The high levels of stress and burnout associated with nursing and midwifery are well documented, researched and spoken about. The pandemic has exacerbated many stressors which were already present pre-pandemic so the emphasis on discussing self-care is not in relation to adjusting to the pandemic but more so with a longer-term view of making the health and wellbeing of our nursing and midwifery professionals a priority.

Life presents us with stressful moments and these moments will test our emotional and mental agility to cope. Due to the beauty of our individual differences, we all react and respond to stressors differently. This means that being in tune with our own needs and emotional landscape is imperative to our wellbeing. The effects of stress can manifest in numerous ways from the common cold to more serious illnesses such as cardiovascular disease.

Dialetical behavioural therapy (DBT), talks about being able to ‘cope ahead’. The idea being that if we know we are going into a stressful situation, then we can engage in certain behaviours to help us prepare for the event. I like to think of self-care in a similar vein. We know that work can be stressful, and that stress, if left to accumulate can have detrimental effects on our wellbeing. However, engaging in self-care activities can help transform the effect of work-related stress as well as helping us to process the emotional residue left over from work. We can plan to ‘cope ahead’ in our week before stress has time to accumulate.

Self-care in the past was often seen as self-indulgent, which may have raised feelings of guilt when investing in nurturing one’s wellbeing. Intuitively we know that self-care is important but we all need a little nudge of permission every now and then to get back into the swing of looking after ourselves, especially if our roles are centered around giving and caring for others.

Planning self-care activities around your routine is an effective way to start introducing self-care if you’re not already doing it. Having time to conduct your own ‘mental midwifery’ and hitting the pause button is essential to recovery from stress and fostering positive wellbeing but it can’t be relied on when we’re already nearing the end of our capacity to cope. The best way to think about self-care, is little and often so it doesn’t become a chore.

What self-care activity will you plan for yourself this week?

Davina Ramkissoon, Wellbeing Director - Zevo Health