As a hard-working nurse, we know you probably don’t take much time for yourself. You’re not alone. Plenty of nurses struggle with self-care, and we’re here to help.
There are many ways to prioritize your well-being. We’ve broken down what self-care means, why it’s important, and gathered some strategies that can help you put yourself first.
Importance of Self-Care in Nursing
You may have heard the saying, “you can’t pour from an empty cup.” You have to take care of yourself in order to give the best possible quality of care to your patients.
The Need for Self-Care in Nursing
In addition to being happier overall, a healthy nurse who practices self-care can make all the difference to their patients.
Why Is Self-Care Neglected?
Often, nurses may neglect self-care practices. This can happen for many reasons: time constraints, exhaustion, and burnout, to name a few.
From the start of your nursing education, you have learned to put your patients first. But prioritizing your own self-care is essential to prevent burnout.
Signs and Symptoms of Burnout in Nursing
You may be experiencing burnout if you have started to dread going in for your shift or feel resentment toward your patients.
The World Health Organization notes that there is a global shortage of healthcare professionals. Nurse burnout can happen to anyone in any specialty, whether they are brand new to the job or a highly-paid 20-year veteran.
With the right focus on health and wellness, we hope to help you prevent burnout.
Areas of Essential Self-Care
Remember that your nursing career is only one aspect of who you are. Once you’ve applied these self-care strategies, you’ll be able to start getting the most out of your life.
Physical activity can help you take care of your body to make sure it is in the right shape for succeeding at work. Prioritize your physical health by adding yoga, walking, or swimming to your day.
We understand how difficult it can be to maintain your mental health, especially for frontline healthcare workers.
Your mental health is just as important as physical health. Lots of nurses find that regularly seeing a therapist can help with processing the many difficult emotional aspects of the job.
Getting plenty of rest, eating well, and spending time outside can also benefit your mental health.
Maintaining emotional resilience is key to preventing burnout and making sure you don’t get bogged down by a stressful event.
Whether you’re a nurse practitioner who had to give bad news to a patient or a pediatric nurse who spent the day providing primary care services to sick children, you need to be able to bounce back after difficult days.
You can promote emotional resilience by taking breaks when possible, talking about stressful events when they happen, and asking for help when you need it.
To promote spiritual health, you could volunteer, travel, or practice mindfulness - all of those options can help you connect spiritually. Joining a religious or spiritual community can also be a meaningful way to fill your spiritual cup.
Even if you think you don’t have time, investing in your social life is important. Invite a friend to go for a walk or call a relative for a chat on the phone.
You can even leverage social media for this aspect of your self-care plan by staying in touch with friends and family that you don’t see often.
The work-life balance is arguably one of the hardest elements of nurse self-care. You may be dealing with decision-making responsibilities both at work and at home, and that can be overwhelming.
Finding a balance is important. Keeping a schedule can improve your quality of life, even on your days off. Don’t forget to have fun!
Be it a religious community, a hobby group, a volunteer organization, or a support group, surrounding yourself by a community that knows and understands you can make a great difference in your life. You can even start a group yourself!
Stress Management Tips
Stress is unavoidable as a nurse, but there are some things you can do to manage it:
The number one way to combat stress as a nurse is to make sure you’re getting plenty of sleep. Resetting and recharging your body is necessary to keep yourself running.
Diet and Exercise
Regular exercise and a good diet can also make a difference. Keeping your body healthy will keep it prepared to deal with the stressors that come with the job.
Identify and Address
Identify your major stressors and address them with coping strategies like practicing mindfulness or taking regular breaks. If you find yourself overcome with stress, make sure to reach out to someone who can help, like a therapist or a good friend.
Importance of Regular Breaks
Restorative breaks are few and far between in the middle of a busy shift, but they’re extremely important to your well-being and success. Your patient care will improve if you’ve had a chance to recharge. Take breaks when possible and advocate for yourself when needed.
Selfless Gifts for Nurse Self-Care
If you’re looking for a way to treat yourself or a nurse in your life, there are some things that could be useful while also letting them know you care about their well-being.
- A great pair of nursing shoes that will keep busy feet comfortable all day long
- Designer scrubs in their favorite color or design
- A gift certificate for a spa day
- Subscription to a relaxing magazine or app
- Aromatherapy diffuser and essential oils
- Comfy loungewear or pajamas
- A well-thought out list of easy self-care activities
Any of these options can let a nurse know you care about them and the work that they do. They can also be great ways to invest in your own self-care.
Self-Care Resources for Nurses
We’ve located some resources that you can turn to if you need support from organizations that understand the demands of the nursing practice:
- Nurse & Midwife Support: “A 24/7 national support service for nurses and midwives providing access to confidential advice and referral”
- Australian College of Mental Health Nurses Special Interest Groups: “The ACMHN hosts several Special Interest Groups which are forums for members to discuss information relating to the mental health nursing profession.”
- Hand-n-Hand Peer Support: “Free, confidential peer support for health professionals in Australia and New Zealand.”
- The Essential Network for Health Professionals: “Helping healthcare professionals find resources and support to navigate burnout and maintain good mental health.”
As you go into your next shift, we hope you’ve found the information here helpful. Remember that prioritizing self-care will serve you, your family, and your patients in the long run.