Nurses are often the backbone of any medical system that serve an important role in the healthcare industry. While many nurses are naturally drawn to their profession, it is only natural instinct for a nurse to take a patient-centered approach and focus on the patient’s needs and goals so that the patient becomes the focal point of care. Because of their empathy, kind heartedness, and diligence, nurses are often faced with long, unpredictable hours and left with not much time to prioritize themselves.
While nurses are often perceived as compassionate, caring, and competent, it is also vital that they practice self-care as well. Nurses need to find time to unwind and recharge to be able to provide the best care to their patients.
What is self-care?
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, self-care is defined as the practice of doing activities that you enjoy or that are relaxing, especially to improve or avoid stress. Self-care is an act that you perform for yourself that makes sure that you’re being intentional with yourself and that you’re in check emotionally, spiritually, and physically.
You may run into challenges while trying to practice self-care and may feel overcome with the fact that you are putting yourself first, making it feel egotistical to do that. As a nurse’s first instinct, you may think to yourself “Shouldn’t I be putting someone else’s needs before my own?” While these thoughts may arise, it is also important to know that when you have more energy as an individual, it is easier for that same energy to be transmitted to your patients.
What are the main factors of stress in a nurse?
Prioritizing self-care can be a challenge, especially when there are unpredictable events taking place in the healthcare system.
COVID-19 largely impacted nurses as well as the healthcare system as a whole. Nurses were the primary front-line workers when the surging battle of COVID-19 spiked. According to the New York Times, January of 2021 was the worst month for COVID-19 hospitalizations in the US. The week of January 11th, there was a 7-day average of approximately 137,438 people hospitalized and approximately 29,228 people in the I.C.U.* Supply shortages that left healthcare workers with a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) left many healthcare professionals worried about not only their safety, but the safety of their patients as well. With the COVID-19 pandemic, many nurses and healthcare workers were left striving for their patients’ care, working long, stressful hours months on end, unremittingly.
Without periods of resetting and recharging, it is difficult for nurses to fall in a pattern of stressing out over situations, which can eventually lead to developing chronic stress if there is no time taken out of nurses’ routines to develop practicing self-care and making it a daily or weekly part of their routine.
Self-Care Tips for a Stress-Free Lifestyle
Meditation is a mental exercise that involves relaxation, focus, and awareness. Meditation is to the mind what physical exercise is to the body. The practice is usually done individually, in a still-seated position, and with eyes closed. According to Headspace, 15-20 minutes daily has been shown to reduce stress. According to Healthline.com, mindfulness comes with several benefits like:
- Lengthens attention span
- May reduce age-related memory loss
- Improves sleep
- Can decrease blood pressure
Headspace is a meditation app that includes some great resources that can help unwind sleep patterns and focus your energy to become more centered in your own thoughts. Try Headspace free for 7 days.
Practice a good sleep schedule
Setting aside 8 hours a night helps positive mood, better physical health, and mental clarity that can help you better navigate through your day. According to Healthline.com, sleep deprivation can put your physical health at risk, including daytime fatigue, irritability, and poor health overall.
Schedule time for hobbies that you enjoy
Make it a priority to set aside time for yourself weekly to do an activity that you enjoy. That may include; joining a book club, going to a workout class at your gym, treating yourself to a manicure, massage, facial, etc.
One way to hold yourself accountable is to schedule out a certain time of the week and make it a priority on your agenda to attend that certain activity. Nurses’ constant changes in schedules may not guarantee that, but always try to make sure to set aside at least 1 to 2 hours that week to pamper yourself, practicing self-love and gratitude towards yourself for all your hard work.
Take more breaks during or after your shifts
Especially after an 8 or 12 hour shift, it may be hard to take a break instead of completing other tasks at the same time at home that need to be done. In the midst of it all, try to unplug, even if that means going on a short 10-minute walk around the block after your lunch break or when you get home. Short pauses allow you to be intentional about your time as well as help avoid burnout in nurses, especially after a long shift.
Facetime or call a loved one
Make sure to make time for social connections. This means, always stay in touch with your loved ones.
- Facetime a family member or friends that lives far away.
- Schedule a coffee date with a loved one.
- Host a virtual happy hour or a night in with a friend.
- Spend time with your family by going out to dinner or having a movie night.
Maintaining these connections will allow you to find a balance between work and your personal life and will also prevent overwhelming feelings and help your relationships outside of work grow.
Ask for Professional Help if Needed
Nurses’ mental health is extremely important, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic. Many nurses feel overwhelmed with the amount of time and energy they have put into their job these last couple of years. It is important to recognize that you’re not alone, and there are always resources available. American Nurses Association (ANA) has resources available to all nurses free of charge.
Author, Lorena Miller, is a Senior at Oakland University, Rochester Hills, Michigan, majoring in Marketing and Spanish. She has worked for social media platforms for over 5 years, including global skincare company, Korres, as well as with Oakland University and Walsh College, which are local to the Metro Detroit area. You can find Lorena on LinkedIn.
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