How to sleep better after a stressful shift
In any job, there will be hard, stressful days. Nurses and Healthcare workers are under a lot of stress and pressure, so it’s really important to think about self-care and looking after yourself. The pandemic, the cost of living crisis and the constant squeeze on healthcare staff are all causing so much stress. The overwhelming stress can lead to anxiety, depression, mental exhaustion and, in the end, sick days or leaving your job entirely. In this article, we will discuss ways to unwind and ultimately sleep better after a stressful shift.
First and foremost, It is so important to avoid isolating yourself and your thoughts. Talking to someone - a family member or friend - about how your shift went can instantly help relieve some stress and tension. Bottling up emotions is never the answer and can actually cause more damage to your mental health. Even writing down your thoughts in a journal or diary can be helpful and prevent your emotions from being bottled up.
On the topic of talking to someone, It can really help to spend time with your family to wind down after a long, stressful shift. Whether this is eating a meal with your family, relaxing and watching the TV or a movie before bed. Studies have shown that spending time with your family can help boost your mood, lower stress levels, be really beneficial to your mental health and can even help improve your cardiovascular health.
If you have a pet, like a dog or a cat, spending lots of time with your pet can really help your mental health too. Just the touch of soft, warm fur on your fingertips gives us an immediate stress release. According to hopkinsmedicine.org research has shown that simply petting a dog lowers the stress hormone cortisol, while the social interaction between people and their dogs actually increases levels of the feel-good hormone oxytocin (the same hormone that bonds mothers and babies).
Exercise is incredibly important for your mental health, and after a stressful day, it’s really difficult to find the motivation to go to the gym or go out for a run. Think smaller and easier. It’s just about trying and doing something small, even if it’s not for a long time. Some really simple ideas could be taking your dog for a walk, or going for a walk with your family or friends. Just getting out of the house can help take your mind off of your stressful day and help your mental health.
Alternatively, a simple form of exercise is Yoga. Yoga helps focus your breathing and your mind. Yoga has a lot of both physical benefits as well as mental health benefits. Yoga helps with flexibility, cardio and circulatory health and maintaining a balanced metabolism. Meditation, on the other hand, can be done with no movement and simply focuses on breathing and helping calm the mind.
Before getting into bed, we would recommend either having a nice shower or if you have the time and capability, having a long warm bath. According to Town & Country Magazine, having a bath (or a shower) can help with mental health as data suggests that bathing can diminish feelings of depression and pessimism due to the induced feelings of comfort and ease. This will help you when preparing to sleep after a stressful shift. On top of that bathing can help with relieving muscle pain and body aches, which will be quite a common occurrence with all the long, stressful and physically draining shifts that healthcare staff endure. Baths can also help your heart and respiratory symptoms and can relieve cold symptoms too.
Finally, as much as we all enjoy it, it is really important to keep off your phone when in bed trying to sleep. The blue light from phone screens and other electronic devices can interfere with the circadian rhythm according to Sleep Foundation. Experts suggest putting your phone aside an hour or more before you plan on sleeping to avoid this. Plus it also means that you are not tempted to scroll through your social media constantly before bed.
We hope that these tips help improve your mental health and can relieve some of the stress you may be feeling after a tough shift.
Remember, if you ever need to talk, we are here for you.