5 Ways Nurses Can Practice Holistic Self-Care

5 Ways Nurses Can Practice Holistic Self-Care

(This post is about self care for nurses and may contain affiliate links.  See our disclosure page for more information.)

Written by Deborah Swanson at allheart.com.

5 Ways Nurses Can Practice Holistic Self Care

Self care for nurses should not be an afterthought.

Holistic nurse self care:  Are you really taking care of yourself?

While we often associate the concept of “self-care” with things like getting a massage or engaging in some retail therapy (new stethoscope, anyone?), taking care of yourself requires a much more comprehensive approach than just these occasional indulgences. A holistic approach to self-care acknowledges not only your physical health, but also your mental, spiritual and social health as well. Engaging in holistic self-care will help you become the best nurse that you can be and help you stay healthy for both yourself and your patients.

The World Health Organization defines self-care as “the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote, maintain health, prevent disease and to cope with illness with or without the support of a healthcare provider.” A holistic approach to self-care encompasses several different components—including nutrition, lifestyle, environmental and socioeconomic factors—to make sure that you’re not neglecting any aspect of your wellness. Below, we break down each of these elements and explain how nurses can practice them in their daily lives.

5 Ways Nurses Can Practice Holistic Self Cares

Holistic self care for nurses

Nurse Nutrition

When it comes to self care for nurses, we often don’t practice what they preach.  Nurses know that what we eat and drink are major contributing factors to health. While there are many diets and nutrition philosophies out there, the basics of eating healthy are quite simple. Focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and lean proteins; don’t eat too many sugary and/or fatty foods; stay away from highly processed, packaged items as much as you can; and watch your portion sizes. Also seek out a variety of foods to make sure you’re getting all your nutrients.

As for what you drink, make sure to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and avoiding sugary beverages such as soda and juice. When it comes to beverages such as caffeine and alcohol, consume them in moderation and give your body time to process each drink before downing another. Watch the calorie count on your liquids. Beverages can be surprisingly high in calories, sometimes even more than food of a comparable portion size, so check the label before slurping it down.

Additional recommended reading:

Nurse Lifestyle

As for positive lifestyle choices you can make, exercising regularly and getting a mix of cardiovascular and strength-building workouts are really important for a healthy life. Getting enough sleep and maintaining a regular sleep schedule as much as possible are also good choices. Your lifestyle can also include your social and spiritual activity, such as spending time with supportive friends or engaging in a meaningful religious community—both of which can boost your mental health.

Additional recommended reading:

Woman Running

Running is a great fast and easy workout for busy nurses to fit into their schedules.

Environment

Environmental factors that affect your health are often overlooked, but incredibly important. Certain obvious examples come to mind such as exposure to air pollution, lead paint or other toxic substances. But this is far from the only way the environment impacts your health. Access to grocery stores (which sell produce and healthy foods) and public transportation (which encourages walking and mobility) are just two other instances where the environment can impact your health.

You won’t always be able to change your environment, but being aware of how it affects your health is the first step in self-care. And when you can take steps to improve your environment—such as reducing your exposure to toxic chemicals in your workplace—prioritize them and make them happen.

Additional recommended reading:

Nurse Financials

Socioeconomic status encompasses not just how much money you make, but also what level of education and financial security you have as well as your perceptions of your own social class. Low socioeconomic status negatively affects both physical and mental health in a variety of ways. For example, those with low socioeconomic status are not able to afford preventative care or cover the costs of a medical emergency. Financial insecurity also causes stress, which can lead to a variety of other health problems.

Even though it might not seem like traditional “self-care,” make sure you’re taking steps to get or stay financially healthy. Thankfully, the median annual salary for registered nurses in the US is $70,000, so hopefully you’re being fairly compensated—but smart management of your money is just as important as how much you make. Create a monthly budget, set aside money in savings from each paycheck and spend less than you make. Once you’ve got an emergency fund (3-6 months of living expenses), look into a 401k or other long-term savings plan.

Additional recommended reading:

While “self-care” is often used in a very narrow sense of the word, the concept is actually quite broad and requires a holistic approach to be truly successful. If you only pay attention to one or two aspects of your health but ignore the others, you’ll be doing yourself a disservice as a nurse and as a human being. You deserve to be in the best health possible, so make sure your approach to self-care covers all five components mentioned here.

