How to stay mentally healthy
Make time for yourself and develop strategies to help you cope with the pressures of a nursing course.
Recent reports indicate a dramatic increase in the number of nursing students accessing university counselling services. The combined pressures of a nursing course and social and financial demands can lead to emotional and mental distress. Here’s how to optimise your mental wellbeing.
Avoid the comparison trap
- As a nursing student you have a list of competencies to achieve and professional attributes to aspire to, but it is important to allow yourself to become your own practitioner.
- Try to become aware of how and when you judge yourself against others, and listen to the language you use: would you speak to a colleague or close friend in this way? How can you adopt a friendlier tone with yourself?
- Remember to acknowledge when you do things well, and make a note in your reflective learning log of positive feedback you receive. Use this to boost your confidence when you notice self-critical thoughts.
- If you constantly compare yourself to others – in the classroom, on clinical placement or even online – you move your attention away from learning and place increased pressure on yourself.
- You will be learning how to recognise, and care for, others. However, to successfully complete your course you also need to learn the art of self-care and emotional resilience. This means finding ways to ground yourself, so you feel able to deal with whatever comes your way.
- Try to identify what helps you bounce back from setbacks, such as a poor grade in an assignment or a stressful shift. Do you need to talk things over or do you prefer hitting the gym? Develop strategies that suit your needs.
- If you are prone to ruminating over negative thoughts, it is important you learn to challenge these with more constructive ones. Some people find it helpful to keep a thought/mood diary, and there are self-help resources online, such as Living Life to the Full (http://www.llttf.com) and Get Self Help (http://www.getselfhelp.co.uk).
- Make time for hobbies. Everyone needs time to unwind and relax, so make sure you balance all your hard work with some fun time.
- Value friends and family. Some people thrive on a wide social circle, whereas others need just a few close friends. Don’t bottle emotions up.
Be honest with yourself and others
- Sometimes you may need extra support. Often the first and bravest step is admitting to yourself that you need help. Initially speak to someone who you trust – this could be a close friend or colleague, your university tutor or your GP. The main thing is that you share how you are feeling and make a plan to get the best support you need.
Mandy Day-Calder is a freelance writer and life/health coach