How To Stay On Top Of Your Mental Health As A Nurse

Nursing is a challenging profession that can take a toll on a nurse’s mental health. Long hours, heavy workloads, and exposure to trauma and difficult situations can all contribute to stress, burnout and mental health issues. Nurses must prioritize their mental health to provide the best patient care while maintaining their personal wellbeing.

This article will explore certain practices that nurses can implement to improve their mental health at work. From mindfulness practices to building support systems, these practices can be easily incorporated into hectic routines so that nurses stay on top of their mental health and create a culture of wellbeing in their workplaces.

Impact Of Nursing Work On Mental Health

Nursing is a demanding profession and can become taxing for nurses with all the stressors in their routine activities. Challenging situations, difficult patients, trauma, heavy workload and long work hours can significantly impact nurses’ mental health. It can lead to burnout, depression and anxiety.

Nurses face many different stressors, and they can be physical, emotional or even interpersonal. Lifting patients and working long shifts can be physically taxing for nurses, especially if it is a part of their routine. Emotional demands such as experiencing trauma day in and day out and dealing with patients’ pain and suffering can affect nurses’ emotional wellbeing. Even organizational demands such as lengthy paperwork and meeting performance goals can become stressful in the long run. Additionally, nurses may face interpersonal stressors such as conflicts between colleagues, difficult patient interactions and even exposure to violence in the workplace.

Chronic stress can result in physical and emotional exhaustion, feelings of cynicism and detachment, and a decreased sense of personal accomplishment. These stressors can significantly affect nurses’ mental health. If this continues in the long term, it can result in burnout and reduced quality of care for patients.

According to statistics, mental health issues are quite prevalent among nurses, and particularly since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Statistics from a Nursing Times survey report that “almost two-thirds of nurses feel their mental health has deteriorated since the initial peak of the pandemic”.

Considering these statistics, prioritizing mental health is essential for nurses to provide quality care for their patients and maintain their wellbeing. According to the International Council of Nurses (ICN), a Geneva-based organization of global nurse associations, there might be a worldwide shortage of 13 million nurses by 2030 unless action is taken to stem the tide of attrition, which is mainly because of burnout.

Common Mental Health Issues Experienced By Nurses

Risk Factors For Mental Health Issues In Nursing

Burnout is a common mental health issue among healthcare professionals. In nursing, burnout can happen because of the emotional demands of the job. It is characterized by a loss of enthusiasm to work, emotional exhaustion and a sense of reduced professional efficacy.

Compassion fatigue is a secondary issue experienced by nurses who are exposed to the suffering of others. Compassion fatigue in nursing can come from working with patients who are in pain, are chronically or terminal ill, or have experienced trauma.

Risk Factors For Mental Health Issues In Nursing

Although most of the factors are covered in the discussion above, here is an overview of risk factors that can contribute to mental health issues for nurses in the workplace.

Heavy workloads and long work hours contribute significantly to nursing burnout, compassion fatigue and stress. They can have negative consequences for the nurse and the patient.

Exposure to trauma, death or violence can contribute to mental health issues in nurses. Nurses can develop PTSD, which may require treatment through a variety of evidence-based therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR).

Lack of support from peers and family can also become a crucial contributing factor to mental health issues in nurses. Supportive workplace settings can help nurses manage stress and prevent burnout.

Understanding these risk factors can help nurses and healthcare organizations develop intervention strategies to tackle potential mental health issues. While some strategies and interventions may be implemented at a personal level, others require significant contributions from the organization and employers. Working on both fronts can help nurses have a better working life.

Practices To Improve Mental Health In The Workplace

Nurses constantly face stressors in their work, but there are practices that they can incorporate into their routine to improve their mental health and wellbeing. Practices such as mindfulness exercises, physical exercise and movement, building support systems, and self-care can help manage mental health. These practices and easy to fit into busy schedules. By practicing these small things daily, nurses can reduce stress and provide better care for their patients.

  • Mindfulness practices

Deep breathing exercises and other mindfulness practices can help nurses reduce stress and anxiety. These practices slow down the body’s physiological response to stress. Nurses can take a few minutes throughout the day to practice deep breathing exercises, inhaling deeply and exhaling slowly.

Nurses can also try meditation as a mindfulness practice to help lower stress and increase their ability to concentrate and focus. Practicing meditation for a few minutes daily will help nurses become familiar with paying attention to their breathing or body sensations.

  • Exercise and movement

Regular physical activity has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety and depression and improve mood and cognitive function. Nurses can add simple exercises and movements into their daily routine, such as taking a walk during a break or stretching during a free moment. Even simple exercises and stretches that nurses can do while at work can also improve their physical and mental health. To start with, they can try shoulder and neck stretches or take the stairs instead of the elevator.

  • Building support systems

A social support system is vital for maintaining good mental health in the workplace. Nurses can build relationships with colleagues and seek outside support, such as therapy or counseling, to help them cope with the demands of their work.

Nurses can develop meaningful relationships in the workplace by engaging in supportive conversations, participating in team-building activities, or simply taking time to connect with colleagues on a personal level. Seeking outside support is also perfectly acceptable through employee assistance programs, professional counseling services or support groups. Nurses should not hesitate to seek external support.

  • Self-care practices

Nurses must use strategies to set boundaries at work and to prioritize self-care. They must set boundaries around work-related stressors, such as limiting their work-related communication during off-hours.

Self-care practices are easy to fit into busy routines. They can take a few moments for deep breathing exercises, engage in a mindfulness activity such as listening to calming music, or take a brief walk during a break. Any activity that brings them joy is perfect for indulging in self-care.

