As a healthcare worker, it can be hard to take time for self-care when you’re always so busy taking care of others. But it’s essential that you do. During the pandemic the stress is especially difficult for those in the medical field. Here are a few reasons why self-care is so important:
- It helps us recharge and relax our mind and body
- Self-care allows us to focus better and be more productive when we’re back on the job; this means you can provide higher-quality care
- It can help improve our mental health and well-being
- Self-care increases our resilience in times of stress
- Healthy YOU helps renew your empathy toward patients
- Helps prevent burnout
Self-care takes discipline, just like starting any other habit. But, you can think of it as restoring balance to your life. This balance will make you a better nurse, parent, spouse, etc. In addition, you will have more patience and calm in your life.
“I am who I am today because of the choices I made yesterday.”Eleanor Roosevelt
Understand that self-care activities don’t have to be all or nothing. Take a look at the tips provided and see which ones sound helpful and are easy to implement. Perhaps start there. See how it feels, then maybe come back and try another. Download the Self-Care Workbook to dig a little deeper!
1. Take Breaks
Make sure you take your breaks. Sometimes when you are in the middle of something, it’s tempting to skip your break. But it’s essential to take this time to clear your head and refresh. For example, take a few minutes away from your work to stretch your legs, walk around the nurse’s station, and get some fresh air. This can help break up the monotony of sitting at a desk for hours on end and doing paperwork, plus it gets you up and moving.
If your hospital has a break room, take a few minutes to relax there with a cup of coffee or tea. Then, if you have time, go outside for a quick walk.
As part of your break routine, make sure you have plenty of healthy snacks with you in your locker or bag in case you don’t get a lunch hour for some reason.
2. Eat Health Foods; Drink Plenty of Water
Healthy foods will give you much more energy than junk foods. Eating foods heavy in carbs and sugar will provide you with a burst of energy at first, but as you probably know, you’ll soon crash.
Nurses are constantly on the go, and it’s easy to forget to drink enough water. Dehydration will lead to fatigue, so make sure you drink plenty of fluids during your shift. Water is the best choice, but tea or coffee are ok in moderation. Also, avoid sugary drinks such as sodas and juices, which can cause you to become more tired.
3. Get Enough Sleep Each Night
Nurses work long shifts and sometimes can’t get enough sleep. But lack of sleep can be dangerous, especially when nurses are responsible for administering medication or performing invasive procedures on patients. This is why it’s so important to practice self-care by getting enough rest each night. Try going to bed earlier than usual, and make sure your bedroom is dark and quiet. If you can’t get to sleep, try reading or listening to calm music until you doze off. Make sure you have a relaxing bedtime routine. These soothing routines can help get your mind and body ready to slip into sleep.
Other tips include maintaining a regular sleep schedule, keeping the bedroom lights dim, and reducing exposure to outside sound. If you can avoid electronics the hour before sleeping, you will be better off. They emit a blue light that interferes with sleep.
If you want to try an app to help you get to sleep, Slumber: Fall Asleep, Insomnia, is rated highly. It offers bedtime stories that guide you into slumber. The cost is $49.99/year—look for the free one-week trial in the app store. The app has Forbes, Wall Street Journal, Apple, and Lifehack recommendations.
4. Have an End-of-Shift Routine
While we’re on the subject of wind-down practices, have a relaxing routine that you practice after you end your shift. That could be walking or biking home from work while enjoying the scenery passing by. If you’re driving, listen to a relaxing book tape, podcast, or music that you like. I walk my dog at the end of my workday. Whatever it is, make it something you do consistently that tells your mind and body, ‘this is the end of the day, and I am done.’
5. Set Some Boundaries
It’s ok to say no to something you don’t want to do. Whether that’s taking on an extra shift at work, joining the PTA when you know you don’t have time, or babysitting the neighbor’s kids. Know your limitations, and don’t feel bad when you need personal time each day to care for yourself or to catch a nap after an extra-long shift. You don’t have to make up an excuse; just say, ‘I’m sorry I’m not available for that.’
6. Try Deep Breathing or Meditation
When nurses feel stressed, it’s essential to take a step back and analyze the situation. Deep breathing is one way to do this. It slows you down and reduces your stress response.
