College is usually described as some of the best years of your life, and most of the time, it really is. However, a student lifestyle can certainly take a toll on your mental health, especially if you’re studying nursing right in the middle of a pandemic. While not all nursing students have been called to help out in hospitals and clinics as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic currently sweeping the world, studying nursing right now can be a stressful and anxious time, whether you’re worried about how your studies are going to be affected over the next year, or nervous about joining the front line.
As a student nurse, you’ll know all about how important it is to look after your physical health. You probably try and eat well to keep your energy levels high when you’re working on placements and work out regularly so that your body is up to the physical demands of the job. But looking after your mental health is just as important, especially in these times of uncertainty. We’ve put together some top tips to look after your mental health and wellbeing as a student nurse.
Talk About It
Getting things out and not letting them fester in your mind is key to looking after your mental health. If there’s something that’s bothering you or stressing you out, it’s not going to go away on its own if you try and forget about it. Sometimes, the pressure of revision, lectures, exams, assignments, and clinical placements can become a lot to deal with, and it’s natural to feel worried about everything that you need to do. It can help to talk to:
- Your partner
- Family members
- Your course tutor
- Your nurse mentor
- A counselor or therapist
Remember; most student nurses on your program will have felt the same way at some point and will understand what you are going through and how you feel. You might find it useful to talk to any qualified nurses who you are friends with as they will remember how it feels to be in college and will be able to share their own advice for coping with you.
A hard workout might be the last thing on your mind when you’ve had a day full of lectures, clinical placements, and revision, but keeping active as often as you can is a great way to deal with low moods and help you feel stronger both mentally and physically. If you’re feeling down or stressed out, stepping away from your work when you can and getting out for a short brisk walk can work wonders by releasing endorphins that are clinically proven to help you feel happier, sleep better and concentrate more. Getting active doesn’t mean that you have to commit to long, hard workouts on a regular basis, either. In fact, you can benefit from small bursts of easy activity, like:
- Walking or jogging to lectures instead of driving or taking the bus
- Gentle walks in a local park or nature spot
- Yoga classes at home
There are plenty of ways that you can incorporate physical activity into your daily life, such as walking instead of driving where you can. And, there are many options that are fun and social, too. You might want to consider joining a sports group or a dance troupe at your college as there will be regular practices and the chance to meet other people, too.
Student life is often centered around partying – at least in the first year of college – but as a student nurse, you often have to be more responsible from the get-go. Not only are you more likely to have to wake up early for clinical placements than other students, but you also know better when it comes to taking care of yourself.
There’s nothing wrong with attending some parties and treating yourself to a drink a couple of times a week, but try not to do it so much that you burn out. Alcohol can be a depressant in itself, and along with leaving you feeling hungover and messing with your sleep and energy, it can affect your mood too when you drink too much of it. So, keep an eye on your consumption levels, and don’t feel that you need to get drunk in order to have a good time – most of the time, you don’t!
Take Some Time for Yourself
When you’re trying to keep up with everything that you have to do at college, it can be difficult trying to find some time for yourself. But, focusing on your program and studying alone will begin to take a toll, and sometimes, a break away from the work can do you a world of good. Try to relieve the pressure and do something that you enjoy at least once or twice a week to take your mind off of things and just relax. You don’t have to spend a lot of time or money, either – a couple of hours doing the following can help:
- Watching a favorite TV show or movie
- Drawing and painting
- Listening to your favorite movie
- Reading a good book
- Playing a game
- Meeting up with friends for a coffee or lunch
- Playing a sport
- Volunteering your time to do something you enjoy like looking after animals
Think about your hobbies and interests, and make sure that you don’t neglect them while you’re studying to become a nurse. Having something completely unrelated to the profession to do that you enjoy is important, both as a student and in the future when you’re qualified.
Set Small Goals
When you’re feeling stressed out, depressed or anxious, it can make even the smallest of tasks seem absolutely massive and impossible to achieve. So, don’t go too hard on yourself if you have begun to feel overwhelmed and like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders. Make sure that your to-do list is achievable and realistic, even if that means making the tasks that you put on it even smaller than usual. Whether you manage to write a paragraph of your essay or tidy your room, be sure to celebrate all the small wins.
Sometimes, it can help to break your work down into smaller chunks. If you look at your degree as a whole, it’s going to easily overwhelm you and leave you feeling lost in a sea of things that need to be done. Instead, break it down step-by-step and focus on each step that you need to take one at a time.
Get Enough Sleep
Getting enough sleep is easier said than done when you are a busy nursing student working on essays and papers, exams, and clinical placements. But, getting into some sort of sleeping pattern and making sure that you’re getting between 7-9 hours of sleep every night is important for ensuring that you have the energy needed to get everything done. If you’re struggling to sleep, try the following:
- Wake up and go to bed at the same time every day, even at the weekend. This will help get your body into a good routine.
- Don’t use any electronics before bed; have at least an hour before bed without using your phone, tablet, or laptop to avoid the effect that the blue light from these devices can have on your ability to sleep.
- Invest in a better mattress and pillows if you’re struggling to sleep because you can’t get comfortable or wake up with aches and pains.
- Invest in some blackout curtains and earplugs if you find that you struggle to sleep because of light or noise from outside coming into your room.
- Cut down your caffeine intake later in the day; save coffee for the morning and stick to decaf, water, or juice after lunch.
- Relaxation exercises like deep breathing and stretching before bed.
Think About Your Long-Term Goal
While it might be a series of small steps and achievements until you finally meet your long-term goal of becoming a nurse, thinking about and reminding yourself of what you set out to do can be helpful if you have found yourself in a slump and wondering if it’s all going to be worth it.
As a student nurse, you’re working towards joining one of the most well-respected, rewarding professions in the world. And, nursing is one of the best career choices that you can make. As these nursing statistics show, nursing outshines many other professions in a huge range of key areas. Once qualified as a nurse, you can enjoy high demand, stable pay, and plenty of benefits that would be unheard of in any other industry.
And of course, the job is an extremely rewarding one. When things get tough now, remember that you’re studying to become somebody who’s going to make a real difference to the lives of others every day. Student life can be tough, especially for nursing students. With COVID-19 sweeping the world, it’s natural for nursing students to feel a little anxious and worried about what’s in store for them. Keep these strategies in mind to look after your mental health and boost your emotional strength as you work towards your goals.