People from all walks of life depend on nurses to take care of them when they are unwell. As a nurse, you are likely passionate about ensuring that your patients are well-informed regarding how to take care of themselves. You probably work hard to provide them with a myriad of information regarding things like self-care, health maintenance, and wound treatment, but the list goes on and on.
What you may not put so much effort into, though, is taking care of yourself. Spending your entire workday taking care of other people takes a serious toll on your physical, mental, and emotional wellness, and at the end of the day, you might not feel like caring for yourself in the way that you would instruct your patients to care for themselves.
But, if you want to continue to be there for your patients and deliver the high-quality services they need, you need to make your own health and wellness a priority, too. Keep reading to discover a few tips for staying healthy as a nurse.
Get Plenty of Exercise
At the end of a long shift, going to the gym may be the last thing you feel like doing. A good workout might be just what you need, though. Exercise is known to increase energy, lower stress levels, and of course, control weight.
Finding time to exercise can be tricky, but it’s definitely worth the effort. Join a local gym, sign up for yoga classes, enroll in a Zumba class, or commit to going for a walk every evening after work. You could even do exercises in your own living room. It doesn’t matter where or how you work out as long as you are staying active and getting plenty of exercise.
Maintain a Healthy Diet
You’ve probably told patients a million times that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. So why are you skipping it?
Wake up a bit earlier each day and make time for a healthy breakfast. In doing so, you’ll likely have more energy and better brain function. Also, bring your own snacks and meals with you to work rather than eating out. When you bring your own food, you are much less likely to make poor food choices. Packing your own snacks and meals allows you to control your sugar and carb intake. This plan can help you avoid the “carb coma” that many nurses experience after lunch.
Balance Work and Family Life
Maintaining a good balance between work and your family life isn’t easy, but it’s important. When you fail to maintain a good balance, your personal relationships are likely to suffer, which will not help your mental or emotional health.
Even when you have a hectic work schedule, it’s important to make time for your loved ones. Keeping an organized calendar is one of the best things you can do to ensure that you are dedicating enough time and energy to both parts of your life.
Get Enough Rest
Many nurses are guilty of running on way too little sleep. According to experts, healthy adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. Unfortunately, there are very few nurses out there who can honestly say that they get that much rest on a nightly basis.
As you know, sleep provides an opportunity for your body to rest and recover. Ensuring that you are getting an adequate amount of sleep each night can help lower the risk of chronic health conditions. Plus, your mood is almost always better when you are well-rested compared to trying to function on just a few hours of sleep and way too much caffeine, which brings us to our next point…
Less Caffeine, More Water
Trying to compensate for not getting enough sleep by consuming excessive amounts of caffeine is a recipe for disaster. In fact, caffeine is one of the biggest weaknesses of many nurses – especially those who work nights.
Caffeine may help you stay awake, but consuming too much of it can contribute to sleep deprivation and have a detrimental effect on brain function. Keep in mind, too, that consuming caffeine even six hours before going to bed can lower your sleep quality for the night.
Instead of reaching for another cup of coffee or can of soda, drink some water instead. You probably inform your patients of the importance of staying hydrated every single day. It’s time to take your own advice and drink as much water as your body needs.
Staying hydrated is good for your overall health, and drinking water throughout your shift can help you feel less sluggish and more awake. Plus, drinking water doesn’t come with the crash that often follows caffeinated and/or sugary beverages.
Take Care of Yourself
Maintaining your mental and emotional health is just as important as maintaining your physical health. Carve some time out of your schedule for self-care with activities you enjoy or tasks that bring you closer to your personal or professional goals. Nurture yourself in the same way that you nurture your patients. You deserve it, too!
Self-care also includes properly outfitting yourself for work. Invest in comfortable nursing shoes that provide adequate support, and choose scrubs that are durable and comfortable. If you have a favorite pair of nursing scrubs, buy a few extra pairs in your favorite style to allow yourself to wear the ones you love more frequently.
The Bottom Line
As a nurse, taking care of other people comes naturally. Caring for yourself, however, can be a bit trickier. For this reason, many nurses experience burnout or suffer from a wide range of physical, mental, or emotional health problems.
By following the tips listed above, however, you can take care of your own wellness and work toward staying healthy. Remember that no matter how driven you are to care for other people, you need to take care of yourself, too, or you won’t be able to follow your passion. Take care of yourself, and you will be better able to care for the other people who depend on you.
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