Nurses make a true difference in the lives of others, and it is a job that can be incredibly rewarding. Although many nursing roles have a high earning potential, many individuals choose this career path for altruistic reasons.
Traditional roles revolve around patient care, and nurses need to be empathetic, caring, and patient to fulfill their role well.
However, nursing is a mentally, physically, and emotionally taxing career, and it can take a lot out of a person. It is easy for even the most dedicated nurse to feel drained and worn out when working in a hectic job that takes up a lot of energy and time.
To avoid burnout and physical exhaustion, nursing professionals need to spend time looking after themselves. Here is a comprehensive self-care guide to help nurses maintain a healthy equilibrium:
What is Self-Care?
The World Health Organization (WHO) describes self-care as the ability to ‘promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and cope with illness and disability without a healthcare provider’.
Self-care is a broad concept that encompasses factors such as lifestyle, hygiene, nutrition, environment, and socioeconomics.
By implementing good self-care practices and activities, nurses are able to manage stress well and live a healthier and happier life.
In a demanding role that revolves around helping others, it is easy for nursing professionals to forget to practice self-care.
Unfortunately, nursing professionals with emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausting roles are prone to burnout.
Why is Self-Care Important?
Nurses who neglect personal care may experience deterioration in their overall health and lead unhealthy lifestyles. High-stress levels and anxiety are common in a taxing job, and stress is known to be a major contributor to chronic disease.
When cortisol, the stress hormone, and adrenaline build up in the bloodstream, the immune system becomes less functional. This can also lead to hypertension, hyperglycemia, arteriosclerosis, and hyperinsulinemia.
Furthermore, poor stress management can result in depression and chronic fatigue.
Without proper self-care, nursing professionals can experience many health issues that can affect their personal and professional lives.
Positive Patient Outcome
Good self-care habits in nurses have been linked to positive patient outcomes and high-quality patient care. In order to give effective care, a nurse needs to be healthy in all aspects of their being.
Nursing professionals need to take care of themselves properly if they want to provide a high level of quality care to others.
Personal Care Comes First
Working in a profession that revolves around a duty of care, which involves long shifts, can already be tiring for some. With the addition of home commitments and a social life, individuals may find themselves lacking the time and energy for personal care.
However, nurses must address their personal needs and take the time to relax. Personal care can include simple activities, such as catching up on your favorite TV series, reading a good book, or meeting up with friends and family.
Whatever R+R means to you, make sure you schedule it in.
Set Work Boundaries
People who find it difficult to separate work from their personal life need to work on setting work boundaries. When approaching work, it is important to establish boundaries such as leaving the workplace at a set time and taking on the right amount of work that suits you.
Although it is okay to accept last-minute shifts on occasion or finish work slightly later than planned, don’t let this become the norm. Everyone wants to be a team player, but you need to acknowledge your limits and know when to say ‘no’.
This goes for nurses who work from home too. Set yourself clear work boundaries and try to honor them.
By switching from work to home mode, you can strike a good work-life balance and maintain a healthier lifestyle.
Do Something You Love
In a taxing job role that takes up a lot of your time, it is essential to take part in activities that are completely unrelated to your role. Doing something you love, such as pursuing an old pastime or trying out a new hobby, can provide you with a healthy outlet to relieve stress.
A hobby gives you something to focus on when your life gets stressful, and it is a great way to zone out of work while keeping the brain engaged.
Not only will a hobby occupy your mind with something other than work, but it can also add to your quality of life.
Not to mention, juggling an activity you love with your current commitments can also help you with time management.
Ultimately, doing something you are passionate about can help stave off burnout and help improve your productivity, work ethic, and motivation.
Find Solace at Home
After a long shift, it is helpful to have a personal place you can go to recoup and destress.
Dedicating a spare space in your home for this purpose can truly help you tackle stress and anxiety. You can use this space to simply sit and clear your thoughts.
Alternatively, you can use it to practice a hobby, such as yoga, playing an instrument, or journaling. Having a dedicated chill-out space will remind you to sit back and take a breather when times get tough.
Pursue Professional Goals
Taking the time to pursue work goals is a self-care tip that can benefit your personal and professional life. Ambitious nurses who strive to advance their careers may feel dejected when stuck in the same job for a long time.
Not being able to level up professionally can have terrible consequences for a person’s mental and emotional state of mind. It can lead to reduced productivity, a lack of motivation, and decreased job satisfaction.
Make sure you schedule in time to reflect on your career and future aspirations.
