As a nursing student, you undoubtedly have a lot going on! You have classes to attend, clinicals to complete, work to do, and time for yourself and loved ones to fit into your schedule. With so many responsibilities, it’s only to be expected that nursing students experience a lot of stress, along with other mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Read on to learn more about these common mental health issues and how to cope with them.
Common Mental Health Issues Impacting Nursing Students
Stress: Stress in nursing students comes from three main factors: academics, emotions, and finances. As far as academics go, studying to become a nurse takes a lot of time and dedication. Nursing students are required to learn and absorb huge amounts of information within a short timeframe. Emotional stress often comes from an unhealthy lifestyle fueled by caffeine and a poor diet; self-neglect in favor of studying every minute of the day is pretty common and can result in a roller coaster of emotions. And there’s also the fact that nursing school is a big investment, which can lead to financial stress as well.
- It’s easy to know when you’re feeling stressed mentally, but stress also has many physical symptoms that you should be on the lookout for as a student nurse. If you notice these symptoms, that’s an indication that you need to find more effective ways to handle stress. Low energy, headaches, upset stomach, shakiness, insomnia, chest pain, rapid heartbeat, clenched jaw, dry mouth, and frequent colds are all signs that your stress is affecting you physically.
Anxiety: Considering the number of responsibilities and expectations in your everyday life as a nursing student, it’s not too surprising that anxiety can develop. Anxiety generally refers to an overwhelming feeling of worry or that something is wrong. You may have trouble concentrating on work or schoolwork, and it may be hard to think about anything besides your worries. Anxiety comes with a variety of psychological and physical symptoms, including feeling restless and tense, hyperventilation, increased heart rate, panic attacks, trembling, feeling weak, trouble sleeping, and sweating.
Depression: Sadly, there’s a high prevalence of depression among nursing students. Depression is often characterized by a persistent feeling of sadness and a loss of interest in activities that you once found enjoyable. When it becomes severe, depression can interfere with your everyday life and responsibilities. Some of its symptoms include trouble concentrating, fatigue, changes in appetite, feelings of worthlessness and helplessness, aches and pains, and feelings of emptiness.
Other mental health disorders: There are many mental health disorders that can develop as a response to stress or be exacerbated by stress. Bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and others may arise or worsen while you are in nursing school. If you are having trouble with your mental health, regardless of your diagnosis (or lack of diagnosis), be sure to reach out and get the help you need. You deserve to feel stable and happy!
How to Cope with Mental Health Issues
Counseling or therapy is beneficial for everyone, not just nursing students or people with mental health issues. So if you’ve been considering scheduling a session with a mental health professional, go ahead and do it! There’s no harm in speaking to a credentialed professional about your thoughts and feelings. And with the rise of online counseling platforms like BetterHelp, it’s easier and more affordable than ever to get help with your mental health.
At the very least, you’ll get to vent to an unbiased person whose job is to listen to you and help you. But in most cases, you’ll leave therapy with new skills like healthy coping mechanisms and pointers for effective communication and problem-solving. You may even decide to start attending therapy regularly to improve your mental health, especially if you’ve been experiencing any of the mental health issues discussed above.
Aside from seeing a therapist, there are also plenty of ways you can take action to improve your mental health yourself.
- Live a healthy lifestyle. Your physical and mental health are interrelated, so taking care of yourself physically can have amazing benefits for you mentally. Eat healthy, nutritious food that fuels you and provides you with energy to get through the day, and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and fend off headaches caused by dehydration. Get regular exercise and spend time outdoors when possible. And be sure to prioritize sleep so that you can get at least seven to nine hours each night.
- Employ healthy coping mechanisms. One of the best ways to relieve symptoms of mental health issues is to effectively handle your underlying stress. Consider the ways you deal with stress currently. Are they healthy, or do they only work in the short-term? Substance use, avoidance, and binging on junk food are a few unhealthy coping mechanisms. Instead of turning to them, try out some more constructive options like journaling, exercise, meditation, yoga, drawing, singing, dancing, spending time with pets and loved ones, and connecting with nature. It’s a good idea to try several different coping mechanisms so that you can figure out a few that work for you. When you know you have effective ways to cope with stress and difficult emotions, you’ll feel much more empowered and capable.
- Take a break. Sometimes, it’s necessary to take a step back and give yourself a bit of time to decompress. If you’re concerned that you won’t have time to get everything done if you take a break, try setting a timer for half an hour and telling yourself that you won’t think about your responsibilities for that time. Instead, you’ll just relax. Maybe you can schedule a massage or enjoy a meal with a friend during your break. Even taking your dog for a walk can boost your mood. Although taking a break may be the last thing you think you should do when you’re drowning in responsibilities, it can help you come back to your obligations with a refreshed perspective.
- Get support and help when you need it. It’s a great idea to turn to others in your cohort, since they’re bound to understand what you’re going through. But it’s also a good idea to have people in your support system that aren’t your coworkers, such as a partner, family, and friends. In addition, if you feel that your mental health has reached a breaking point, or if you’re not sure what steps to take to improve your mental health, don’t be afraid to get in contact with a counselor or therapist.
This article was contributed by Marie Miguel who has been a writer and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.