Nurse Triage: Special Tips for Holiday Stress Related Calls
Telephone triage nurses interact with depressed, anxious and stressed patients every day. However, during the holidays, we often see an increase the number of patients that we talk with who have psychological complaints. The holidays can be stressful because people have to deal with a number of social and financial demands on top of their already busy lives. The holidays can also bring back memories of loved ones who are now gone, nostalgia for easier times in their lives, or simply a wish that family members could get along instead of arguing all the time. And when people become ill over the holidays, which they often do, that makes everything they have to do during the holiday season even more challenging.
At times, these calls can be difficult for even the most seasoned telephone triage nurse.
Here are some practical tips triage nurses can use to help patients minimize the stress that accompanies their holidays and the winter season.
- Acknowledge their feelings. Let the patient know it is OK to cry or be sad. Many of us have lost loved ones or cannot be with loved ones. Happy feelings cannot be forced just because it is the holiday season, and letting sad feelings out can be cathartic and helpful.
- Encourage them to reach out to others. If the patient is feeling lonely, there are often local social or religious events to partake in around this time of year. Volunteering or helping others is an excellent way to lift spirits and make new friends.
- Suggest they plan ahead. Many times the problem isn’t loneliness as much as having too much to do already. In this case, encourage the patient to carefully organize their time by setting aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends, and other activities. Another suggestion is to write everything down on a calendar and stick as closely as possible to the plan.
- Allow them to say no. Let the patient know it is OK to say “no” to holiday activities – even if some family members complain, the world will not end if a certain dinner or event is not attended. Saying yes to everything can quickly lead to becoming overwhelmed.
- Encourage them to allow for change. Many times, holiday stress comes from trying to repeat or match last year’s festivities (or outdo Aunt Jane’s Christmas party), when perhaps this year it is more appropriate to do something else for the holidays. Families change and grow, and our holiday traditions should too. It is also important to remember that other family members are also feeling holiday stress and are struggling too, so being kind and setting aside differences can go a long way towards creating more enjoyable holiday moments.
- Encourage healthy activities. The holidays are a time to enjoy, but overindulgence only adds to feelings of stress and guilt. Encourage patients to maintain their regular exercise program and to eat as healthy as possible, while still enjoying themselves.
- Get professional help. Despite their best efforts, the patient may find themselves feeling persistently sad or anxious. If these feelings last for several weeks or become severe, encourage them to talk to a doctor or a mental health professional.
The holidays are a wonderful time to connect with loved ones and share in heartwarming traditions. Though holiday stress affects many people, a majority of those surveyed said they loved the extra time spent with family during the holidays. By validating patients’ feelings and offering practical solutions to common holiday-related complaints, triage nurses can help make happy holidays possible for those patients who call in while suffering from holiday stress.
Happy Holidays from TriageLogic!
What to Read Next: Triage Calls: Physicians Rest Easy During the Holidays