Self-Care For Nurses: How to Look After Yourself While Looking After Others

Registered nurses play an integral role in healthcare. Conventionally, being an RN involves caring for different types of patients in a number of settings. This can involve monitoring their vitals, administering medication, operating equipment, and helping physicians with medical procedures. In addition, nurses also provide counsel and advice to family members. For their service, many registered nurses benefit from a high earning potential. However, this profession goes way beyond the paycheck for many nurses. Nursing can be very fulfilling for individuals with a natural desire to look after others. In order to deliver high-quality care, RNs need to be caring, patient, and empathetic. Although this profession can be incredibly rewarding for people with an innate desire to care for others, it is also an emotionally, mentally, and physically taxing career choice. Personal care is essential for nurses with a hectic schedule, and practicing self-care can help nurses avoid exhaustion and burnout. Here is a guide to help RNs look after themselves while looking after others.

An Introduction to Self-Care

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), self-care is the ability to ‘promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability without the support of a healthcare provider’. This concept encompasses a variety of aspects, such as the socioeconomics, environment, hygiene, nutrition and lifestyle of an individual. Registered nurses have a demanding role in healthcare. Their profession revolves around looking after others and it is easy for nurses to forget about personal care. Without good self-care skills, nurses are prone to physical exhaustion and stress. By practicing self-care nurses are better able to strike a healthy balance between work and life, and they will also develop better stress management techniques.

Why is Self-Care Important for Nurses?

People who neglect self-care have a higher probability of experiencing stress and anxiety, and they are also more likely to lead an unhealthy lifestyle. Stress and anxiety is bad for mental and emotional health, and it can eventually lead to chronic fatigue and depression. Additionally, high levels of stress can also contribute to health conditions and chronic disease. The body’s immune system is negatively impacted when a build up of adrenaline and cortisol, the stress hormone, in the bloodstream occurs. In turn, an individual can experience issues such as hyperglycemia, hyperinsulinemia, hypertension and arteriosclerosis. These health issues can affect a person’s overall health and wellbeing. Therefore, practicing good self-care can be advantageous for a nurse’s personal and professional life.

Elevated Patient Outcome and Care Delivery

Besides being beneficial for your personal health, practicing self-care can also improve patient outcome and care delivery. An efficient nurse can only work effectively if they are healthy in all aspects of their life, and implementing healthy self-care habits in your everyday life can have a positive effect on your patients.

Prioritize Personal Care

Nursing professionals have a duty of care to a wide variety of people, and the role of a traditional nurse involves working long hours and repetitive shift work. For some, balancing a busy work schedule with a healthy lifestyle and home commitments can feel near impossible. In fact, after a long shift, some nurses may feel too drained to do anything else besides eating and rest. Although it may sound counter-intuitive, people with a hectic routine need to schedule some time for personal care. This includes quality’ me’ time, such as listening to your favorite music or watching your favorite series. Personal care can also involve catching up with old friends and pursuing professional work objectives. Taking the time to do the things you enjoy and hitting professional goals can have a positive effect on your overall well being.

Strike a Healthy Work-Life Balance

Healthy Work-Life Balance

As a working nurse, you already know how difficult it can be to get out of work mode after a long, hard slog at work. Striking an effective work-life balance is essential for a healthy lifestyle, and to do this, you need to set and abide by clear work boundaries. No matter where you work, try to set time-related goals. For example, if constant overtime and long hours are taking their toll on you, stop staying late after your shift is over and learn to say ‘no’ to extra work. Of course, it is natural to want to help your colleagues out in a pinch when they cannot work, and last-minute shifts are sometimes unavoidable. However, make sure you keep an eye on this if you want to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Pursue Your Professional Goals

Whether you have just begun your career in healthcare or you have been a working nurse for many years, creating professional goals can help you keep your career on track. From getting a promotion to exploring different avenues in the nursing field, there are many different ways nursing professionals can level up. Although nursing can be very rewarding, being stuck in the same job and performing the same duties day in and day out can be tiresome. Not only will you feel dejected, but you will also begin to lose motivation in your job. In turn, this lack of motivation can result in decreased productivity and a loss of interest in your job role. Think about your future and map out plans for your career so that you have something to aim for.

Stay Educated

No matter where you are in your career, the nursing profession involves lifelong learning. Nurses need to be willing to pick up new skills and acquire relevant knowledge to excel in their career, and further education is a great way to do this. The Wilkes University Passan School of Nursing offers a range of degree programs for nursing professionals at varying stages of their career. Their degree programs are taught online, making them ideal for busy nurses who do not want to disrupt their current timetable. With higher education, you will become more proficient as a nurse, and you will be able to broaden your career path and advance your career.

