nice.

I love seeing everyone's creativity during this lockdown, it's fantastic.

Which brings me on to my last tip.

You're probably bored of my voice right now.

Tip 9. (13.26) Focus on the positives

Focus on the positives, and I know it's really, really hard when you're feeling so low, you've had a bad day, you're trying to de-stress from work.

All you're thinking about is, oh my God, this has happened, this has happened, this happened.

Try and think about the positives because that's what's keeping me going right now.

I don't think about the negatives as such.

It's important to recognize those, but recognize them and release them.

Don't let them eat away at you, because it's not good for you at all.

So it's about thinking, okay, I recognize that thought, shift away.

Okay, what good happened today?

I always focus on, I said it in a previous blog.

I focus on when we come out of this, this is what keeps me going.

I'm seeing the future and I think a lot of change is going to happen from this lockdown from COVID-19.

I honestly believe that we'll get better recognition for nurses.

I'm hoping for student nurses as well.

They better not forget the student nurses that are fighting this, because I will not be happy.

I will go on my own little rampage to make change if this doesn't happen.

But I think in my head, I can see the positives, and I can see actually a lot of good is going to come out of this.

A lot more people are going to come together.

There's going to be better recognition for key workers.

I think it's just going to be amazing.

The amount of street parties there'll be, keeping safe still because it's not going to just suddenly end.

We do need to keep safe after this for a long time, but do you know what I mean?

Just thinking about the future and thinking, do you know what, some good is coming from this.

Looking at all the positive posts, instead of all of the negative posts on social media.

So what COVID compassion is doing across the country, how many people are doing really good things out there?

It's just so lovely to see, and it really does lift my heart and lift my spirits and makes me think, do you know what?

I can do this.

I can get through my bad day, and it completely just takes my mind away from work and everything that's going on right now.

I think it's really, really important that you, if you've had a bad day, if you're struggling to switch off, you really need to try and refocus that energy.

Understand that it's there, it's happened, but it's done now.

Just move on.

You can't keep going over and over and over something that's happened that day.

You really need to refocus and recharge, so that you can be your absolute best self for your patients in the morning or whenever your next shift is, if that makes sense.

And just think happy thoughts if you can.

I know it can be hard. Trust me, I've been in that place where you're in a really dark hole.

You can't see the light and you're struggling to get out.

It's really, really hard, and sometimes you do just need to get under a duvet and cry for the day.

But my point is just get it out however you can and whatever way you can, just get it out, release it, recognize it, but you need to try and just get better.

Anyway, on that final positive note, I'm going to shut up, you'll be glad to know, and I shall see you later.

I hope everyone's okay.

I hope everyone's staying safe, everyone's well.

And massive well done everybody fighting this horrible COVID-19.

Well done to all of the key workers out there being absolutely fantastic, being amazing, keeping this country going, keeping this country safe.

I am proud to be British right now, so thank you so, so much everyone.

Have a great day.

About the author

I am a Registered Nurse with over 12 years healthcare experience including: elderly care, orthopaedics, sexual health / family planning, qualified GP nurse, transgender healthcare and now in my new role as an assistant lecturer (as of Nov 2022). I believe that nursing gets a lot of bad press, so I create blogs and vlogs to help anyone considering their nursing career and to create positivity surrounding our profession as I'm so passionate about nursing.

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