Let’s face it—nursing is a high-stress career. Long hours, patients in pain and distress, providing comfort to family members, and physically exhausting work all contribute to high stress levels and burnout.1 And travel nursing can increase that stress with changes in home and work environment, travel, and the loss of local support systems.
The good news is that there are many ways to boost your emotional and mental health in nursing. Try out the following ideas to help take care of your mental wellness in a new environment.
Conscious or mindful breathing practices are among the most popular exercises. Deep breathing can help initiate the relaxation response, which is a state of rest that:2
- Reduces emotional responses to stress
- Decreases heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tension
- Increases levels of nitric oxide and oxygen to the brain
- Stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system
There are multiple approaches to deep breathing, but most tend to focus on slowing the rate of breath, closing your eyes or otherwise reducing external focus, and deepening abdominal breathing. You can try:
- Visualization, such as imagining breath being pulled up from the feet through the body
- Yoga-based approaches such as Sudarshan Kriya or SKY, which places a greater emphasis on the natural rhythms of breath.3
- Foursquare breathing, which involves a four-step process of breathing in, holding the breath, breathing out, and holding the breath again.4
- Slowly tracing up each finger on an in-breath and down on an out-breath
Meditation can help calm runaway thoughts and distress. And it allows you to strengthen mental tools that are useful in dealing with urgent and overwhelming thoughts and situations.
If you’re not accustomed to a meditation practice, it can sound overwhelming, boring, or just plain odd. But meditation can be done in short increments, and you can try different approaches to see what works for you.
Meditation can be as simple as finding five minutes in a quiet environment, closing your eyes, and imagining the feeling of sunshine on your skin. Breathe deeply, allow thoughts to come and go, and relax your shoulders and face. If you want to take this practice one step further, consider using one of the many reputable stress management apps to help guide you through the experience.
#3: Follow a Gratitude Practice
Experiencing and focusing on gratitude can help promote calmness, balance, and joy in your life. At the beginning or end of the day, take even five minutes to write down five things that you are grateful for even on the most challenging days.
Gratitude doesn’t mean ignoring harmful or painful input but, instead, making space to focus on what is good—even if it takes a few minutes to come up with a short list. For example, allowing yourself to consider the feel of a spring breeze, the satisfaction of a hug, or a job well done helps provide balance against anxiety and depressive symptoms, as well as common stressors.
#4: Activate Your Senses
Activating the five senses is a mindfulness method that can boost creativity and emotional resilience, but it can also be used in moments of trauma, depression, anxiety, disassociation, or severe stress.
Sit in a comfortable position, breathe deeply, close your eyes, and walk through these steps to identify:
- One taste, such as the last thing you ate or drank
- Two smells in your environment or something like your hand lotion or lip balm
- Three things you hear, from your own breathing to street sounds, air through vents, etc.
- Four things you feel, such as the cloth over your knees, your hair, a table in front of you
Finally, open your eyes and find:
- Five things you see around you; these can be objects or colors, shapes, or textures.
#5: Incorporate Mindful Movement
Physical exercise can also have a positive impact on your mental health. Regularly engaging in physical activity, especially when it includes aerobic exercise, helps maintain emotional balance and can reduce some mental illness symptoms.
Getting in regular exercise doesn’t need to be complicated and should be designed around activities that you already enjoy. Some of our favorite ways to incorporate movement into a daily routine are:
- Pairing movement with nature, such as gentle walks, hiking or climbing
- Finding playfulness with tap-dance classes or dancing to favorite songs at home
- Combining movement with quality time spent with friends or our 4-legged companions
Host Healthcare Supports Mental Wellness for Travel Nurses
If you’re considering a career that includes travel nursing, incorporating mental health practices is an excellent part of the planning process. Host Healthcare is here to help you find your dream travel nursing job. However, we understand that the travel and change in living environment can add stress on top of the high-demand job of caring for others, so we also provide you with resources to help support mental well being.
Host Healthcare is here to help you uncover your next travel nursing job. We want our travelers to thrive and succeed both professionally and personally—that means supporting you throughout your journey. Our dedicated team always has your back and will help you create work-life balance, avoid overwork and burnout, and navigate the practical and emotional aspects of relocation and change.
Travelers have access to resource materials that introduce them to new locations, discounts on meaningful services, and mental wellness coverage through our insurance program. And Host Healthcare’s health insurance includes an employee assistance program that provides a 24/7 hotline and free individual counseling.
Ready to learn more? Connect with Host Healthcare today and get started on your journey.
Ashleigh Murray, BSN, RN
Nursing Specialty: PACU, Emergency Trauma, Post-op, Pre-op, ICU float
After completing an emergency trauma nurse residency at a level-one trauma center and teaching hospital in Washington, DC, I dove hard into emergency trauma nursing. I absolutely loved everything about working in the heart of DC with my emergency room family. After some time, I decided I wanted to grow my knowledge base and see how the rest of the US handles emergency trauma, so I became a travel nurse. I absolutely loved it! I loved learning how different places handle different situations or how different parts of the country prefer certain medications over others to achieve the same outcome. Traveling made me want to learn other nursing areas, so after gaining the needed experience, I took some cool travel jobs in Pre-op, Post-op, PACU, and PACU with ICU floating. Many of these travel jobs turned into long-term staff residencies because I couldn’t help falling in love with each city, the hospitals’ staff, and the knowledge and skills I obtained in each place. Being a nurse has enriched my life, filled my cup by allowing me to help others, and provided me with so many adventures. I can’t wait for the next one!
- National Library of Medicine. Work Stress and Burnout Among Nurses: Role of the Work Environment and Working Conditions. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK2668/
- The American Institute of Stress. Take a Deep Breath. https://www.stress.org/take-a-deep-breath
- Zope SA, Zope RA. Sudarshan kriya yoga: Breathing for health. Int J Yoga. 2013 Jan;6(1):4-10. doi: 10.4103/0973-6131.105935. PMID: 23440614; PMCID: PMC3573542.
- Medical News Today. What is Box Breathing? https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321805#how-to-do-it