When most people think of nursing, they think of one of the most fulfilling professions and a rewarding way to earn a living. If you love helping others, nothing can be as great as the satisfaction of realizing that what you do contributes directly to improving the health of people and saving lives.
That said, working as a nurse can often be overwhelming. From working long and irregular shifts to physically and emotionally draining tasks, a nursing career is not for the faint-hearted. Furthermore, evidence shows that more than 90% of nurses report experiencing burnout at least once in their careers. This article presents some creative self-care tips to keep yourself healthy and motivated.
What Is Self-Care? Why Is It Important for Nurses?
As a nursing practitioner, you are likely familiar with the concept of self-care. Nurses work in a profession of care, where a patient’s well-being is placed above everything else. As they continue with their work, nurses come to realize that patient care is of utmost importance, with some feeling that the notion of self-care is selfish. This further increases stress and exasperation when they feel the desire to relax and recharge.
The truth, however, is that all human beings require self-care, especially people working in the highly demanding health sector. Once a nurse understands the importance of taking care of themselves, they can adopt certain approaches to renew themselves in the highly demanding but rewarding profession.
According to The World Health Organization, self-care is crucial for people to improve their overall wellness and health. Here, self-care is defined as the capacity to perform activities that prevent disease, enhance and sustain health, and manage illness and disability, with or without the assistance of a healthcare professional. For nurses, self-care means performing activities that lower their stress levels and help them care for their own mental, psychological, physical, and emotional needs. In other words, nurses shouldn’t view self-care as an occasional luxury for their wellbeing, but rather as a pillar of preventive care.
It is important to understand that self-care is for everyone. To care for others, you need to be strong and healthy physically and mentally. The point here is that self-care for nurses or any other professional is not a luxury indulgence or something you can postpone until you have more time or are less overwhelmed with work. Whether it means that you schedule a vacation or buy coursework to lessen your workload, self-care is crucial for your success as a nurse.
You need to practice self-care all the time to protect your overall well-being, relationships, and work. It is impossible to take care of others if you are drained or unwell. Stress and frustrations can consume you as you focus on your work of taking care of others. To function optimally, you must be at your best mentally, emotionally and mentally.
Wellness and Self-Care Tips for Nurses
Nursing can be a challenging career, and practitioners face multiple challenges daily. Some of these problems are caused by the mental, physical, and emotional experiences resulting from the specific demands of working as a nurse. From working long shifts, fast-changing schedules, emotional engagements, and physical demands. Now that we have established that every nurse needs self-care, here are some important tips for your wellness and productivity.
- Make Sleep a Priority
Most nurses struggle with sleep deprivation, with more than 60% of nurses struggling with sleep disturbances. Not getting the sleep you need can interfere with your ability to perform your duties and increase your likelihood of costly errors. The long and irregular working hours, coupled with the emotionally demanding nature of the career, make it hard for nurses to fall asleep and get the quality slumber they need to function optimally.
Nursing requires caregivers to be particularly alert for prolonged periods, with limited chances to rest and recuperate. Evidence also shows that more than 70% of nurses struggle with sleep disturbance, with the main reason being irregular shifts and working night shifts. The misalignment between the internal circadian clock and the sleep-wake cycle can be bad for nurses’ mental and physical health. Stress from work and exposure to infections can also cause mental and physical strain, making it hard for nurses to get the quality sleep they need to perform optimally.
Given the importance of quality sleep for nurses, any self-care strategy must involve making sleep a priority. Nurses need at least seven hours of restful sleep each night. After all, quality slumber is a crucial component of the measures for dealing with fatigue. Create a consistent sleep schedule, going to bed and waking up around the same time each night. Other than having a routine, work on your sleep hygiene, which means avoiding caffeine and screens close to your sleeping time.
- Exercise Regularly
One of the best ways to take care of your mental and physical health is to exercise regularly. Physical activity, combined with proper diet helps maintain a healthy weight and prevents certain lifestyle diseases. The work of a nurse is intense and exhausting, and regular exercise will help you release endorphins that improve your mood. Evidence shows that physical activity is good for your health and well-being. The more regularly you exercise, the more likely you are to enjoy the benefits of better health, improved concentration, and better productivity.
Since nurses already work hectic shifts, the secret is doing physical activity safely. In other words, regularity is more important than intensity. Find a routine that works for you and dedicate a few minutes each day to staying active and performing relaxing exercises. Dancing, jogging, biking, or even yoga could do tremendous things for your health when done regularly.
- Eat Healthy Meals
Like exercise, nutrition plays an important role in your health and well-being. What you eat determines whether you have the energy and focus needed to keep up with those hectic schedules. In other words, consuming nutrient-rich diets in the right proportions makes you more productive and improves your levels of quality patient care. A healthy diet boosts your immune system and helps prevent unnecessary weight gain and cardiovascular diseases. As you try to cope with your busy program, resorting to unhealthy snacks may seem like a good idea, but the negative implications can be extensive.
If you often work in shifts, then you already know that finding time to eat can be challenging. You may be feeling hungry, but can’t find time for that sandwich because a coworker has just called in sick. For the sake of your well-being, avoid skipping meals as it makes your body go into fasting mode. In this mode, you consume the less efficient energy sources. Also, you will notice that you tend to be moody when you are hungry because your glucose level declines.
Avoid binging on single meals in the hope that you will be stuffed for the rest of the day. Consuming one huge meal in a day leads to caloric overload, which can then overwhelm your body. Instead, try to distribute your consumption across the day. Also, remember to limit your consumption of caffeine. While coffee tends to improve alertness, taking it in huge doses can cause sleep problems and function as a cardiac stimulant. Stay hydrated during your shifts by drinking enough water. If possible, carry your own pre-prepared meals to work and plan your meals for the week ahead.
- Take Regular Breaks
Nursing can be a stressful and exhausting career. From time to time, you will need to take breaks to unwind and replenish your energy reserves. Evidence shows that taking scheduled breaks at two-hour intervals during work shifts will lower the risk of errors and work-related injuries. The point here is that breaks are crucial for everyone, and even a short period away from the demands of your job will allow for rest and restoration.
Taking short breaks will reduce your stress levels, improve your physical stamina, and help with managing your emotions. These short breaks will minimize the impact of a fast-paced workplace that can easily turn into burnout. If you are a working student, you can lessen the workload if you pay for an essay online.
- Work on Your Social Support System and Practice Mindfulness
Your mental health as a nurse affects your productivity and the safety of patients. During those particularly hectic shifts and engagements, you will need to find ways to reduce the stress and tension. Engage in deep breathing routines and practice mindfulness for a few minutes each day. This allows you to relax and unwind, taking your mind off the pressures of being a busy nurse.
It could also help to work on your social support system. Having shoulders to lean on when things get tough can be a great tool for succeeding as a nurse. As you socialize and network, make sure to create professional and personal boundaries. This means knowing when to say no is crucial for your well-being and health.
The Bottom Line
Being a nurse is a rewarding career but comes with its share of challenges. People in this field should prioritize self-care, eating healthy food and exercising regularly. You need to take care of yourself if you are to get the energy and motivation to take care of others. Schedule breaks to unwind and work on a healthy social support system. Most importantly, practice positive self-talk and be kinder to yourself.