4 Self-Care Tips for the Overworked Nurse
Last Updated on January 30, 2023 by Joshua Isibor
Nurses are the backbone of our healthcare system. They provide an enormous amount of emotional and physical care to their patients every day. However, like all other jobs, being a nurse has its share of stress. Despite its many benefits, working nurses know how stressful and emotionally challenging the job can be. Long hours, sleep deprivation, ethical dilemmas, emotional meltdown from patient care, and career progression issues can all be reasons for nurses to experience burnout.
If neglected for too long, this mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion can lead to several health problems, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and a weakened immune system. Extreme circumstances can result in poor patient care and even death. Therefore, you must allocate time in your busy schedule to take care of your well-being, as it will positively impact your personal and professional life. Here are a few self-care tips to boost your emotional and physical well-being without sacrificing too much of your time.
Learning to pace yourself is one of the most valuable lessons you can acquire as a working professional. There will be moments when you’ll need to stop what you’re doing and maybe even take a step back to focus exclusively on the task at hand. Other times, you’ll have to hit the fast-forward button to get things done quickly.
Completing a degree through an online program is a great way to develop life-long skills in time management and self-discipline. For instance, a BSN to DNP online program will allow you to pursue higher education while juggling other obligations like family, work, and personal interests.
2.Create a plan.
You’ll be able to avoid undue stress, work more efficiently, and meet your nursing KPIs if you begin your day with a solid plan. Listing down things that need your immediate attention is an excellent place to start. After making your to-do list, prioritize items by urgency. If time allows, check in with your manager to ensure you’ve done all urgent tasks and prioritized them correctly.
Make a note of everything that remains undone at the end of each workday so that you have a plan for the next day. Mark events in your calendar to see what you’ll do and for how long. Use your most productive hours to complete difficult tasks.
Don’t forget to pencil in your breaks. Remember, getting things done on time is essential, but it is equally important to unwind and recharge. If possible, try taking short, intentional breaks every few hours. Make a quick trip to the tuck shop, or take a walk around the block. Or, go outside and get some fresh air and sunshine. Trust us; you’ll come back feeling happier and more relaxed.
3.Connect with friends and family.
We must interact with others to thrive as individuals and species. Loneliness, anxiety, depression, and other negative emotions are all possible outcomes of a lack of connection, which can also lead to feelings of isolation. Thus, when you’re at work, try to have fun and bond with coworkers through games, jokes, and friendly banter.
When off-duty, build and nurture healthy relationships with your friends, family, and neighbors. Here are some suggestions on how to do so:
- Be thankful – Medical research has shown that practicing regular gratitude positively affects one’s mental and emotional well-being. It lowers cortisol—your body’s primary stress hormone—thus, helping you cope better with difficult life situations like midlife crises, failures, grief, loss of a loved one, and trauma or injury. Acknowledging someone’s kindness towards you with a mere “thank you” is enough to kick off a chain reaction of increasing comfort, closeness, and love in your relationship with them. You don’t always have to get someone a bunch of flowers or a box of chocolates to show your appreciation.
- Act purposefully – Make time for your loved ones every day, even if it’s just for twenty to thirty minutes. Establish a regular ritual you can enjoy without adding more stress to your life. This might be as simple as video calling each other every Friday, sharing a quick stroll before or after work, starting a weekly movie night, or getting together for a family breakfast on Sundays.
- Forgive and move on – What it means to forgive someone else might vary greatly from person to person. In most cases, it requires conscious effort to let go of pent-up resentment towards the offender and move on with one’s life peacefully. Even if you don’t forget them, forgiving past wrongs will lead to stronger relationships, lowered risks of anxiety and depressive disorders, and overall better physical health. If you can’t bring yourself to forgive someone just yet—they pushed you past the point of no return and didn’t apologize—don’t worry. Be patient with yourself. Reflect on your feelings and share them with a loved one or a mental health therapist.
- Leave work at the door – Consider the day done as and when your shift ends. Once home, give your undivided love and attention to your loved ones, turn on a good TV show, pick up a book, or devote yourself to a hobby. In other words, put yourself first.
4.Build healthy habits.
Practicing self-care is tending to one’s needs, such as maintaining or restoring physical or mental health. This involves giving your body and mind the attention they deserve. Practicing mindful meditation, starting a basic skin and hair care routine, smelling good, and carving out some “me” time in the day are some of the typical things that come to mind when we think of self-care. However, to a large extent, improving one’s overall health involves getting enough sleep. Without it, chances are you’ll be restless and irritable and less alert and attentive. Poor sleep also impairs judgment, and you might make bad decisions at work if you haven’t had a restful sleep the previous night. If you want a good night’s sleep, don’t spend too much time in front of a screen or drink too much coffee or alcohol right before you crash.
It doesn’t matter whether you jog, walk, dance, or swim, regular physical activity in any form should also be on your list of self-care tasks. It will help you maintain a healthy weight, strengthen your bones and muscles, and produce endorphins—happiness hormones—thereby lifting your mood, boosting your energy levels, and improving your brain health throughout the day.
Lastly, spend some time planning nutritious meals and snacks during the day. Even though, as a nurse, you’re most probably constantly on your toes and need quick, grab-and-go meals, your body will be able to perform at its best. It will allow you to work those long shifts without any problems if you stick to a balanced diet and drink plenty of water.
If you’re a nurse, you must remember that your own health is equally as important as that of the patients you care for. Follow these tips to stop feeling overwhelmed by your workload and perform to the best of your abilities. You got this!
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