Building A Culture Of Mental Health In Nursing

Building A Culture Of Mental Health In Nursing

While individual practices at the nurses’ level can go a long way to improving mental health at work, building a mental health culture in healthcare organizations is important. It can significantly impact the mental health of nurses, which, in turn, can lower burnout, attrition and even improve patient care.

The Role Of Organizational Culture In Mental Health

Organizational culture is the shared values, beliefs and practices that shape the behavior of individuals within a workplace. Regardless of the industry, organizational culture can significantly impact employee mental health. A culture that prioritizes employee wellbeing, encourages open communication about mental health, and provides resources and support for mental health can lead to reduced stress, burnout and turnover.

Strategies For Promoting A Culture Of Mental Health In The Workplace

Prioritizing employees’ mental health is essential for nursing organizations to ensure that they can continue to provide high-quality care to patients while maintaining their own wellbeing. Employers can take several steps to create a culture that focuses on nurses’ mental health and wellbeing. Implementing the following strategies can help create a healthcare organization that supports its employees’ mental health and wellbeing, leading to better health outcomes for nurses, patients and other healthcare professionals.

Generating a culture of open communication around mental health can help reduce the stigma associated with it. An open culture will encourage nurses to seek help when needed without feeling unnecessary shame in something normal. Employers can offer training to nursing supervisors to help them recognize signs of mental distress in nurses and provide support and resources.

Employers can offer mental health resources and support through employee assistance programs, counseling services and mental health benefits. It will help nurses access these resources easily, especially when they lack the time to find the best solutions due to hectic schedules. Healthcare organizations can also provide information about mental health resources and support outside of the workplace.

Nursing superiors can promote work-life balance by offering flexible work arrangements such as telecommuting or flexible scheduling. They can also promote stress management by providing access to stress management resources such as yoga or meditation classes. They must also encourage nurses to take breaks and prioritize self-care.

Employers should conduct regular mental health check-ins with their nurses to assess their wellbeing and detect any potential areas of concern. These check-ins can be anonymous surveys or one-on-one conversations with supervisors if the organizational culture supports such practices.

Training and resources should be offered to help nurses get a better understanding of their mental health. Healthcare organizations can offer this training through workshops on stress management, resilience building, coping strategies, and access to trusted mental health professionals.

Fostering a supportive work environment will encourage nurses to take breaks and focus on self-care. It will also allow them to create social connections and community-building activities. Employers creating such a work environment will also be more open to flexible work arrangements that accommodate employees’ personal and family needs.

Employers can address workplace stressors such as understaffing, heavy workloads, violence in the workplace and poor working conditions. This will lower the risk of burnout and other mental health issues among their nurses.

Leaders and managers are critical in promoting a mental health culture in nursing organizations. Employers can provide leadership training and support to help managers and supervisors recognize and address mental health issues among their healthcare teams.

Five Ways To Improve Your Mental Health At Work

Ways To Improve Nurse Mental Health At Work

Here are five ways for nurses to improve their mental health at work.

  1. Take breaks

Taking regular breaks throughout the day can help lower stress and prevent burnout among nurses and other healthcare professionals. Use break time to rest, eat a healthy snack, or engage in calming activities such as reading a book or listening to music.

  1. Connect with colleagues

Building positive relationships with colleagues can help reduce stress and improve mental health. Having someone to talk to about work-related stressors can make a big difference for nurses in the workplace. Nurses can take time to converse with coworkers during breaks or before or after shifts.

  1. Practice gratitude

Focusing on things to be grateful for can help shift the focus away from negative thoughts and improve overall mood. Nurses must take time each day to reflect on things they are grateful for, no matter how small they may seem.

  1. Focus on strengths

Rather than focusing on weakness, nurses concentrating on their positives will more likely be better equipped to deal with stress and related mental health issues. Nurses must capitalize on their strengths and work on projects that offer a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.

  1. Learn something new

Learning new skills can improve mental health at work, giving nurses a new sense of purpose. It can also help increase self-esteem and boost self-confidence, reducing the depressing thoughts because of an unchallenging work environment.

Pursuing an accredited nurse practitioner program from Rockhurst University can also help nurses learn the best practices for self-care, time management and stress management. Rockhurst’s online MSN-FNP degree can become an additional resource for nurses interested in furthering their education while developing skills to support their mental health. It can provide a deeper understanding of mental health and strategies for promoting mental wellness among nurses in the workplace. As one of the best options among online FNP programs, interested nurses can earn an online MSN degree at an affordable cost in as little time as 24 months.

Resources Available To Nurse

Many mental health resources and organizations are available for nurses to support their mental health issues. Here is a list of some of the ones that nurses can contact when seeking help:

  • American Nurses Association (ANA)
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
  • Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline
  • Counseling services
  • Support groups


Nurses are critical in delivering patient care, but it is important to remember that they also need to take care of themselves. The stressors of the nursing profession can significantly impact mental health, but certain small practices can be incorporated into a busy workday to promote mental wellness. Mindfulness practices, exercise and movement, building support systems and self-care practices are just a few examples of how nurses can prioritize their mental health at work.

In addition, promoting a culture of mental health in the workplace can significantly impact the wellbeing of nurses. Organizations can support nurses and create a healthier work environment by encouraging open communication about mental health, providing access to resources and support, and promoting work-life balance.

It is important for nurses to remember that their health is as important as their patients’ health. Nursing is a demanding profession, but by taking small steps to prioritize mental health, nurses can improve their wellbeing and provide better patient care. By incorporating these practices into daily routines, nurses can stay on top of their mental health and be better prepared to provide quality care.