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

7 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 my 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)

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)

Happy Baby Pose

Happy Baby Pose

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!

Fit Nurse:  Simple Ways To Exercise As A Busy Nurse Mom

Fit Nurse: Simple Ways To Exercise As A Busy Nurse Mom

To the nurse who is also a momIt is possible to find time for exercise, but you are going to need to get creative.  Being a nurse mom is challenging, and it’s all about finding balance.

Long gone are the days when I could leisurely wake up naturally and decide whether I wanted to take the 9 a.m. or the 11 a.m. yoga class or when I would put my running clothes on in the afternoon and lay around until I “felt ready” to head out for my jog, sometimes several hours later.

Before becoming a nurse and mom, I used to put a lot of thought into the location of my runs.  Where would I go today?  The beach? Or to the running trail? I never even thought about how long I would be out. I just ran until I felt tired and then called it a day.

Now I’m lucky if I get to squeeze in a 20 minute run after I put the kids down at 8PM.  And by that time I’m usually so tired I can barely muster the energy to get out the front door!

For the record, I am happier now than I think I have ever been.  I wouldn’t change anything about all of the blessings in my life that make me so incredibly busy.  I LOVE being a mom and an ER nurse.  But, as a healthcare professional and a person who enjoys a little self-care here and there, I am all too aware that I need to get regular exercise if I want to keep my sanity intact.

Woman doing a plank

What are the simplest ways to exercise as a busy nurse mom?

Over the last month I have been interviewing fellow nurses to find out how they squeeze in a workout while balancing motherhood and 12 hour shifts.  Some of the feedback I received was very encouraging!  The conversations I had with these nurses convinced me that it is in fact very possible to stay fit when it seems that there is no more time in the day.

For me, finding time for fitness has been a trial and error project.  Over the past three years (since my first baby was born) I have tried several methods to squeeze workouts into an already crammed work/life schedule.  Some of these methods worked, some I tried but didn’t stick to, and some never came to fruition.

My personal journey to stay fit along with the information shared with me by my fellow nurse comrades revealed 4 primary ways that nurse moms can successfully find time to exercise.

Simple ways to exercise as a busy nurse mom

It is possible to find ways to exercise as a busy nurse mom.  Be creative!

Fit nurse tip #1.  Work out before the kids get up.

Before kids I never in a million years would have dreamed that I would be awake in time to make it to a 6AM hot yoga class.  But free time is sparse now.  If I don’t make time somewhere then it won’t happen. It’s as simple as that.

The good news is that when I drag myself out of bed early for a workout then I feel amazing for the rest of the day.  Sure, I’m tired, but I would be even more tired if I didn’t exercise at all.  By starting my day with a yoga-induced rush of endorphins not only do I feel better, but I am so much more productive throughout the day.

My goal is to make it to a 6 a.m. class at least 2 times during the week on the days I don’t work.  In addition, I am usually able to fit one early morning class in on the weekend as well.  Sometimes it ends up being only once a week and sometimes if I’m lucky, all three.  But something is always better than nothing!

Fit nurse tip #2.  Work out on your lunch break.

A nurse friend of mine changes into running clothes and goes for a jog during her lunch hour.  Talk about dedication to your personal health!  She says it works for her because she can do it no matter what time her break is.  Additionally, the midday exercise helps break up the day, helps her deal better with stressful patient assignments, and gives her energy for the rest of the shift. And she is a good role model for patients to boot!

(On another note, my husband replaced his lunch hour with an F45 class 3 times a week.   Although he is not a nurse, he is a busy working parent nonetheless. The benefits for him are so obvious. He is noticeably better able to manage work stress and comes home with significantly more energy at the end of a busy work day. And he says he feels a lot better too!)

Fit nurse tip #3.  Work out after the kids go to bed.

I know a lot of nurse parents who make it to the gym or a yoga class after working a 12 hour shift.  This seems to be the most popular time for many parents because the kids are in bed and it’s a good time to work off the stress from the day.  It is an effective way to put the day behind you and do something for yourself after spending 12 hours putting patients’ needs first.

On occasion, I will try to go out for a run or a walk if I still have a little energy left in me, usually during the summer months when the days are a little longer.   Unfortunately, it is also usually when I am the most tired and I really just want to crawl into bed with a book and fall asleep. But I do love listening to music and disconnecting for a little while after a long shift, and a quick run is a relatively easy way to do that!

