First things first—Therapy is for everyone! No matter your line of work or your situation in life, it’s self-care that we all deserve. It’s talking about what we are feeling with a professional who can help us break it down and process our life experiences and emotions to learn and grow. How beneficial is that to our mental health?
Do you find yourself asking yourself questions like, “Do medical workers need therapy?” or “Do I need therapy?” If so, our answer is simple: Why not? Mental health is often put on the back burner, which can be damaging and dangerous. We like to think of therapy as a massage for our emotions and thoughts.
If you’re working overnight or long shifts and giving the majority of your time and empathy to your patients, you could be putting yourself second (at least sometimes, and chances are you may not even realize it). This article will address issues this can cause and how to manage them.
Why medical workers can benefit from mental health care
Healthcare workers should consider the mental health services available to them. Why? Not necessarily because anything is wrong in their emotional lives but because their work is very taxing on their physical and behavioral health. The demanding work leads to depression, burnout, anxiety, and fatigue. And the stress of the coronavirus pandemic has only exacerbated the issue.
Sleep loss also takes a toll on the health of mental health professionals, as nurses and physicians pull long shifts, often at odd hours. That can lead to physical and emotional symptoms of exhaustion, which can negatively affect mental health and general well-being.
Going to therapy with a professional can help frontline workers deal with the stressors from their work and provide them with tools for managing the difficult emotional situations they confront every day.
Why going to therapy is important
There’s undeniably a social stigma about therapy, and while it’s thankfully waning, it’s still present nonetheless. But as we said, it helps to think of therapy as something as ordinary as getting a massage for your sore back. After all, your mind needs and deserves some TLC, too.
Therapy isn’t only for those moments when you’re feeling low; it’s also for the moments in your life when you’re feeling good. It provides a safe space to talk about all the significant happenings in your life—both positive and negative—and get the necessary tools and feedback to improve your emotional management and interactions.
Health workers can have mental conditions that range from burnout to substance use (statistics of nurses show that more than 70% experience the former). Unfortunately, unstable emotional conditions can lead healthcare professionals to make mistakes that affect their patients and their own safety (i.e., accidents due to drowsy driving while on the way to or from work). Talking to a professional can help with all this.
Even if you still think that therapy isn’t for you, it may help you prevent medication errors and compassion fatigue. Part of practicing good nursing ethical principles is ensuring that you’re in the best condition possible when providing care.
How therapy enables you to care for your mental health
If you’re a nurse or doctor, you know that medicine’s true value is in helping patients live better lives. So here are a few ways you can address your mental health needs through therapy as if it were just that—medicine:
- Exploring your emotions in a safe space
- Learning coping skills that help you get through the day
- Deepening your reflection skills
- Improving your interpersonal interactions
- Achieving long-term improvements in your mental state and behaviors
- Potentially increasing your physical health as a byproduct
- Managing new challenges
- Understanding your ticks better
- Talking about your problems in a digestible way
- Identifying stressors
- Cutting back on damaging behaviors like substance misuse
- Inspiring those around you to take care of themselves
Why taking breaks is healthy
Let’s say it’s Tuesday and your next therapy session isn’t until Friday. Never fear. There’s plenty you can do in the meantime to take care of yourself and even offer support to others. Here are a few ways to clear your mind while at work and during your rest time at home:
- Drink water
- Play mind-clearing games like Sudoku
- Talk to your colleagues
- Be conscious of how much time you spend on social media
- Allow yourself a bit of self-care whenever possible
How to support one another
Once you’ve found mental health resources that work for you, you’ll be one step closer to taking the best care of yourself possible. But it’s important to remember we can—and should—care for each other as well. As hard as it may be to believe at times, especially during the darkest of moments, know that you’re never alone.
Let others know that as well. There are always others going through similar situations who want or need to talk with a caring friend or colleague. Here are some great ways that medical professionals can find support:
Make your own peer support group
Your colleagues undoubtedly deal with many similar issues and feelings. Try organizing informal, intimate sessions with your co-workers to talk through your experiences while on the job.
Join a support group
Depending on where you live and work, you may be able to find an in-person or virtual group facing the same challenges you are as a medical professional. Research online for local support groups, and join one if it feels right.
Lean on loved ones
As a caregiver, you’re there for your patients day in and day out. But you’re also there for your family and friends. Remember that you can also ask for support from the people around you. Often, healthcare providers feel like they need to be in control of everything—caution is critical to nursing, after all—including their domestic life.
Still, nothing’s wrong with asking your family members or roommates to do the dishes, help you run a bath or simply offer to listen while you get things off your chest. After all, you’d surely do the same for them.
We understand how hard your work is. It’s why we started a business that’s all about making you more comfortable. Come to us for scrubs, and stick around for tips on living a better life as a professional in the healthcare industry.