About The Author

Debbie Swanson, Real Caregivers Program at allheart.com

Deborah Swanson is a Coordinator for the Real Caregivers Program at allheart.com – a site dedicated to celebrating medical professionals and their journeys.  She keeps busy by interviewing caregivers and writing about them and loves gardening.

P.S. HEY NURSES!  Remember to sign up for our email list below and get a FREEBIE from us!

Why A Social Media Break Is Healthy For Nurses

Why A Social Media Break Is Healthy For Nurses

(This post may contain affiliate links.  You can find my disclosure page here.)

Between my time working as a emergency room nurse and nurse mom blogger, I use technology almost constantly.  In fact, both of my jobs would be impossible to do without them.  It would be no understatement to say I am dependent on them.

However, after a particularity stressful year I did a little soul searching to see where I could add a little more intention in my life.   And minimizing my use of social media seemed like a good place to start.

After all, I mindlessly check one or more of my social media accounts several times a day.  And as a nurse and mom my mind is spinning with 1000’s of to-dos already.  How hard could taking a social media break possibly be?

Now, this may seem counter-intuitive coming from a nurse blogger who uses social media for business.  I’m not saying nurses should give up social media permanently.  But it may be helpful for nurses to take a social media break once in a while because our brains are constantly flipping through patient care tasks.

I did a social media break challenge for one week.

My experiment started easily enough. But just like clockwork the minute I stopped paying attention my fingers automatically tried to pull up my Instagram or Facebook accounts. Apparently, my social media addiction was more ingrained than I thought.

My plan required increased preventative measures to ensure success. So I went a step further and deleted both the Instagram and Facebook apps off my phone. That way if I wanted to use the apps I would actually have to sign in via the internet and type in my password.

Wouldn’t you know, just the annoyance of having to type in my password was enough to remind me of why I had started this experiment in the first place.   I successfully created a barrier to help reinforce my social media addition recovery! (Nurses are solution finders, what can I say!?).

Why nurses need a social media break

Do you remember what it feels like to not be constantly looking at your phone?

3 Reasons Why A Social Media Break Is Healthy For Nurses

#1.  It gives nurses an opportunity for more personal social engagement

A social media break can remind us to be more present with real people.  Sadly, social media is often not a real representation of what is going on in people’s personal lives. It is a magnification of what people want you to see: slivers of primarily positive information that appears flawless, effortless and often like never-ending, spontaneous fun (don’t we all want to project the best parts of ourselves?).

#2.  It can increase productivity in things that matter most.

To make my point on this I’m going to create a hypothetical, but totally realistic situation: Let’s say a nurse browses social media for 15 minutes a few times a day: once before getting out of bed, once during a break from work, a couple more times at lunch and then one more time before going to bed in the evening (for a lot of people I know, that is a conservative estimate).

Social media browsing may seem like a harmless habit. But if you add up the time over a seven day period you are talking about eight hours a week. Eight entire hours that you will never get back!  That is the same amount of time that non-nurses spend at work during a normal workday. Mindless internet and social media browsing can kill off the equivalent of almost 1 workday per week if you allow it to.

#3.  You may fall asleep earlier and have better overall sleep.

Cell phones emit bright blue light that is meant to stimulate the brain. By looking at a cell phone before bed it causes the brain to stop producing melatonin, which is the hormone that cues the brain that it’s time for slumber. As a result, smartphone light can disrupt the sleep cycle which makes it hard to fall and stay asleep.

Nurses already have to forfeit some sleep as part of the job, especially, mid-shift and night shift nurses. Interrupted or lack of quality sleep is linked to myriad health care related issues including many cancers, depression, and weight gain. In other words, better sleep = happy nurse.

Taking a social media break is a great way for nurses to give themselves a mental break.

We all need to chill out once in a while and let our minds wander. Let’s give our brains the space to do so.  Living a life of intention requires making conscious changes to habits that appear harmless on the outside.

Are you a nurse in need of a social media break?  What other habits do you have that are not serving you well? 

