As if the holidays are not stressful enough when you’re home, you may find yourself on a travel assignment this year while most hospitals and clinics are dealing with COVID-19. What are ways to feel less lonely or stressed? We’ve got a few ideas for managing stress during the holidays as a healthcare worker. Connecting with friends and family and making yourself a priority are the themes of our list.
Be mindful of how you’re feeling physically and emotionally. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) affects people who are in colder climates and especially during the winter when the sun rises later and sets earlier. You may be leaving for work and arriving home in the dark, making you feel sad, or generally out of sorts.
- Technology is sometimes given a bad name but during these stressful times, perhaps made more so with COVID-19 numbers on the rise again, technology is an important part of staying connected. Missing family and friends? Call, text, email, social media, and of course, video chatting is even more helpful for staying connected. Make plans to celebrate when it is safe or share a holiday meal virtually.
- Treat yourself. Mindfulness and self-care are keys to well-being. Our article Travel Nurse Gift Ideas may inspire you to buy a treat for yourself. Fuzzy socks, new scrubs, new shoes, a warm blanket, new earbuds are a few ideas; whatever you love, do more of that!
- Continue eating healthy and exercising. As travel nurses, we know you know that exercise improves mood and overall health so get those happy hormones moving! Take a walk to clear your head, try yoga for mindfulness, or a run to clear the stress and keep your immune system and mental health in top shape. Eating healthy while on assignment plus exercise are as essential for your mental health as for your physical health.
- Managing money and finances can be stressful. Most of us aren’t comfortable talking about money. If finances are stressing you out, set a budget for gift giving and monthly expenses. Handmade gifts are often more meaningful – and cheaper – than store-bought gifts. Michael’s offers DIY Christmas Gift Kits for reasonable prices, for example, or support small business artisans through Etsy. Not only that, but crafting can keep your mind busy so you’re not as homesick.
- Find a new hobby. Fight the winter blues by learning a new skill or exploring a new area. If you’ve always wanted to learn to ski, snowboard, or snowshoe, try it out! If indoors is better for you in the winter, try crafting (see #4 above), puzzles, baking, or reading. Any activity that relaxes you when you’re away from work, is a good choice.
- Connect with coworkers. If you’re unable to see friends and family this year, connect with your coworkers. Celebrate friendsgiving, organize an ugly sweater night, or Secret Santa gift exchange. You’re likely not the only one away from home or working through Thanksgiving or Christmas so make the most of your experience by spreading holiday cheer.
- Change the music. Are you listening to the same ol’ tunes? Try something new. Explore new styles and artists. It’s a good way to create new memories. Have a dance party at home to work out the stress and start feeling like yourself again.
- Give to charity. Whether as a volunteer or donor, giving to those less fortunate can be a spirit-lifter, especially this time of year. Perhaps your team can sponsor a family, or volunteer at a soup kitchen giving back to the community where you’re working. Make cards for the patients who must stay through the holidays. Make someone else smile. It can do wonders for you and for them!
Remember that you cannot manage others or care for patients if you are stressed too. However you’re managing stress during the holidays as a healthcare worker, we are here for you.
If you’re feeling sad, let yourself feel the feelings. A good cry always helps but don’t stay in that place emotionally. Find ways to connect with family and friends, even if only by phone or video call. Channel your energy into doing something positive like donating to a charity, gift-giving, or making sweet treats for coworkers. If you need professional help, please seek it. Our team is always here to guide you, in whatever ways you need.