Take Time to Do Something Unrelated to Work

It doesn’t matter what profession you are in. Everyone should take the time to do something they love. This can include activities such as playing your favorite sports, practicing music, or spending time in nature. Doing something you love, which is unrelated to work, gives you an outlet to relieve stress and anxiety. Performing a favorite pastime is a great way to vent negative emotions that have built up in certain aspects of your life, such as work. A hobby gives you something positive to focus on, it can engage your brain, and it can also boost your quality of life. By reducing stress and anxiety, you can reduce your likelihood of experiencing burnout. You may also notice an improvement in your level of productivity. Furthermore, balancing work and life commitments with a hobby can also improve your time management skills.

Find a Space Where You Can Retreat and Recoup

A personal space where you can retreat to and recoup after a long day at work is important. Find a quiet, peaceful space in your home and designate it as your relaxation retreat. Use this space to clear your mind and practice ways to relax. Activities that induce relaxation can include low-impact exercise like yoga, recording your thoughts through journaling, or reading a good book. If it is difficult to designate an area to relax at home, you can find solace in an outdoor space such as your yard or a local park. Alternatively, simply grabbing a hot beverage at a chilled-out coffee shop can help you unwind.

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Good Physical Health is Essential

An important part of the role of a nurse is helping patients achieve good physical health, and nurses should take a leaf out of their own book when providing advice about health and fitness. A healthy disposition includes good bodily health, both inside and out. In their own personal life, nurses should prioritize a good diet filled with healthful food, regular exercise, and other healthy habits, such as achieving quality sleep. A nurse who is in the good physical condition is better able to offer excellent care to others.

Healthy Eating

Your body is your temple, and you should always try your best to nourish it with nutritious food. Staying healthy and well ties in with maintaining a healthy weight, and filling yourself up with nutrient-rich food plays a key part. As an RN, time is valuable, and it can be tempting to reach for a quick microwave meal and snack on sugary snacks made up of artificial ingredients. However, with a bit of willpower and forward planning, you can create healthy food and snacks. Planning your meals a week in advance can help you with grocery shopping and meal prep during a working week. Batch cooking, dividing each meal into portions, and freezing the excess can help busy people eat more healthily. It can also reduce the time wasted from thinking about what to cook every day, and it will also reduce the cost of purchasing packaged meals and unhealthy snacks regularly. Not to mention, nutritious meals can help you get through a grueling day of work which means you will be less likely to be tempted by an impromptu chocolate bar or bag of chips halfway through your shift.

Regular Exercise

In addition to healthy eating, staying fit and healthy also requires regular exercise. Although most people know they should exercise at least 150 minutes per week, it can be difficult for nurses in physical roles to get the motivation to do so. However, exercising regularly can help strengthen and tone your muscles which can help make the physical aspect of your job less demanding for your body. Not only can it improve your physique, but it can also elevate your stamina, decrease stress and lift your mood. Furthermore, exercise can also give your energy levels a boost too.

Establish Your Social Support Network

Social Support Network

As you know, healthcare professionals play an important part when it comes to a patient’s support system—this works the other way round too. A good social support network is vital for people in demanding jobs, and having a trusted group of people to turn to can help keep you stay sane during chaotic periods of your life. In fact, studies suggest that a trusty support network can have a positive impact on an individual’s mental health, and having people to turn to can help you take on the daily challenges of life.

Good Communication at Home

An effective social support network often begins at home with the people you live with. If you live with a partner or you have a family, always make sure you update them with your work schedule. Good communication at home can help relationships thrive and keep them healthy. Whether it’s telling them about shift changes or letting them know you are having a particularly tough time at work, giving them more information will empower them to help you. A problem shared is a problem halved, and sharing issues with your close ones can help them understand any changes in behavior and give them context to your absence.

Stay in Touch With Friends

With an unpredictable work schedule that can change at the last minute, keeping in touch with friends and maintaining a healthy social life can be difficult. However, socializing and keeping in touch with friends can help ward off feelings of loneliness. Stay in contact with old friends and when scheduling a catch-up, try not to cancel due to work reasons. If you find that you truly cannot make a date, always keep your friends in the loop so that they understand why you have canceled. This can stop people from getting offended, and it will give you a chance to plan another date when everyone is available.

Maintain Good Professional Relationships

Keeping an open dialogue at work is just as important as good communication at home, and developing your professional relationships can help you juggle work and life commitments. After all, your colleagues are more likely to swap shifts with you if they understand it is for an important commitment. Furthermore, maintaining good work relations can help your team work more efficient.

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