A post-work run for me is usually pretty quick, 20-25 minutes max.  Unfortunately, if I run too long then I risk not being able to fall asleep and there’s not much worse than that.  After all, sleep is important to the already sleep deprived parent!

Fit nurse tip#4.  Try squeezing in exercise during the days when you are at home with your kids.

Finding new ways to exercise as a busy nurse mom requires some thinking outside the box.  Why not try squeezing in a workout when you are at home with the kids during the day? Besides, isn’t taking care of a baby or toddler already a kind of workout in itself?

Here are few ways to exercise with kids in tow:

  • Turn on a workout video in the living room (good when the weather is poor!)
  • Take the kids for a walk in the stroller
  • Take a stroller strides class with other moms
  • Run around with the kids on the playground
  • Kick a soccer ball around with the kids
  • Try teaching your kids with a Gaiam yoga video (watching my daughter practice yoga just melts my heart!)
  • Turn up the music and dance with the kids (it just doesn’t get more fun then that!)

How do you find ways to exercise as a busy nurse mom?   I very much enjoy hearing about ideas of what others are doing.  Feel free to leave a comment!

Additional Recommended Reading:

Nurse Health: Self Care For 12 Hour Shifts

Nurse Health: Self Care For 12 Hour Shifts

Are you a nurse who works long 12 hour shifts? 

If the answer is yes, that’s awesome!  You are working in an honorable and philanthropically rewarding field.  But unfortunately, if you are like a lot of hardworking shift workers you may at times feel overworked, exhausted and even burned out.  

Everyone knows that 12 hour shift schedules can be extremely demanding.  What are you doing for yourself to ensure that you stay healthy and thrive

With a little preparation and focus on your personal well-being you can be both a healthy nurse and give great care to your patients.  Its time to focus on nurse self care!

Nurse Health: 11 GREAT tips for nurses to THRIVE while working a 12 hour shift schedule:

#1.  Sleep

Nursing schedules revolve around a need for 24/7 patient care.   Sleep deprivation is a real concern, especially for those working night shift.  Nurse self care starts with a good night (or in some cases day) of sleep.  Here are a few tips to encourage healthier sleep habits after you complete a 12 hour shift:

  • Turn off the tv (an hour of sleep is always more important then another episode)
  • Calm your mind and body with a few easy yoga stretches (hint:  yoga props such as a mat, yoga blocks, and a strap can be helpful with restorative stretches).
  • Take a hot shower
  • Try meditation (Headspace is a great meditation app for busy people)
  • Use good ear plugs and a sleep mask
  • Get into bed an hour earlier then you normally do (& see how much better you feel after one week!)
To be a healthy nurse you must get a good night's sleep.

Nurse self care should be a priority.   That includes getting a good night sleep!

#2.  Exercise

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 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.

Exercise is great for nurse health.

Nurse, get your heart rate up!

#.3  Grocery shop 

Grocery shopping is so important for nurses and other hospital workers to ensure good nutrition.  It is no secret that healthy food choices are crucial for overall good health and well-being.  Make sure you are filling your plate with high density vitamins and minerals.  You simply can’t maintain good energy and stamina over a 12 hour shift on sugary snacks and fast food!

Plan ahead by creating a grocery list of the foods you want to eat while you are at work.  That way you wont be tempted to reach for something unhealthy when you have a few moments to eat in-between caring for patients.

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.

a well balanced diet is important for nurse health and wellness.

A well balanced diet is important for nurse health and wellness.

#4.  Eat a healthy breakfast

Studies show that eating a nutritious breakfast (as opposed to the dougnuts and other goodies often found in the breakroom) can help give you:

  • More strength and endurance to engage in physical activity and maintaing stamina to survive through a 12 hour shift.  
  • Improved concentration, which can help you give better patient care. 
  • A diet higher in complete nutriants, vitamins and minerals.

Tips for nurses to ensure that you have a nutritious meal ready before each 12 hour shift:  Make several mason jars of overnight oats with a variation of these flavors: blueberry/strawberry/raspberry, peanut butter and maple, banana and walnut, or almond and raisin.  You can add ground flaxseed or chia seeds for extra protein and antioxidant benefit. Then top it off with a dash of cinnamon for a delicious ready-to-eat breakfast.

Oats: a simple yet nutritious way to start a 12 hour shift!

Oats: a simple yet nutritious way to start a 12 hour shift (nurse self care can be tasty!)

