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Mental Health Tips for Travel Nurses

Mohamed Basha
RN CMC Founder and CEO of TLC Nursing Association
Updated November 22, 2023
Nurse owned travel nursing agency

Travel nursing is a challenging profession. That’s part of what makes it so rewarding – you’re tasked with caring for patients, working in a team setting with doctors and other medical staff, and forming bonds with people from all walks of life. Much as you love your career, though, burnout, depression, and anxiety are increasingly common. In fact, research has shown that nurses are especially susceptible to these mental health issues. The good news is that you can learn and implement some powerful strategies to ensure that you take better care of yourself – and in turn are better able to care for others! Here’s how.

Take a media break

It’s great to stay informed, but too much time spent scrolling headlines and reading news articles (especially considering the devastating world events of recent months) can be damaging to your peace of mind.

Even before the pandemic, studies showed that devoting time to news and social media platforms can result in increased anxiety and sadness. Specifically, people who watched the news on a regular basis reported increased time spent worrying. Remember that it’s not necessarily harmful to stay informed, but as with many things, moderation is key.

Stay connected

Spending time with family and friends provides a much-needed boost to our sense of happiness, calm, and wellbeing. In fact, social support is one of the most important factors in reducing stress and increasing happiness.

With social distancing still a necessary precaution for many, staying connected with loved ones can be challenging, especially if you’re also working as a travel nurse far from home. But technology can provide you with more ways of staying in touch than ever before! Here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Video chat using a platform such as Skype or Zoom.
  • Stay connected on social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
  • Play online games with family and friends.
  • Craving more connection? You can find a list of even more activities to bring you and your loved ones closer here.

Stay physically healthy

Physical health and mental health are closely connected. If you’re worried about an illness, injury, or chronic health condition, it can take a toll on your mental health. Here are some quick tips to keep yourself physically fit and strong during these challenging times.

  • Exercise – You may be wondering how you’ll fit exercise into your hectic schedule as a travel nurse, travel LPN, or travel CNA. Keep in mind that a little movement can go a long way. Take a quick walk during your break, explore the outdoors, or follow along with a YouTube video or app-guided workout. Think creatively and you’ll be able to find time to fit in a few minutes of fitness.
  • Eat well – Good nutrition is important for everyone, but especially so for those who are shift-workers or who have busy, challenging careers (such as travel nurses!). What’s more, eating well helps boost your immune system. Foods rich in Vitamin C (think citrus fruits or bell peppers), antioxidants (such as berries, and broccoli), live and active cultures (found in yogurt), and vitamin E (found in foods like almonds and sunflower seeds) are packed with immune-boosting nutrients.

Head outdoors

You probably pursued a career in travel nursing at least in part because you love to travel! Exploring the great outdoors can be a great way to not only familiarize yourself with your current travel assignment but to boost your mental health as well. Research has shown that spending even a little time outside each day can reduce anxiety and worry.

Here are some ideas to inspire a little outdoor exploration:

  • Head to a state or local park for a hike, picnic, or swim.
  • Tune-up your bike (or rent one) and take it for a spin.
  • Go camping.
  • Play sports (Check for local leagues for some added social connection.)
  • Go sightseeing.
  • Try a winter sport such as skiing, ice skating, or snowmobiling if you’re assigned to an area that enjoys all four seasons.
  • And many more!

With so much to do, you’re sure to find plenty of ways to refresh and recharge in your free time before continuing your important work as a travel nurse.

Talk to a professional

Though they mean well, family and friends may not completely understand what you are experiencing as a travel nurse in today’s environment. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic added to the already challenging field of travel nursing, you may find that help from a professional counselor or therapist is needed. He or she can provide you with coping strategies, an outlet for your fears and worries, and a safe, nonjudgmental space to talk through your struggles. If you can’t make it to a therapist’s office, keep in mind that many are currently offering virtual, confidential sessions.

Though not as personalized and intensive, there are also some apps that can provide assistance:

  • Betterhelp
  • Talkspace
  • Breakthrough

Travel nursing is a challenging yet rewarding career. Remember that you are not alone, especially if you are working for an agency, and that there are specific, positive things that you can do to take care of yourself!