It’s no secret that nursing is a career choice that can get very demanding and taxing on a person, both physically and emotionally. Nurses would mostly agree that the reward and satisfaction they get from their jobs make all the hard work worth it. However, there’s no denying that nurses are often in positions where they are under a lot of pressure at work, with patients’ lives sometimes riding on the decisions that they make. This sometimes makes self-care for nurses an afterthought, but it shouldn’t be!
Working as a nurse often means spending most days at work in a very high-stress environment, meaning that along with having the necessary knowledge, education, and work experience to do their jobs well, nurses also need to be dedicated to looking after themselves and keeping themselves strong and healthy both mentally and physically. If you are currently in nursing school, there’s no better time to get started with self-care.
Why Self-Care is Important for Nurses
Nurses are on their feet for most of the day, meaning that to do the job well, they need to be strong, fit, and healthy. The job can often become physical as they may be required to help patients move around or even physically move patients who are unable to move due to illness or injury. Nurses who take care of their fitness and health with regular exercise and a healthy, balanced diet are more likely to find this side of their job easier and have a lower risk of injuring themselves.
Mental self-care is also crucial for nurses since the job can be very emotionally and mentally taxing, with nurses tasked with looking after patients who may be in a bad way. Nurses often see things that most of the general public is never going to see, including major trauma, serious injuries, and deaths.
Finding the Time to Exercise
Since nursing is often a busy job where you are on your feet for the majority of the day, you should have no problem hitting your steps goal for the day while you are at work. However, exercising outside of the workplace is bound to help you feel better and keep you in good shape. Finding the time to exercise might prove difficult if you are working as a nurse while studying for an advanced degree like Baylor University’s online BSN to DNP programs at the same time.
While studying online can make it easier for you to fit studying and other commitments in around working, it still takes up your time. Setting up a home gym or a space where you can work out at home is a good idea. You don’t need a lot of equipment; there are plenty of bodyweight exercises with great results or you may want to use fitness videos from YouTube to get started with cardio exercises you can do at home whenever you have some spare time.
Eating the Right Foods
While nurses are often advising their patients on the importance of a healthy diet, the truth is that many nurses are not always eating the right foods themselves, as they don’t always have a lot of time to prepare healthy and nutritious meals from scratch. Whether you are currently in nursing school or you’re working full-time as a nurse, it can be all too easy to end up falling into a trap of reaching for convenience food whenever you are pushed for time after a long shift. But not getting the right nutrients in your diet can lead to you feeling more tired and run down over time. And, as nurses know, gaining weight can lead to a wide range of problems including reduced fitness and a higher risk of disease.
Planning in advance is the best way to make sure that you are getting the right nutrients in your diet. Meal-planning for the week allows you to get ingredients that you can use to make easy yet healthy foods. You may want to invest in kitchen tools like a slow cooker you can simply leave to cook your dinner while you’re working and get home to it ready for you to eat.
Why Sleep is Important
Since nursing often involves shift work and this can be across unsociable hours including overnights, late nights, and early mornings, it can sometimes be difficult to get into a good sleep pattern. Most of the time, nurses will work the same shifts for a week or more, but this might change the next, so your body is always adjusting. Prioritizing getting enough sleep is crucial for your own health and wellbeing. If you are tired and struggling to focus because you have not had enough sleep, this could make it harder to do your job as a nurse and can even lead to making simple mistakes that you would not have made if you were awake and alert. Trying to keep your bedtime as close to the same time as possible each night is important.
Avoid using electronic devices before bed and take around an hour to wind down and relax before going to sleep. If you’re working and studying at the same time, don’t stay up late cramming – most things can wait until the morning, and your sleep has to come first.
Caring for Your Mental Health
Finally, keeping your mental health strong is important when you are working in a job like nursing. Being a nurse can mean that you are often under a lot of pressure and there will be patients whose health or even life depends on the decisions that you make or the actions that you take. While the job is hugely rewarding, there are always going to be times where you are in the center of heartbreaking situations.
Nurses need to be ready to face anything, but this can take a toll on your mental health. Many nurses find that talking about it in therapy helps, along with mindfulness techniques and deep breathing exercises to help them stay calm.
While your job as a nurse is all about looking after other people, it’s also crucial to look after yourself so that you can do your job well and feel great at the same time.