Try box breathing:
- Breathe in as you count to four slowly. Feel the air fill your lungs.
- Hold your breath for four seconds.
- Next, breathe out slowly through your mouth for four seconds.
- Hold for four seconds.
According to Dr. Marie Agnew, this diaphragmatic breathing is often used by Navy Seals to stop the fight or flight sympathetic nervous system response and promote relaxation and focus. Perfect for those on the front line in medicine!
Meditation helps not just when you’re doing it but has mindfulness benefits leading to a calmer you in the long run. The app I keep seeing recommended for meditation is called “Calm.” It has a free version that you will want to try first and then a free trial of the premium version. It has the Editor’s Choice award from Apple. It won app of the year in 2017 & 2018. and says it’s for sleep and meditation. So by using this app, you may not need the sleep app listed above??
7. Wear Good Shoes
Some nurses are on their feet for 12 hours straight, putting excess pressure on the joints, bones, and muscles. Wearing slip-resistant or anti-skid shoes can help prevent falls and injuries while you’re running around the hospital all day. This is why it’s so important to get good shoes with plenty of cushions and consider compression socks. Here are just a few recommendations to get you started. Don’t be hesitant to ask around where you work to get other people’s opinions.
I’ve always heard that Clove shoes as the best for nurses, so be sure to check them out. They have both women’s and men’s and cost $129. In addition, they come in a variety of colors. https://goclove.com/products/ Here’s a review of Clove sneakers, from our friends at TrustedHealth.com.
FIGS NEW BALANCE 996 Women’s Figs sells comfortable scrubs, lab coats, and compression socks too.
HOKA ONE sneakers, $165.00 – $200.00 These have a really thick cushioned sole. If you have foot problems, this might be one to look into.
If you prefer a clog, DANSKO CLOGS $134.95 seem to be the go-to among nurses.
8. Connect with Friends and Family
It can be easy to get wrapped up in work and forget to connect with friends and family. But it’s important to take time out of your day to catch up with them. Spending time with loved ones can help you relax and de-stress.
Make a point to call or text a friend frequently, or even stop by their house. It’s fast and easy to text. But, if you can’t see someone in person, sending a hand-written letter is an old-fashioned way to connect with them, and it will make their day!
If you find that you’re no longer connecting with someone, consider letting go of the relationship. You don’t need to hold onto toxic relationships that don’t serve you.
9. Laugh Often
What makes you giggle? Is it funny memes on Instagram? Cute cat pics or funny animal antics? Humor helps alleviate stress, so feel free to print out that comic that gets you every time and tape it to your workstation. You might save some pics to your phone that crack you up. Send funny ones to your friends, and they’ll return the favor.
10. Do Something You Love Everyday
Do something you love each day, even if it’s only for 15 minutes. This could be reading, listening to music, taking a walk, or anything that makes you happy. If you’re short on time, find something that doesn’t take a big commitment. Check out page eight of your Self-Care Workbook for some creative ideas.
The important thing is to make time for yourself each day for something that makes you feel relaxed. Something that makes your shoulders relax from that perpetual scrunch they always do. Whether this means taking a break during your shift to eating something healthy or going to bed an hour earlier than usual, make sure you prioritize yourself at some point every day.
Figure out what self-care means to YOU. Yes, it’s taking care of your physical body; are you falling short there? But it’s also your mental health, which can often be overlooked. What charges your battery? For me, it’s walking my dog and listening to a book tape. For a new mom, it might be playing with her baby. For another, it might be dancing it out to the latest Taylor Swift album. What delights you?
Another aspect of self-care is doing work you love and feeling appreciated for that work. Bluebird Health and Progressive Nurse Staffing (which is owned by Bluebird Health) excels in this area with the family atmosphere and throughout the company. Here’s what Makenna, a Case Manager, with the Hospice program had to say:
“I love working here because of the family atmosphere. It’s rewarding to be part of a team that offers so much comfort, compassion and light in someone’s life at such a difficult time. Bluebird has an amazing team of people that really care for others. You can feel the difference here.”Makenna
Find out more about joining the Progressive Nurse Staffing Team!