The past year has been difficult for all, but especially our healthcare heroes who’ve worked with bravery, resilience and passion battling against Covid 19. A second lockdown, winter pressures and a potential vaccine – the next few months are going to be tough; which is why we’ve created five ways to protect your mental health.
Despite having a job that requires you to always be on your feet – finding time to exercise is going to be your number one stress-buster. After you work out, your body releases stress-relieving and mood-boosting endorphins, which is why it’s a powerful antidote to stress, anxiety and depression.
Long shifts may mean you want to spend your down-time, lying down but finding a way to add additional activity into your life, focused only on you, will do wonders.
Perhaps you could combine your lunch break with a brisk walk? Or wake up 30 minutes earlier to do a HIT or Pilate’s session. Got a coffee date with a friend? Swap it for take-out and get moving around the local park – socially distanced, of course.
Remember, it’s equally as important to spend time outside as exposure to sunlight helps your body to produce vitamin D, which increases your serotonin level. Bonus… time in nature is a proven stress reducer.
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Connect with others
In the words of Aristotle “man is by nature a social animal… society is something that precedes the individual”. Just as socialising provides us with positive health outcomes, not connecting with others can be detrimental.
Research reveals that social isolation can carry the same level of risk as obesity, high blood pressure and smoking. When we fail to interact socially over extended periods, our bodies experience more stress and inflammation, which is why it’s important to prioritise.
Not only will your friends and family want to catch up with you, you’ll also feel more content and happier once you’ve chatted. Yes, we may be in a lockdown at the time of writing, but why not try: FaceTime with a friend, a Zoom quiz with your family, or if you want something a bit different you could try an online group exercise class or museum tour.
We may be physically separated, but there are plenty of ways we can stay together.
We all know healthy eating provides tremendous benefits to our physical health; but eating a diet that’s well-rounded and nutrient-rich can help improve your mood, energy levels and ability to think more clearly.
This is especially important when it comes to healthcare professionals, as their busy roles often means grabbing a snack on the go. Although this works in the short-term for a quick energy boost, prioritising your diet will help you feel happier, more energetic and less stressed.
- Have a balanced breakfast
- Eat small meals spaced out regularly throughout the day
- Try to include seven fruit and vegetables a day
- Ensure your diet has enough protein
- Avoid food and drink which make your blood sugar rise and fall rapidly
Do something you enjoy
Doing something you love beats stress – fact. Working in healthcare generally means you prioritise others and may often forget to enjoy life yourself. Taking time out to do something you love is extremely important – not only for our short-term happiness, but also for our mental health and emotional well-being.
Scheduling in something you love once or twice a week ensures you have something to look forward to, and get you through any tough days. Laughter and happiness release serotonin and leave your body feeling relaxed, reducing stress and boosting your immune system.
Take a break
Last but certainly not least, it’s important to take a break. A life in healthcare is a life with very long shifts, unsociable hours and not much down time. When you do have rest days are take that all-important-annual leave – you need to take it and focus on you.
A change of scenery is invaluable for your mental health. So, book a holiday, travel around the UK or visit family. Remember you can’t look after anyone else unless you look after yourself first.
Hopefully this has helped provide you with some mood bosting tips, however if you’re struggling with mental health and need someone to speak to – please do read through the list of available resources and remember, we’re always here to help, 24/7.