HEY NURSES!  Remember to sign up for your FREE COPY of “The Nurse’s Guide To Health & Self Care” E-book in the sign up box below! (scroll down)

Additional Recommended Reading:

7 Quick And Easy Workouts For Busy Nurses

7 Quick And Easy Workouts For Busy Nurses

This post for helping nurses find new quick and easy workouts that they can fit into even the busiest schedule.

Nurses know more then anyone that there are so many benefits to exercise.  It helps our minds, bodies and souls because it:

  • Helps to control weight
  • Reduces the risk of heart disease
  • Manages blood sugar and insulin levels
  • Improves your mental health and mood
  • Strengthens your bones and muscles
  • Improves your sleep
  • And most importantly, it releases hormones that make you feel good!

But as a busy nurse, it can be so hard to find time to exercise, especially since the average workout class lasts about 60 minutes.

The good news is that there are lots of workouts that can easily be done at home on your own time whenever you have a few free minutes. Below are seven ideas that will help you squeeze in a quick & effective workout with minimal equipment and time.

So, take off your scrubs, put on your workout clothes and get moving!

7 Quick And Easy Workouts For Busy Nurses

7 Quick And Easy Workouts For Busy Nurses

Here are 7 quick and easy workouts for nurses to fit into their busy schedules:

Bodyweight Exercises

Think you must to get to the gym and lift weights for an hour to get stronger? Think again!  As the name implies, bodyweight exercises use your bodyweight to build strength, no equipment necessary. Bodyweight workouts can focus on the upper or lower body or combine them both for a total body workout.

You’ll do moves such as push-ups, squats, lunges and tricep dips that rely on your body weight and proper form to work your muscles. These moves either don’t require equipment at all or can be done using items around your house, such as a sturdy chair. Some people also like to use an exercise mat to provide a bit more cushion.

Running

While running is often associated with training for a marathon or distance, it can also be a remarkably efficient workout for those who don’t want to spend hours exercising. Running for just 20 or 30 minutes will get your heart rate up and your blood pumping, and all it requires is a pair of supportive running shoes.

If the weather doesn’t permit you to run outside, see if you have access to a gym—even the smallest, most under-equipped workout room usually has at least one treadmill.  And if you dislike the repetitive nature of running, create a music playlist or download a compelling podcast so you can get two things done at once as you move.

Plyometrics

Plyometrics, also called jump training or plyo, is another form of an intense and efficient cardio workout. Exercises include the squat jump, tuck knee jump, lateral jump, power skipping, vertical jump, lunge jump and more. These explosive movements get your heart rate up and burn calories in a short amount of time.

A word of caution: The intensive nature of plyometrics means that this workout isn’t the best choice for everyone, especially those who have lower body or back issues or those who are new to working out. However, if you’re already in good cardiovascular shape—say, you’ve been running a lot and you’re looking for some variety—plyometrics is definitely worth checking out. Quick and Easy Workouts For Nurses

Kickboxing

Boxing requires a lot of equipment. You need a punching bag, gloves, hand wraps and so on. Certain versions of kickboxing simplify this approach, allowing you to practice without all the equipment (sort of like shadowboxing). As the name suggests, kickboxing focuses on powerful kicks, with the hands and feet being used as the main contact points.

This karate-inflected style can be used as self-defense, but it’s also a very popular workout class both online and in real life. If you’d like to get out some aggression and stress while getting in a workout, simply Google “at home kickboxing workout videos” and plenty of results will pop up. You may feel a little silly punching and kicking the air at first, but you’ll be sweating in no time!

Aerobics

Aerobics is a catch-all term that refers to any activity that strengthens the heart and lungs, such as walking and swimming. Some aerobic exercises require a lot of time or equipment–or both—but plenty of others can be done at home whenever you have a few minutes. Lots of online cardio workouts fall into the aerobics category and they often have a theme such as step or dance.

Classes usually range in length from 10 to 60 minutes, so you can choose whatever suits your schedule. Make sure you check that no equipment is required before deciding on an aerobics workout. Some don’t require anything at all besides tennis shoes, while others may use a step-up box, light hand weights or other small equipment.

Abs

In their original form, very few ab workouts require weights or other equipment (though you might want to use an exercise mat to provide a bit of cushion and keep you from slipping during core work). From planks to crunches to sit-ups to leg lifts to toe touches to oblique twists, there are literally dozens of ab exercises you can do at home whenever you have a few minutes free in your schedule.