Although you may find that you are content with where you are now, you should dig deep and ask yourself where you see yourself in the future. You can then begin to make plans to ensure you achieve your goals.
Further Your Education
Whether you see yourself managing your department or you want to explore other nursing professions, furthering your nursing education is an efficient way to achieve more.
Wilkes University offers a variety of degree programs for nurses at different stages of their careers. Their online programs can help broaden your knowledge in nursing and teach you new skills that will help you progress in your career.
Build a Good Social Support Network
Providing a high standard of care and support to others is an important responsibility for people in traditional nursing roles. Nursing professionals make up an important part of a patient’s support system, and patients rely on nurses for various needs.
However, nurses must have the ability to request and accept support in return.
Research shows that a social support system can have a positive effect on your mental wellbeing. A support network made up of people who you trust can help you during difficult moments in your life.
They can help you tackle everyday challenges and help you get through extreme situations.
Open Communication at Home
A good social support network begins with open communication at home. Good communication is key to a healthy work-life balance, and you should make sure you and your family are able to speak freely at home.
Keeping each other in the loop is essential. It helps everyone keep on top of each other’s schedules, which allows you to spend more time together.
In addition, maintaining an open dialogue with your household will help everyone become more aware of potential issues.
Speaking up about your worries to someone you trust outside of work may not actually solve anything, but it can help you feel much better about a problem.
Not to mention, knowing what you are going through will give your loved ones some context to any changing behavior you may display.
Don’t Neglect Personal Relationships
The typical schedule of a nurse can be long and unpredictable, which makes balancing home and work life difficult. Unfortunately, this also makes maintaining a healthy social life seem impossible.
However, maintaining personal relationships and speaking with old and new friends is good for your mental wellbeing.
Speaking to people outside of work can refresh your mind and help you relax. Socializing with others can also add joy to your life.
In addition to clueing in your household to your schedule, make sure you keep your friends in the loop too. This way, you can maintain personal relationships and find suitable dates to connect.
Letting your friends know about changes in your busy schedule will give them a heads up if you haven’t been able to catch up properly.
Establish Good Relations at Work
Maintaining good relationships doesn’t just apply at home; establishing good relations at work can also help you build an efficient support system at work.
You don’t have to be best friends with your work colleagues and superiors, but you should be able to turn to them when work issues arise.
Good professional communication can help with workflow and shift swapping, and it can help you work more effectively as a team.
There is No ‘I’ in Team
Effective teamwork in a medical and healthcare setting can significantly improve the patient care experience. For optimum care delivery and patient outcome, you need to work well as a nursing team and with other health professionals.
Collaborative care coordination and effective communication are vital, and team members should place a high level of trust in each other professionally. Your team should be able to speak openly about work matters and discuss suitable solutions.
An effective team can deliver well-coordinated patient care, and they benefit from a shared responsibility and accountability for patients.
Good teamwork can also improve overall job satisfaction, which reduces stress and anxiety.
Prioritize Your Physical Health
Nursing professionals spend their day providing patient care and helping others maintain good physical health. It is equally important for nurses to be fit and healthy too.
Being in good physical condition can help you excel in your job role, and it can also reduce your risk of developing illnesses.
Maintaining healthy body weight, eating nutritious food, and achieving quality sleep are all necessary when it comes to good physical health.
Nursing can be a physically exhausting job, which is why you should make sure you are as physically healthy as possible.
Besides helping you boost strength and stamina, regular exercise can also reduce stress and lift the spirit.
Exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight and combat health issues. It can give you an energy boost and improve your mood too.
Besides regular physical activity, nourishing your body with good food can help you stay healthy and well. As a nurse, time is of the essence.
During your breaks, you may feel the urge to reach for packaged meals and sugary snacks for a quick pick me up.
However, a physically demanding job requires wholesome, nutritious food – if you want to get through your day without crashing at the end of it. Forgo the processed options and choose a healthy alternative wherever possible.
Busy people can eat healthily by getting into the habit of prepping their food ahead of time. Preparing ingredients in advance can help you save time, while batch cooking and freezing meal portions will ensure you always have a nutritious meal at hand.
Purchasing and stocking up on healthy, high-energy snacks, such as dried fruit and nuts, can stop you from making regular stops at the vending machine too.
To function properly, people need six to nine hours of good sleep every evening.
Quality sleep can have an impact on mental and physical health, while sleep deficiency has been linked to conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and heart disease.
A good night’s sleep gives your body the chance to recoup and repair.
To help you sleep better, spend some time before bed winding down, ideally without any screens, as the blue light emitted can disrupt your sleep cycle.