According to a study published by the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, 34 percent of surveyed health care workers reported high levels of distress, 23 percent had depressive symptoms and 25 percent use psychotropic drugs. The risks to your own mental health while working in health care are clear, as this and many similar studies indicate. There are steps you can take to protect your mental health while providing care for others.

Take Care of Your Body’s Needs First

Your diet and exercise programs need to take priority in your life. A poor diet can leave you vulnerable to infections and leave you feeling tired and run-down. If you are overweight or have slacked on your fitness routine, you may also feel listless and worn out. All of these issues can have a deleterious impact on your mental state and lead to depression and anxiety.

Make Relationships a Priority

It’s easy to get so focused on your career that your let friendships and partnerships fall by the wayside. This can leave you feeling isolated and anxious. While health care is a noble and worthwhile profession, you cannot allow your career to rob you of healthy interpersonal relationships. Make time to nurture existing relationships and cultivate new ones, especially with people outside of your work environment. Also leave open blocks in your schedule for casual get-togethers or quick lunches with friends and loved ones.

It’s also important to cultivate relationships with your co-workers as well. Especially considering some of the career barriers that have limited nurses in the past. Showing the depth of your education and your skill set by nurturing your relationships with your co-workers will help you make the most of you career.

Avoid Overscheduling

It can be tempting to cram your schedule with work, continued education, volunteerism and other pursuits. Health care is full of motivated, goal-driven individuals, but it’s never good to bite off more than you can chew. Your mental health can suffer if you are always busy and over-schedule yourself constantly. Carve out time for the occasional nap or afternoon spent reading for leisure. This will allow your mind to relax along with your body, leaving you happy and ready to jump right back into work again.

Get Enough Sleep

Some people take pride in the fact they can function adequately having slept only four or five hours a night. While this is fine if you had a late night or were awoken early one day, it is not good for your mental status to sleep so little frequently. The recommended seven to nine hours per night is best to be rested and alert during the day, and will also help avoid depression, making mistakes or feeling sluggish during waking hours.

If you want to help your co-workers maintain their health and happiness as well, you might consider looking into getting a Bachelors of occupational health and safety. Taking care of yourself first will allow you to provide the best care possible for your patients. By keeping these guidelines in mind, you can help yourself avoid mental health issues while you provide assistance to your patients.