If you need some inspiration, there are lots of ab workout videos available for free on YouTube to get you started.

Women doing bodyweight exercises

Body weight exercises are a fast and easy workout for busy nurses.

HIIT Workouts

High intensity interval training (HIIT) is more of an approach than a specific type of exercise. HIIT involves giving your maximum effort to exercise for a short period of time (usually less than a minute) followed by an even briefer rest period.

You may also have heard of Tabata, which is a specific type of HIIT workout that follows this pattern: eight rounds of 20 seconds of exercises at maximum effort and then 10 seconds of rest. HIIT can be used for bodyweight exercises, plyometrics, running—pretty much any workout you can think of. HIIT is a great way to shake up the pace of your workouts and increase their intensity and efficiency without eating up more of your precious time.

Now, its time to get moving!

If you’re a busy nurse who’s crunched for time (and really, who isn’t over scheduled these days?), check out one of these workouts to fit exercise into your day. Any workout is better than no workout, so even if you only have a few minutes, make them count!

HEY NURSES!  Remember to sign up for your FREE COPY of “The Nurse’s Guide To Health & Self Care” E-book in the sign up box below! (scroll down)

Recommended Reading:

About The Author

Debbie Swanson, Real Caregivers Program at allheart.com

Deborah Swanson is a Coordinator for the Real Caregivers Program at allheart.com, a site dedicated to celebrating medical professionals and their journeys. She keeps busy interviewing caregivers and writing about them and loves gardening

7 Easy Restorative Yoga Poses For Nurses

7 Easy Restorative Yoga Poses For Nurses

7 Easy Restorative Yoga Poses For Nurses

Every nurse knows that the stress from patient care over a 12 hour shift can be exponential.  Yet many nurses aren’t giving themselves the tender loving kindness we give to our patients!  (I have written many times before about why nurses need to practice yoga).

Yoga is more then just exercise.  It offers caregivers a way to give themselves more self care (ahem, nurses!).  Furthermore, it helps nurses take even better care of our families, our patients and ourselves in the process.

Restorative yoga is a great way for nurses to reconnect with themselves and provide recovery for their bodies after the end of a 12 hour shift of caring for patients.

7 Easy Restorative Yoga Poses For Nurses

(The information on this post is not meant to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease and is meant for educational and informational purposes only.   You should always consult your physician before starting any exercise program.  You can read our disclosure policy here.)

Here are 7 easy and restorative yoga poses for nurses to help recover from the stress and physical ailments that plague hard working nurses.

#1.  Child’s Pose (Balasana)

Child's Pose

Child’s Pose

Health benefits of Child’s Pose for nurses:

  • Releases tension in the back, shoulders and chest
  • Helps alleviate stress and anxiety
  • Stretches the spine
  • Relieves neck and lower back pain when performed with the head and torso supported
  • Gently stretches the hips, thighs and ankles (gently is the key)
  • Stretches muscles, tendons and ligaments in the knee
  • Calms the mind and body

#2.  Happy Baby Pose (Ananda Balasana)

Health benefits of Happy Baby Pose for nurses:

  • Opens hips, inner thighs, and groin
  • Releases lower back and sacrum
  • Stretches the hamstrings
  • Relieves lower back pain
  • Calms the brain
  • Helps to relieve stress and fatigue

#3.  Supine Spinal Twist(Jathara Parivartanasana)

Supine Spinal Twist

Supine Spinal Twist

Health benefits of Supine Spinal Twist for nurses:

  • Brings blood flow to the spine, hips and shoulders
  • Stretches the hips, glutes, abs, back, chest, shoulders and neck
  • Opens the upper body
  • Helps alleviate lower back pain
  • Helps correct poor posture

#4.  Reclined Goddess Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)

Reclined Goddess Pose

Reclined Goddess Pose

Health benefits of Reclined Goddess Pose for nurses:

  • Opens the shoulders & chest
  • Opens the groin, inner thighs, and hips
  • Helps relieve stress and anxiety

#6.  Legs Up The Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)

Legs Up The Wall Pose

Legs Up The Wall Pose

Health benefits of Legs Up The Wall Pose for nurses:

  • It reduces edema in the legs and feet
  • Relieves tired leg muscles
  • Helps reverse the effects of gravity and may help digestion
  • Calms the nervous system
  • Calms the mind

#7.  Supported Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)

Supported Bridge Pose

Supported Bridge Pose

Benefits of Supported Bridge Pose for nurses:

  • Stretches and opens the chest, spine and hips
  • Improves circulation
  • Helps to relieve stress
  • Improves digestion and stimulates the abdominal organs.
  • Stimulates the thyroid gland
  • Reduces anxiety and fatigue
  • Helps relieve lower back pain
  • Calms the brain and nervous system

#8.  Dead Body Pose (Shavasana)

Dead Body Pose

Dead Body Pose

Benefits Of Dead Body Pose for nurses:

  • Relaxes the whole body
  • Calms the nervous system
  • Quiets the mind

In summary, yoga makes you feel good.  And you deserve it, nurse!

Nurses need to experience what it is like to fell good in our their own skin?  Yoga empowers nurses to create a happier, healthier and more productive work environment by making us the best version of ourselves.

For better or worse, nurses serve as role models in the healthcare community. We need to practice what we preach. Why would a patient listen to our advice on how to life a healthy life if we are not living one ourselves?

Here are a few tools to get you started in your yoga practice:

1.  Yoga Mat, by Yoga Nat

This is a great yoga mat.  The quality is very good for the price.  I have been using this exact one in my living room for the past two years and it is still looks new!  It is soft with a relatively nice thickness compared to other yoga mats I have tried.  In addition, it has grooves that keep the mat in place while in use.  It comes with a velcro carry strap for easy travel.

Yoga for nurses: yoga mat
Yoga for nurses: yoga mat

2.  Yoga Blocks

I love the cork Manduka yoga blocks because I have had mine for 6 years and they still look brand new.   Unlike foam blocks, these don’t disintegrate and tear over time due regular use.  They are also heavier and more sturdy with a trustworthy grip.  It is a good idea to purchase 2 because many yoga poses require the need for two blocks.

Yoga for nurses: yoga block
Yoga for nurses: cork yoga blocks

3.  Yoga Strap

Yoga straps are an easy way to inexpensively assist you into yoga poses.  This yoga strap is useful for all levels of yoga practice and can provide support, help with alignment and improve posture.

4.  Manduka yoga blocks (with strap included)

If you are going to purchase both cork blocks and the strap you can get a little bit of a discount by purchasing them as a bundle.

Yoga for nurses: yoga blocks and strap
Yoga for nurses: yoga blocks and strapHEY NURSES!  Remember to sign up for your FREE COPY of “The Nurse’s Guide To Health & Self Care” E-book in the sign up box below! (scroll down)

Additional Recommended Reading For Nurses Who Need More Self Care:

Are you a nurse looking for more self care?  What are you doing to take care of yourself?  Please leave a comment below!

Working Mom Health Tips For 12 Hour Shifts

Working Mom Health Tips For 12 Hour Shifts

*This post about working mom health tips for nurses working long 12 hour+ shifts has affiliate links.  You can find our disclosure page here.

Preparing for 12 hour shifts as a registered nurse requires some prearranged ground work and organization at home to ensure my day starts off on the right foot. As a working mom, I know I will be gone for a large chunk of time so I do my best to make sure things are properly set up at home the day before.

Additionally, as a ER nurse I know how important it is that I take good care of myself so I can continue to give the best possible care to my family and patients.  After all, I can’t expect others to listen to my health education if I don’t take my own advice and stay healthy too.  No excuses!

Working Mom sitting on kitchen floor with son

(This post contains affiliate links.  You can find my disclosure page here.)

My top 4 priorities for keeping myself and my family healthy as a nurse:

#1. Grocery shop and prepare all meals in advance

I grocery shop every three days so I am able to prepare meals for my toddlers and for each of my 12 hour shifts at the hospital in advance.  To avoid scrambling at the last minute I always make sure everything is ready and packaged to go the night before.

