5 Mental Health Care Tips for Nurses Around the Holiday Season

The holiday season should be a joyous, albeit hectic time. It conjures images of gift giving, family gatherings and large extravagant celebrations held under a gentle snowfall. Unfortunately for nurses, health issues and hospital operations rarely have off days. Since anyone can get sick at any moment,  a day off on Christmas or especially Christmas eve is not a given for any nurse. You either have to plan around your PTOs and shifts for a smooth holiday experience, or work through the Christmas season completely. All this can put a damper on your mood, which is the last thing you want on the Holidays. That is why we have compiled a list of advice regarding mental health for nurses, this holiday season. Everyone deserves a happy holiday, most of all the healthcare heroes who have already sacrificed so much. 

Find compromises whenever you can 

This is a case where advanced planning pays off. You never know how much PTO you will have by the holiday season, considering just how much things can happen within a calendar year. Even before November or December, try seeing if you can work out a deal with your superiors and supervisors for some time off on the holidays. You even could tell them that you will make up for shifts at a later date, if that would help things. even a short time with your loved ones in the holidays is time well spent. 

If you cannot come to an agreement, then you can try making compromises with your family. Hospitals are more likely to concede time off a week before, or after the holiday, since less nurses will be out on those days. Ask your family members if you could hold a belated or advanced holiday celebration with this in mind. Some of the holiday luster may be lost, but that is nothing compared to the time spent with your family. 

Bring the holiday spirit with you, no matter where you go 

No matter how hard you plan, there is a good chance that you will be working in the holiday season. Even still, it is important to remember that you are not alone. The patients you are tending to certainly had other plans that were likely derailed suddenly, and dramatically. Hospitalization can be an isolating and depressing experience, which are the last words you would want to use to describe your Christmas. Caring for a patient’s mental health is part of a nurse’s role, even if it is not their speciality.

You do not need to bring decorations or sing Christmas jingles (though if the mood calls for it, then go ahead.) Simply treating a patient with extra care and kindness this holiday season can go a long way. Strength can be found in solidarity, and bringing the holiday spirit into the workplace may be what you both need

Plan to the best of your abilities

It is one of the holiday’s greatest contradictions: a time of joy and relaxation can also be a hectic whirlwind for everyone involved. On top of your nursing obligations, you may find yourself planning around several different gatherings, parties and get-togethers during the holiday season. This is doubly so for parents who have to plan for gifts for their children, on top of all the other obligations involved. We all have our limits, especially nurses who do not operate on much time. Planning your holiday itinerary well in advance is a great mental health care tip for nurses, this winter season.

You may need to make some difficult decisions, since no one can attend every Christmas party they are invited to (although you are welcome to try.) As long as you choose the activities that are most important to you, you should be golden. 

Stick to a healthy lifestyle 

Mental health tip of the day: do not forget to eat healthy! In the midst of the holiday rush, it is easy to forget your diet. It is common for nurses to either overeat out of stress or forget their meals at all, as they work another long shift. It is crucial to remember that the body and the mind are deeply interconnected. When you feel healthier physically, your mental health will improve as well. Preparing meals well in advance that you can eat at home is a great way to avoid temptation, for example. Stocking your fridge with healthy-freezer friendly meals like veggie-based shepherd’s pie or lentil soups lets you enjoy ready-made healthy delights at any time. If they are available in your area, there are health-based subscription services who can provide you with ready made or easy-to-make nutritious meals. It will take some extra effort, it can be done.