When you choose to become a nurse, you are choosing one of the world’s most fulfilling or satisfying careers. Of course, nursing is not something that everyone can take on, and it’s not something that everyone should take on, but if you can – due to the right skills and the right personality, a combination that can be hard to find – then you’ll find that you are in a career in which you can grow and achieve as much as possible while helping as many people as you can.
However, the problem is that because nursing is extremely ‘full-on’ and because it can take its toll on anyone who has to deal with sick and dying people every day (and even those who aren’t too unwell can be demanding), nurses can burn out. This is why self-care is something that all nurses need to take seriously; unless they take care of themselves, they won’t be able to take care of anyone else, and that defeats the purpose of the job. Read on to find out the best self-care ideas for nurses who want to ensure they can help as many people as possible.
Self-care comes in all kinds of shapes and forms, and it can vary hugely from person to person, so there aren’t any absolutes in this way. However, there are some specific ideas that you can think about, with the exact methods of your own self-care being unique to you once you know what it is you need to take care of.
It begins with your mental health. Ensuring you have enough self-care in your life for your mental health to be in good condition is crucial. This might mean you have to entirely shut the outside world out sometimes (this can be done through mindfulness, meditation, or simply through having some alone time soaking in the tub or listening to music), but if this is what works for you, then you must do it. After stepping away for even just a few minutes, you may find that you can go back to nursing feeling refreshed and happy. Another way to ensure your mental self-care is taken care of is to keep your brain busy with other things. You might, for example, look at the Carson-Newman University nursing courses that are available so that you can upgrade your current position. Not only will this give you something to do and therefore give you a break from your work, but it will also allow you to progress, which is another way to practice self-care.
Ideally, you should practice your mental self-care a number of times throughout the day if possible. Taking breaks to chat with colleagues, have a cup of coffee, or just to sit down and rest for a minute or two is vital.
Self-care isn’t just about mental health (although that is a major part of it); it’s really about every aspect of yourself combined to ensure that, overall, you are happy and healthy. This means that your physical self-care needs to be included. It’s so easy to fall into bad habits such as grabbing a bag of chips or a bar of chocolate for lunch because they’re quick and easy even though eating them every day means that you aren’t looking after your health in the best way. The same is true of drinking a lot of coffee instead of water (or not drinking anything at all) and not doing any physical exercise because you’re too busy. If you find you have fallen into these habits or you’re worried you might, taking a step back to reassess and then changing the way you work is a good idea. After all, if you are physically healthy, you’ll be able to do a lot more for your patients and work in a much more productive way.
Start by setting yourself small goals each day to check that you’re eating right and exercising enough. This might be:
- Going for a walk at lunchtime (a ten to 15-minute brisk walk is good exercise)
- Parking at the far end of the parking lot
- Using stairs instead of the elevator
- Get off the bus one stop early
- Bring food from home (this will save you money as well as being healthier)
- Planning meals in advance and batch cooking
It’s also important to ensure you are getting enough sleep. Sleep is the one thing that many people forget when they are thinking about their own physical health. They know about eating well and do what they can in that regard, and they know about exercising, and they also take that into account. However, all of this good work can be undone very quickly if you’re not getting enough sleep.
You will have noticed how much healthier and more productive you are when you have slept well and for long enough compared to when you have had very little sleep. So then, it makes sense that you should always aim for a good number of hours of sleep (between seven and nine; this varies from person to person). Of course, as a nurse, this can be hard, especially if you have been working on the night shift, and if you find you are having trouble sleeping, you can practice additional self-care methods to help you. This could include drinking herbal tea, using a specially designed app on your smartphone, or having a massage with essential oils. If you truly can’t sleep, it’s best to see a doctor for help.
When you are a nurse, you’ll find that there are many different emotions that you have to deal with every day; this is part of the job. There will be stressful times, sad times, happy times, and all of this will be combined into each day, so your emotions will be potentially confused and difficult to deal with. This can be stressful and even lead to outbursts and anger at times. Plus, you’ll need to learn how to keep your emotions in check to ensure your patients aren’t overly concerned or upset themselves when you are a nurse. This can mean that you are unable to express how you’re feeling, and that can be just as bad for you as having a whole range of emotions running through you at one time.
This is why emotional self-care is something you need to consider as well as mental and physical self-care. Having someone you can talk to about your day is a good place to start. This might be a spouse or partner, a parent or sibling, or a best friend or a complete stranger in an online forum. It doesn’t necessarily matter who you talk to as long as you let your emotions out when you need to and get things off your chest. In this way, you can feel unburdened and much happier about the next day of work.
Having a creative way to free your emotions is another good way to ensure you practice emotional self-care. Any kind of creativity will help as this will channel your emotions into something enjoyable. Whether it’s writing, painting, photography, baking, playing music, or anything else, creativity will make a big, positive difference in your life.
Another thing that can be a positive force in your life is taking a moment at the end of the day to find the good. It may have been a generally bad day, but there will usually be at least one good thing that happened if you think about it. Perhaps the sun was shining, or the journey to work was easy. Maybe you enjoyed your lunch or had a good laugh with a patient. Hold on to this positive thing, and the negative will be much less stressful.
Social self-care is something that many people don’t realize exists, but it’s just as important as every other type of self-care we’ve mentioned in this list. In fact, it can often be the easiest type of self-care to manage, and certainly, one that makes a big difference and can prevent stress easily. In essence, social self-care is all about taking time to be with the people you love. It could be anything from meeting up for a night out to a family dinner to speaking to someone on the phone. It’s about being with other people in whatever fashion is good for you.
You can even practice social self-care with people you don’t know. For example, smiling at a stranger or giving someone a compliment can be just as helpful as a long chat with a good friend from your college days. Try to do this a few times a week, and always have one event to look forward to, such as a theater trip, dinner with friends, or a Zoom meeting with family from across the globe. Remembering that this is going to happen will give you something positive to think about even on the worst days.