It seems the term “self-care” has come up a lot in nursing over the years, and for good reason, nurses are overworked, stressed, traumatized, and simply physically and emotionally exhausted. From working longer shifts with less days off due to staffing shortages all the way to complete burnout, the demand on nurses has led them to question career sustainability under the current healthcare structure.
Nurses are more than their title. They wear many hats of responsibilities both at work and outside of work including Caregiver, Coach, Advocate, Educator, Student, Confidant, Counselor, Powerlifter, Parent, Chef, Bookkeeper, Taxi-driver…. and the list goes on and on. Rarely, if ever, do you see “self-care aficionado” listed…. but why don’t you?
Taking care of oneself is often not priority for nurses. Nurses focus on caring for the needs of others and often neglect personal needs; thus, ultimately leading to burnout.
You may have heard of the saying…. “You can’t pour from an empty cup”.
Let’s look at six self-care areas and tips for busy nurses like you.
Self-Care Tips for Busy Nurses
According to the Integrative Nurse Coach Academy, the definition of self-care incorporates the physical, mental, emotional, social, spiritual, and environmental aspects of overall health and well-being. These aspects of self-care intertwine to emerge whole body wellness. Here are a few tips you can use in these areas:
How you take care of your body is an extremely important part of self-care. It’s about strengthening the body and mind connection through activities like eating healthy, sleeping well, hydrating, and movement.
- Prepare your own meals: Take healthy meals and snacks with you to work so you know what you are putting in your body.
- Stay hydrated: Take your own water bottle everywhere. Lemon is a great addition if you are not a fan of plain water.
- Establishing a sleep routine: Spend an hour before bed without the use of electronic devices…. The no-screen zone. Prepare your things for the next day, read a book, or listen to soothing music to wind down. And most of all…. Stop hitting the snooze button.
- Get moving. Exercise outside of your normal workday has many benefits. It improves brain function, helps us feel happier and more satisfied, reduces risks for chronic illnesses, and those are just a few benefits.
Our mental health is related to our brain function. This is where depression and anxiety can happen. Mental and emotional self-care can overlap because of the heart brain connection
- Take a Mental Health Day: Go for a hike, take a shopping trip, or have a spa day. Anything you find pleasure in and will help you to let go.
- Tai Chi: This helps reduce stress and it’s also a great way to improve balance and flexibility.
This is a form of self-care from the heart that allows you to experience your feelings, thoughts, and behaviors in a way that honors your emotional well-being. Nurses are exposed to various stress factors that cause emotions like pain, anger, loss, and suffering. They also experience joy, happiness, peace, and excitement. A big part of emotional well-being is having the emotional intelligence to talk about your feelings.
- Journal: Writing about your thoughts and feelings and then reflecting on what you wrote.
- Quiet your mind: A mindful meditation will help manage emotional stress and build resiliency. This can be done anywhere and can take just a few minutes.
- Take a nature walk: Something about being outside and appreciating all the beauty nature has to offer can really give you a sense of peace.
Cultivating positive relationships with colleagues, friends, partners, and community contributes to the betterment of society and brings awareness to our social well-being. This aspect of self-care can bring you and others together.
- Volunteer: Nurses can volunteer at a health fair, community wellness event, blood drive, or whatever piques your interest.
- Join a gym: Workout with nurses on your shift or perhaps team up for walk around your facility.
- Have a fun night out: Whether it’s a drive-in, indoor gulf, or a quilting event, make time to connect and laugh a while.
Being well-balanced, calm, and connected with your authentic self allows you to show up in the world with confidence, poise, and grace.
- Start a spiritual self-care routine: Find what brings you peace. Is it prayer, meditation, or stillness? Something else?
- Journal: A journal of gratitude is a wonderful to connect with your inner child, challenge negative thoughts, and revel appreciation.
Your environment contributes a great deal to your health and well-being. Having a non-toxic work and home environment is essential to a happy and healthy life.
- Declutter your office or workstation: A messy office/workstation can lead to poor concentration and low productivity. Take time to declutter and you will contribute to your overall well-being and possibly focus better.
- Use non-toxic cleaning solutions: You may have to use what the hospital requires, but at home, eco-friendly products help heal our earth. A healthier planet means healthier people too.
- Go outdoors: This is a front-runner in environmental self-care, because connecting with nature is very important to our health. Imagine taking a walk in the forest or on a beach…. How much lower would your stress level be, not to mention your blood pressure, lowered feelings of anxiety and depression.
Using self-care strategies everyday promotes healthier lifestyles, better sleep, replenishes energy, decreases stress and depression, re-awakens compassion and empathy, and improves care for others.
What does self-care mean to you?
Lisa is an adult wellness nurse in a family practice by day and a freelance health content writer by night….and Saturday morning. She is passionate about her career because she gets to do what makes her happy, help others and write.
Lisa is still actively involved with her INCA alumni and meets monthly with her cohorts and pursuing her board certification in Nurse Coaching.