Nursing is one of the most emotional and difficult careers out there, and so nurses need to understand the importance of looking after themselves, as well as how they can do this. As a nurse, you are looking after others day in day out and are likely coming home to do the same. Self-care is so very important for all people, but nurses especially.
With long demanding shifts that are often in unsociable hours, nurses need some time for themselves to be the best they can be while at work. If you are guilty of neglecting your own self-care, here is how you can begin to change your mindset in order to put yourself first.
When looking at your own self-care plan, you need to look at what you enjoy doing and what helps you to relax outside of work.
All Work and No Play
We all know the popular saying, ‘all work and no play makes us extremely dull indeed’. If you want that light to keep shining bright, you need to find a good work-life balance. In nursing, this can be more difficult as it’s much harder to switch off after a long, difficult shift and it can often be hard to explain this to family and friends. One of the most common causes of nurses being off sick from work is stress; which isn’t a shock when we look at what we do. It is often all too easy to work too hard and lose sight of what really matters: you.
Nurses are natural caregivers, meaning you often put everyone else first without even really thinking about it. While this is what makes you a great nurse, you need to come out of this mindset once in a while to be able to practice self-care. Never putting yourself first isn’t a healthy habit, as we will suddenly run out of things to give and find that we are unable to provide the care we want. The healthcare system doesn’t help with this, as wards are often understaffed and the pressure to provide fast and high-quality care is forever increasing. Often you can work a whole shift without the chance to eat, drink or even sit down. If this is the case, you need to take a look at how you can implement times to do this and assist your colleagues to do so too.
Self-care does not mean by any stretch of the imagination that you are selfish. Often people think to put ourselves first is a selfish thing to do, and we should never be led to believe this. In fact, putting yourself first sometimes is the least selfish thing you could do, as how can you expect to provide the best for anyone when you cannot do so for yourself? Self-care is different for each individual; for some it may be making time to go out, while others may just want to spend a whole day in bed.
When looking at your very own self-care plan, you need to look at what you enjoy doing and what helps you to relax outside of work. This is almost like doing a care assessment on a patient. Perhaps this is the time to look at all of your basic care needs and see how you can meet them. Will making more time for your friends and family assist you to improve your own wellbeing? Only you can implement your very own self-care plan.
Putting Your Own Wellness First
The first step in making more time for yourself is admitting that you are failing to do so. There is no shame in putting ourselves first! Look at how you take care of yourself compared to your patients. Do you look after yourself the way you want someone to look after you? If the answer is no, then you are simply not doing enough for yourself. Whether this be getting up and cooking breakfast for yourself in the morning or ensuring that you get enough sleep, looking at how you are neglecting your own basic care needs is the only way you can improve your wellbeing.
Admit when you are taking on too much and speak to your boss if you need some time off. While caring for your patients is important, if you have burnt yourself out, you cannot provide safe care and you will be of no use to anyone. Your mental wellbeing has to come first, and if you have dealt with a particularly distressing time at work, you need to destress from this and speak to someone. There should be plenty of avenues that you can access within your workplace. Never compare yourself to colleagues and never ever be afraid to admit that you need help! If your own wellness is not at the top of your priorities, it is time to make a change.
Find Ways to Improve Your Wellness
There are many ways that people choose to relax, so implement times for these into your weekly schedule. If you are struggling with your emotions, it may be time to speak to a counsellor. This enables you to relieve yourself of some of the stress that you have been keeping in. Often as a nurse, it can be difficult to talk to family and friends as they do not understand. Sometimes talking to a neutral person can help get your thoughts in order.
It may be that you simply don’t make enough time to eat on shifts. This is a bad habit that you should change. It can take some time to implement this, but choosing easy to make, healthy snacks is a much better option than going to the canteen on your lunch and choosing an unhealthy option that will make you feel worse in the long run. There are certain foods that are great for nurses working on busy shifts – here are some of the best and easiest choices that you can make.
Do you look after yourself the way you want someone to look after you? If the answer is no, then you are simply not doing enough for yourself.
What many nurses tend to do is take a step back and look at their own self-care, then fail to actually look after themselves. This comes down to your own motivation and mindset and having the ability to put yourself first. Set yourself goals, even if it is just to spend a whole day in bed with your partner – this isn’t a silly goal if your wellbeing is going to improve from doing so. Tell family and friends what you are planning to do and make sure they push you to take care of yourself.
Even just a simple text in the morning telling you to take your lunch to work is a simple reminder to put yourself first! Many people make plans and struggle to actually follow through, so you are not alone. If this is the case, here is a great article on how to fix this.
Check in With Yourself Regularly
Once you have begun to develop a self-care routine, you need to regularly check in with your own mental and physical wellbeing to ensure that you are still doing all you can for yourself. It may be that added pressures at work have caused your mental wellbeing to drop. If this is the case, you need to change your self-care plan in order to prevent burnout. Having the ability to improve your own self-care and recognize when you need help is what makes a great nurse and a great leader. This also allows you to be the best you can be at work and advance in your career.
Once you have a self-care routine in place, you can look at what you want to do in your career. Perhaps you want to advance onto the next stage of nursing? Baylor University Online offer many fantastic courses for registered nurses looking to further their career, advance their nursing knowledge and earn more for their role. You cannot advance in your career if you cannot look after yourself. Self-care enables us to focus on improving our career.
Self-Care Should Never Be a Chore
Don’t get yourself stressed out that you aren’t following your plan. Do whatever makes you happy and focus on your wellbeing at all times. Look at what you are missing from your life and find ways to fix these. Your mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing must always be at the top of your list so that you can focus on your patients when in work.
If you want to bring exercise into your routine, don’t do something that feels like a chore. If going to the gym isn’t for you, perhaps try attending a yoga class or simply go for a walk in the fresh air. This could be a great time to catch up with your friend or partner while applying your self-care plan.
Nursing is a difficult role, but it is also very rewarding. Being able to provide ourselves with the care we need means that when we hit those difficult bumps in the road, we are better able to deal with them. Burning ourselves out means that rough days at work will feel even rougher. Don’t forget to motivate your colleagues to begin their own self-care journey too.
What are your favorite ways to practice self-care?
Share your thoughts and comments with us.
“PIN & SHARE”