I prepare several options for the kids breakfasts, lunch and dinner including:

  • Avocado or almond toast
  • Bananas, apples, kiwis, various berries
  • Black bean or chick pea pasta
  • Cheese squares
  • Veggies straws with hummus
  • Veggie/fruit smoothies
  • Chicken
  • Eggs
  • Sautéed veggies

In addition, one day per week I make a big batch of quinoa or brown rice and keep it handy in the fridge for quick meal preparation. When I need it, I add veggies, nuts, seeds, dried cranberries, olive oil, tempeh or whatever else I have in the fridge at that moment. This is so convenient because I can whip something up  quickly for my work lunches and I also have it on days I’m home with the kids.

The Nutribullet is by far my favorite meal prep tool.

To say I use it at least twice a day would be an understatement!  In fact, this is my #1 working mom health tip.  I make everything from veggie smoothies, to salad dressings, to soups and blended coffee drinks.  It makes my life so much easier, especially now that we have kids and time is limited.

The Nutribullet is one of the best inventions of the 21st century I tell you!

I have a vegetable and berry smoothie with 1 tablespoon of Maca powder, flax seed and/or hemp seeds for protein, and acai powder. I alternate my veggies between broccoli, spinach or kale. For the berry part: strawberries, blueberries and raspberries although sometimes I’ll add half a banana or mango.


I also make several mason jars (16oz) of overnight oats on Sundays with a variation of flavors:

  • blueberry/strawberry/raspberry
  • peanut butter and maple
  • banana and walnut
  • almond and raisin

Then I’ll either add ground flax seeds or chia seeds for extra protein and antioxidant benefit. And I’ll top with a dash of cinnamon. These make such an easy breakfast to go!

Mason jars make breakfast healthy and easy.

#2. Sleep as much as possible before a 12 hour shift

Let’s be honest, 12 hour shifts usually end up being closer to 14+ at the end of the day.  And, many studies show that working 12 hour shifts is damaging to nurse health due to the length of time that nurses end up working.  In fact, an increased risk of depression, anxiety, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and even some cancers have all been researched and publicized.

Since the shifts are not getting shorter anytime soon, the best thing that nurses can do to take care of themselves is rest as much as possible before shifts.  Therefore, I make it a huge priority to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep before shifts.  (This was so much easier before we had kids!)

A few things I use to help me sleep better at night:

    • Eye mask and ear plugs. After having kids I realized that I am am incredibly light sleeper.  In fact, even the slightest noises wake me up in the middle of the night.  Sometimes I have difficulty failing back asleep again, which is so frustrating when I work a 12 hour shift in the morning.
    • Restorative yoga poses. I keep a yoga pillow and a yoga mat right next to my bed that I use for restorative yoga poses about 20 minutes before I try to go to sleep.  It helps me decompress my from my day, check in with myself and put me into a snugly and sleepy mood.

A yoga pillow is great for restorative yoga poses!

I keep a yoga mat next to my bed for early morning and night yoga stretches.

#3 Get regular exercise on the off days

I always feel so much better when I get my heart rate up on my days off. The benefits of exercise have been well documented; it is essential for nurse self care.  It is no secret that regular exercise helps control weight, boosts overall energy, improves your mood and decreases stress levels.  Not only does exercise benefit the nurse personally, but it also helps nurses have the stamina to give better care to patients as well.

Need to blow off some steam after a stressful day? A yoga session or brisk 30-minute walk can help. Physical activity stimulates various brain chemicals that may leave you feeling happier and more relaxed.  Which, in turn, will help manage caregiver burden and help you feel your best.

For me personally, yoga has been a total game changer for my stress levels.  But it’s also great to change up the routine a bit, and I enjoy escaping with my headphones for a run and listening to music.  Whatever you do is great, as long as you actually do it!

A blue tooth headset is great to use for a run or brisk walk.

#4.  Wear compression socks

Those who know me know I’m fanatical about compression socks.  Wearing compression stockings helped me work all the way through two pregnancies and I continue to wear them to this day.  They help keep your legs energized, prevent varicose veins, and keep your ankles and feet from getting so swollen after being on your feet all day.  Plus, they come in the cutest styles now.

Compression socks will save your legs and feet!

In conclusion

Being a nurse and mom is already hard enough.

But with a little preparation and focus on your personal well-being and time management you can be both a healthy nurse and mom and give great care to your patients.  It’s time to focus on nurse self care!

We hope this list of working mom health tips for 12 hour shifts helps to make your life a little easier.  Please leave a comment if you have anything you would like to add!