#5.  Pack your lunch 

Packing a lunch will help ensure that you make wise food choices when you are in the middle of a shift and starting to feel tired.  And it will save you a little money to boot!   

Here are a few items I use for packing my lunch that help me through every 12 hour shift:

Healthy nurse habit:  pack your lunch!

Healthy nurse habit: pack your lunch!


#6.  Incorporate healthy snacks into your shift

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
Almonds:  a healthy nurse snack!

Almonds: a healthy nurse snack!

#7.  Don’t overdo caffeine

Many studies suggest that coffee and tea have incredible health benefits while also giving you an extra boost of energy.  Unfortunately caffeine can also have the opposite effect by leading to rebound fatigue after it leaves your system.  Therefore, its a good idea to aim for moderate caffeine intake to help minimize rebound fatigue.

Additionally, one of the drawbacks of too much caffeine late in a 12 hour shift is that it can also cause insomnia.  And nurses need their sleep to help recover from the hard work we do taking care of patients each day!

Extra tip:  Green teas (like this one) can give you an energy boost with extra antioxidant benefits and without the caffeine jitters!

Green tea:  high in antioxidants!

Green tea: a healthy drink for 12 hour shift workers!

#8.  Get good shoes

It is not uncommon for nurses to be on their feet for 8 to 12 hours or longer during a shift.  That is why is it absolutely essential that you wear comfortable and durable shoes during your shift.

I have been alternating between my Dansko clogs and New Balance tennis shoes as a nurse for over 6 years.  My feet thank me for it.  Invest in a quality shoe that is built to protect the feet of busy hospital workers who are on their feet all day.

“I wish I didn’t invest in comfortable, sturdy shoes” said no nurse ever.  

Nurses must invest in good shoes to maintain foot health.

Nurses must invest in good shoes to maintain foot health.


#9.  Remember to drink water

Have you ever worked an entire shift and realized at the end that you forgot to drink water for the entire day.  It is so easy to do when you are extremely busy with back to back patients and heavy work assignments. 

Invest in a good water bottle with a seal-able lid (to prevent accidental spillage).  Keep it where you do most of your charting in the nurses station.  And try to make it a priority to drink your water every hour during your shift to stay hydrated.

Here are a few favorites:

Make you own chia seed water:  Add 3 tbsp of organic chia seeds to your water bottle and mix well (you can add more or less to your liking).  Within a few hours the seeds will blow up in size and into a gelatinous consistency.  

(Chia seeds are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, rich in antioxidants, fiber, iron and calcium.  Just another easy way to add nutrients into your busy day!) 

Drink water throughout your 12 hour shift and stay hydrated!

Drink water throughout your 12 hour shift and stay hydrated!

#10.  Wear compression stocks

Compression socks or stockings are a non-negotiable for healthcare workers who are on their feet for 12 hour shifts!  Here are 3 very important reasons why compression socks are a must-have for every shift worker:

  • Prevention of varicose veins:  Standing for long periods of time causes valves in the veins to become weakened, causing blood to collect in the veins. This causes the veins to enlarge, increase in pressure and stretch, causing unsightly varicose veins.
  • Improved blood flow and decreased risk of blood clots:  A study by The Society of Occupational Medicine found that wearing compression stockings significantly decreased lower limb venous pressure in nurses who stood for very long hours. 
  • Decreased swelling of ankles and feet:  Swollen ankles and feet are a common side effect of being on ones feet for a 12 hour shift.  

Many nurses who wear compression socks say that their legs “feel more energized” after a 12 hour shift.  Pregnant shift workers are especially at risk of leg swelling (due to increased blood volumes during pregnancy) and should consider wearing them to prevent venous issues.

Nurse health: wear compression socks for venous health

Nurse health & your venous system: wear compression socks!

#11.  Do yoga 

Nurses need yoga, period.  Not only does yoga replenishes depleted reserves after a 12 hour shift,  but a relaxed and more focused nurse is able to give better patient care.  

Yoga’s amazing benefits on physical and mental health are well documented in literature. The Mayo clinic has stated that “yoga may help reduce stress, lower blood pressure and lower your heart rate” among many other benefits.

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

  • Stress management. 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.”  
Nurses need to practice yoga for self care

Nurses need to practice yoga for self care.

Are you a nurse who is experiencing burnout and want to live a healthier life?  Nurse self care should not be an afterthought. Do you have any other self care tips for nurses that you would like to add? Leave a comment! 

 

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