Working on the frontline, the focus is often on helping others. It can be hard to find the time or headspace to take care of ourselves too.
It’s easier said than done, but it is important to remember that we must fill our own cup first.
Here are some tips for practicing self-care on the front line:
Focus on Food
Eating healthily or indeed at all can be difficult if you are working busy or long shifts. You may crave sugar or caffeine but these things can affect your mood and your sleep quality. By drinking plenty of water and eating slow release carbohydrates like wholegrain bread or grain salads with protein, you will be properly fueled to keep going.
Inhale to Exhale
Taking a few slow, deep breaths can help your body to relax, especially in times of extreme stress. Even if you only have a few moments, stepping outside to breathe in fresh air will help. Use your break to go for a short walk in the sunlight to connect with nature. Taking regular breaks can be difficult but even if you can’t get outside, you can do deep breathing exercises wherever you are.
Create healthy habits
It can be tempting to reach for junk food or alcohol when we are feeling under pressure. Instead of drinking at night to relax, try taking a bath or listening to some calming music. This will help you to sleep and make the next shift easier to deal with.
As the old saying goes, it’s good to talk! Talking regularly to people you trust is an important way to alleviate stress and feelings of loneliness. Even when we can be with our loved ones in person, we can adapt and use technology, like FaceTime or Skype, to connect with them. Developing a support network with colleagues, for example, a WhatsApp group, can provide a means for people to chat and provide mutual support.
When we are under pressure we can pay more attention to negative events or feelings. It can become easy to run on autopilot, which can reinforce the negatives and impact our mood and emotions.
Challenge negative self-talk and take a few moments to reflect on the positive experiences or events of the day. Just noticing a patient saying thank you or a colleague going out of their way to help can really shift our mood in a positive way. Regularly taking note of how we are feeling and asking for help if we need it will go a long way to helping us cope and even thrive during this difficult time.
If you would like professional support with anything you are going through turn2me provides free, confidential online supports for young people and adults in the Republic of Ireland.
- Peer support – A free and safe space where you can find and give support by connecting with other people who have been through similar experiences.
- Group support -Facilitated by a mental health professional, support groups are a safe space to connect with others and share solutions and coping strategies on a variety of mental health topics.
- Counselling – Support for whatever you are going through, this is a safe space to talk with a professional counsellor to help you understand your feelings and work together to develop the tools you need to get through tough times.