HEY NURSES!  Remember to sign up for your FREE COPY of “The Nurse’s Guide To Health & Self Care” E-book in the sign up box below! (scroll down)

Additional Recommended Reading

Working Mom health tips for 12 hour shifts

Working Mom Health Tips For 12 Hour Shifts

Simple Stress Management For Nurses

Simple Stress Management For Nurses

(This post about simple stress management for nurses may contain affiliate links. See our disclosure page for more information.)

Nurses are more stressed out then ever.

It is no surprise that prolonged stress damages the body.  Yet many nurses are dealing with unchecked chronic stress for years or even decades.  Still, the passion that many nurses have for helping others drives them to continue forward in their nursing careers.  But who is helping nurses?

The unfortunate truth is that nurses themselves are the one who must take care of themselves first.   Nurse safety and well-being is not being taken seriously by the very own hospitals where we work so hard and strive to give only the very best patient care.   Nationwide, it appears that hospital administrators main priority is making money for the hospital, and the health and well-being of their own nurses doesn’t even make the list.

Nurse Stress Relief And Coping Tips

Do some hospitals see nurses as indispensable?

For some nurses, it may feel like it.  Even I have felt that despite my own dependability, clinical knowledge and positive attitude that it wouldn’t matter in the slightest if I left.    The feeling is disheartening.

For example, I became a per diem nurse after the birth of my first child because a unit director stated that they were “unable” to give me consistent scheduling so I could plan day care for my child.  Per diem nursing gives me flexibility to schedule my days to fit my childcare situation, however, now I have no benefits, no disability, no retirement and no maternity leave – and I had another baby this year!  Needless to say, it was a hyper expensive year for us and caused a lot of stress for me.

But, they knew another nurse would come along and fill my spot.  So why be flexible with my schedule so that I could stay?

I still have a passion for nursing, despite the stress.

Workplace stress in nursing is common.  I am not leaving the profession soon because my children are still very small I still do have a strong desire and passion to help others.  So in the meantime I make stress management a huge priority in my life.

If you are a nurse who feels like me, keep an eye out for nurse burnout symptoms that could be wrecking havoc on your overall health and happiness.  And start taking simple steps to help keep stress in check so you don’t end up as a patient yourself.  Nurses shouldn’t be creating unhealthy habits to cope with their stressful nursing careers.  And if it becomes too much where your health is seriously being effected in a negative way, then consider other nursing options away from the bedside.  Nurse, you need to take care of yourself first!

Simple Stress Management Techniques For Nurses:

1.  Watch a funny movie

When was the last time you had a good laugh?  Do you even remember how good it feels to laugh out loud?  Watching a funny movie is a great way to passively  tune out and focus on something more light-hearted.  Especially for nurses who deal with immense stress in the workplace.

Studies show that laughter is so good for your health.  A good laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.  In addition, laughter increases your immune system by decreasing stress hormones and increasing immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies thus improving your resistance to disease.

Laughter makes people feel good, which is exactly what stressed out nurses need.   It releases endorphines, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Studies show that laughter has the power to promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.

Woman watching a funny movie and laughing

2.  Get moving:  endorphins are natural stress reducers

Get your heart rate up on your days off!  The benefits of exercise have been well documented is is essential for nurse self care.  It is no secret that regular exercise helps control weight, boosts overall energy, improves your mood and helps decrease stress levels.  Not only does exercise benefit the nurse personally, but it also helps nurses have the stamina to give better care to patients as well.

Need to blow off some steam after a stressful day? A brisk 30-minute walk can help. Physical activity stimulates various brain chemicals that may leave you feeling happier and more relaxed.  Which, in turn will help manage caregiver burden and help you feel your best.

3.  Yoga:  learn the art of how to relax

Yoga is great stress management for nurses. Compassion fatigue can be overwhelming for nurses and learning how to use yoga for relaxation can help.

study published in Workplace Health & Safety on yoga for self-care and burnout prevention of nurses found that yoga participants “reported significantly higher self-care as well as less emotional exhaustion upon completion of an 8-week yoga intervention.” While the control group demonstrated no change throughout the course of the study, the yoga group showed a significant improvement in scores for self-care, mindfulness, and emotional exhaustion outcomes.

