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Emotional Challenges and Finding Space for Self-Care

Tuesday, May 26, 2020   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Shanna Howard
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By Erin Perez, DNP, APRN, ANP-C, AGNP-C, ACHPN

Nurses are known for their compassion and empathy for others while providing extraordinary care. However, when asked, “Are you doing okay?” most nurses will say “Yes” without really taking the time to think about if they are or not.

Self-care is defined as “what people do for themselves to establish and maintain health and prevent and deal with illness” (WHO, 2016). No matter the nursing background or care setting, most nurses are busy with their professional duties in and out of work, in addition to their community and family commitments. In “normal” times, nurses find it difficult to make space and time for their own health and wellbeing. During the COVID-19 pandemic, time is even more limited, but self-care is an invaluable tool to stabilize the health and well-being of nurses.

A New Normal

COVID-19 has offered challenges in the health care setting that many were not prepared for. Nurses are being physically, emotionally and spiritually pushed more than ever due to constant changes in practice and evolving discoveries surrounding the novel coronavirus. Evidenced based COVID-19 health care practice hinges on global anecdotal and preclinical evidence while we wait for concrete evidence to guide care for patients.

In addition, surge capacity planning and implementation, mass critical care guidelines and resource allocation, personal protective equipment allocation, and evolving employer and government policy changes can also contribute to increased stress levels and frustration. The novel coronavirus is causing nurses to experience higher-than-average emotional and ethical burdens.

Self-care can assist in decreasing the crescendo of symptom burden due to COVID-19-induced stress.

A New Resolve

We started 2020 going into the Year of the Nurse, as declared by the World Health Organization. However, 18 weeks ago, Texas nurses began learning about COVID-19 and seeing its impact on their own work environment. During this time, Texas nurses have proven that Texas grit is real and their willingness to serve despite all the challenges they face. And nurses across the globe have answered the call to respond to this novel challenge.

Nurses bearing witness to COVID-19’s devastation are modernizing and becoming innovators of self-care to heal their emotional and ethical distress wounds. Nurses have found if they take a self-care breath and focus on what they can offer, innovative solutions and pathways can help to refocus the deep-seeded concerns in these emotionally taxing times.

When you cannot control what is happening, challenge yourself to control the way you respond to what is happening. That is where the power is! –Unknown

A New Space

Nurses have become more mindful in grace and peace for themselves and their colleagues in 2020. Whether  they are writing poems, kind white board quotes, inspirational signs on glass sliding doors, giving elbow high fives, creating TikTok mini videos, hosting virtual happy hours or nursing organization safe zones, nurses are journeying down a new self-care path. Guided imagery, moments of silence, blessing of the hands and other spiritual- or faith-based symbolism make up for the lack of touch, and “together apart” phrases are the new baseline. 

Three steps can help nurses find innovative solutions while making space for self-care.

Step 1. When you see something important, write to yourself about that moment.

Step 2. The next day, reread your notes to take emotions out, leaving facts only.

Step 3. The day after that, seek wise council. Provide your facts and offer solutions to policy and process improvement for enhanced growth strategies.

Processes similar to this one allow nurses to channel self-care and refocus their energy to stay calm, minimize angst and be productive by creating future process improvements and growth strategies that provide meaningful solutions to reduce stress. When so much is unknown about COVID-19, nurses can feel powerless. By being deliberate in self-care and channeling it for innovation, nurses can also gain a small amount of control back in their environments.

Kindness and solutions go a long way in self-care reconstruction!


Read the poem Today I Held a Hand by the author.

Texas Nurses Association

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