Nurse self care in the form of yoga is scientifically proven to be beneficial:

  • Stress management.  A study published in the National Institute of Biotechnology Information investigated the effects of yoga on stress coping strategies of ICU nurses. After only 8 weeks of yoga the results showed that the participating ICU nurses had significantly better focus coping strategies and a major reduction in perceived mental pressure.  (If that is what can happen after only 8 weeks, imagine the impact a regular, permanent yoga practice could have on stress management levels!).
  • Prevent or eliminate chronic low back pain.  Chronic back pain in the nursing population is a common ailment. An evidenced based review at the Texas Women’s University reported that estimates of chronic low back pain among nurses range from 50%-80%.  Yoga not only increases flexibly, but increases muscle strength and prevents injuries such as chronic lower back pain.
  • Prevent burnout and compassion fatigue:  study published in Workplace Health & Safety on yoga for self-care and burnout prevention of nurses found that yoga participants “reported significantly higher self-care as well as less emotional exhaustion upon completion of an 8-week yoga intervention.”

Woman doing child's pose.

4.  Have a social life

Good friends can help you manage chronic stress.  It is important to find balance when you work as a nurse, and that includes making time for friendships and a social life outside of the hospital.

Nurses with strong social support have a reduced risk of many significant health problems, including depression, high blood pressure and an unhealthy body mass index.  Talking with other nurses who are struggling with the same stressers you are can help provide support when you need it most.

Having a good social support group can help in many other ways:

  • Increase your sense of belonging and purpose as a nurse
  • Boost your happiness and reduce your stress
  • Improve your self-confidence and self-worth
  • Help you cope with traumatic situations in the workplace, such as patient deaths and abusive or combative patient situations
  • Supportive friendships can encourage you to change or avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as excessive drinking or lack of exercise

5.  Meditate

Meditation is the practice of focusing your mind on a particular thought or activity to achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm state.  It is claimed to reduce stress, anxiety and burnout, and enhance resilience.  And stressed out nurses working long, arduous shifts with often changing schedules need this more then anyone.

A few benefits of meditation:

  • Decreased burnout
  • Better focus and ability to ignore distractions
  • Boost compassion
  • Better sleep
  • Stress relief
  • Happier state of mind



Headspace is an app for your phone that has many different meditations each lasting 1o to 60 minutes. If you can find 10 minutes in your day then you have no excuse not to meditate!  Meditation is attainable for even the busiest of nurses!

Like yoga, meditation is a practice. There is no good or bad. It is just what it is at the time. You can keep practicing to train your mind to do better the next time. And then eventually your brain is rewired by the habitual repetition of meditation and it becomes easier.

It is not uncommon for hospitals to have a space for spiritual prayer or meditation for patients and their families.  However, nurses should also be offered a meditative space to clear their heads, and have a quiet moment to themselves.  This would help nurses return to their work environments with renewed energy and focus to give better patient care.

Women meditating on bed

6.  Eat nutritious foods

Nurse break rooms are notorious for having sugary snacks like donuts, cookies, or other unhealthy junk food all within an arms reach.  Sweets are so tempting to nibble on when you are tired and need a little extra energy.  But then a few moments later you crash and are even more tired.   On another note, eating nutritious and easy snacks will keep you energized during a 12 hour shift. 

Pack snacks like these in your lunch bag to help keep your blood sugar levels balanced during your shift:

  • Baby carrots, broccoli or other veggies & hummus
  • Celery and almond butter
  • Strawberries, blueberries
  • Granola and yogurt
  • Almonds or cashews
  • Avocado toast
  • Sliced apples and peanut butter
  • Cottage cheese with pineapple or banana
  • Trail mix

Tips for nurses to make healthy meals fast:  Try making a big batch of quinoa, brown rice or black bean pasta to have handy in the fridge.  These are a few great staples that you can build a nourishing meal around.  When you get hungry you can mix in a protein, veggies, nuts or seeds, dried fruits, or even just enjoy them with a little olive oil and sea salt.   The key is to have healthy food that is easy to prepare BEFORE you get super hungry.

P.S.  HEY NURSES!  Remember to grab your FREE E-Book “The Nurse’s Guide To Health & Self Care” below! (scroll down)

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