*Post contains affiliate links/Updated from 2/2/18
Are you a dedicated nurse working tirelessly through long 12-hour shifts? Your commitment to this noble and philanthropic profession is truly admirable. However, as with many shift workers, you may sometimes feel drained, overwhelmed, and even burnt out.
It’s no secret that working 12-hour shifts can take a significant toll on your physical and mental well-being. But what steps are you taking to prioritize your health and thrive in your career?
By taking a proactive approach to self-care and making it a top priority, you can ensure that you remain a healthy and effective nurse, delivering exceptional care to your patients. It’s time to invest in your own well-being and prioritize nurse self-care.
Thriving, Not Just Surviving: 11 Tips for Nurses on 12-Hour Shifts
Nurse self-care should be a priority. That includes getting a good night’s sleep!
Nurses are at the forefront of 24/7 patient care, and this means that their work schedules often involve long day and night shifts that can result in sleep deprivation.
However, it’s crucial for nurses to prioritize their own well-being by getting a good night’s rest after completing a demanding 12-hour shift.
Here are a few tips that can help nurses establish healthier sleep habits:
⇒ Unwind Without Screen Time
Avoid watching television or scrolling through your phone before going to bed. Instead, opt for relaxing activities that can calm your mind and body, such as reading a book or listening to soft music.
⇒ Stretch and Soothe
Ease into a state of relaxation with some gentle yoga stretches. Restorative yoga props such as a mat, blocks, and a yoga strap can help enhance the experience and promote deeper relaxation.
Consider using a meditation app such as Headspace to help clear your mind and reduce stress. Taking just a few minutes to meditate before bed can help you feel more relaxed and ready for a restful night’s sleep.
⇒ Block Out Distractions
Invest in a good pair of earplugs and a sleep mask to help minimize any noise or light that might disrupt your sleep.
Try to adjust your bedtime routine by getting into bed an hour earlier than usual. This small change can help you establish a healthier sleep schedule and reap the benefits of a more restful night’s sleep. Give it a try for one week and notice how much better you feel both mentally and physically.
By prioritizing nurse self-care and adopting these simple yet effective sleep habits, nurses can ensure they are well-rested and energized for their next shift, ready to provide the best possible care for their patients.
Nurse, get your heart rate up!
Regular exercise is a vital component of nurse self-care that can have a significant impact on physical and mental well-being. Not only does exercise help maintain a healthy weight, but it also boosts overall energy levels, improves mood, and reduces stress.
Additionally, exercise can help nurses maintain the stamina needed to provide top-quality care for their patients. (Make sure you talk you your healthcare provider before starting a new exercise routine, especially if you have health concerns).
Here are some ideas to keep in mind when incorporating exercise into your nurse self-care routine:
Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise on most days of the week. This can include activities such as brisk walking, cycling, or swimming.
Don’t have 30 minutes to spare? Try breaking up your exercise routine into shorter, more manageable segments throughout the day. Even a 10-minute walk can provide physical and mental benefits.
Make exercise a social activity. Consider joining a workout class or finding a workout buddy to help keep you motivated and accountable.
Mix up your routine. Incorporate a variety of exercises such as strength training, cardio, and stretching to keep things interesting and challenge your body in different ways.
Take advantage of outdoor exercise opportunities. Spending time in nature has been shown to have numerous mental health benefits, such as reducing stress and anxiety.
Don’t forget to warm up and cool down properly to prevent injury and promote recovery.
In addition to its physical benefits, exercise can also help manage stress and reduce caregiver burden. Yoga and other mindfulness practices can be particularly effective in this regard. These types of exercises focus on deep breathing and relaxation techniques, which can help reduce stress and promote a sense of calm and well-being.
By incorporating regular exercise into their nurse self-care routine, nurses can improve their overall health and well-being, better manage stress and caregiver burden, and maintain the stamina needed to provide exceptional care for their patients. So, take the time to get your heart rate up on your days off – it is a win-win for everyone.
#3. Grocery Shop For Healthy Shift Food
A well-balanced diet is essential for nurse health and wellness.
Grocery shopping is so important for nurses and other hospital workers to ensure proper 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 won’t 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.
Oats: a nutritious and easy way to start a 12-hour shift.
Did you know that starting your day with a nutritious breakfast can have a big impact on your 12-hour shift? Studies have shown that a healthy breakfast can provide you with more strength and endurance to:
Keep up with physical activity
Maintain stamina throughout the day
Improve concentration, and
Provide a diet rich in essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.
As a nurse, it’s important to take care of yourself, and preparing a nutritious breakfast before your shift is a great way to start.
One easy and delicious option is to make overnight oats in mason jars with a variety of flavors, such as:
Peanut butter and maple
Banana and walnut, or
Almond and raisin
You can also add ground flaxseed or chia seeds for extra protein and antioxidant benefits. And don’t forget to top it off with a dash of cinnamon for some added flavor!
By taking the time to prepare a nutritious breakfast, you’ll have the energy and focus needed to provide the best possible care to your patients throughout your 12-hour shift. So give it a try and see how it can make a difference in your day!
As a nurse, it’s essential to fuel your body with nutritious food to keep you energized throughout your 12-hour shift. Bringing a packed lunch not only helps you make healthy food choices, but it can also save you money in the long run.
Here are some items that can make packing your lunch for work easier and more enjoyable:
As a hardworking nurse, you deserve to have the energy to make it through your 12-hour shift without relying on sugary snacks in the breakroom. While it may be tempting to indulge in those donuts or cookies, there are healthier options that will keep you fueled and focused throughout the day.
Here are some snack ideas that are easy to pack to maintain energy:
Crunchy baby carrots, broccoli, or other veggies with a side of hummus for protein
Celery sticks with almond butter for a satisfying combination of healthy fat and fiber
Fresh strawberries and blueberries for a sweet and nutritious pick-me-up
Granola and yogurt for a quick and filling snack
Almonds or cashews for a protein-packed option
Avocado toast for a tasty and satisfying snack
Sliced apples with peanut butter for a classic and delicious combination
Cottage cheese with pineapple or banana for a protein-rich and refreshing snack
Trail mix with nuts, dried fruit, and seeds for a convenient and tasty option.
By bringing your own nutritious snacks to work, you can fuel your body and brain without experiencing the sugar crashes that come with breakroom donuts.
Green tea: a healthy drink for 12-hour shift workers!
Green tea is a popular beverage that is enjoyed all over the world, and for good reason! Here are some reasons why green tea is a healthy choice:
⇒ Rich in Antioxidants
Green tea is loaded with antioxidants called catechins that help to protect your body from damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage cells and contribute to aging and diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s. The antioxidants in green tea help to neutralize these harmful molecules and keep your body healthy.
⇒ Boosts Brain Function
Green tea contains caffeine, a natural stimulant that can help to improve brain function, including memory, reaction time, and mood. Additionally, green tea contains an amino acid called L-theanine, which has a calming effect on the brain and can help to reduce stress and anxiety.
⇒ It may Aid in Weight Loss
Green tea has been shown to boost metabolism, which can help to increase calorie burning and aid in weight loss. It also contains a compound called EGCG, which has been shown to help break down fat and reduce the formation of new fat cells.
⇒ Supports Heart Health
Drinking green tea regularly has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease. It may help to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, reduce blood pressure, and improve blood flow, all of which can contribute to a healthy heart.
Incorporating green tea into your daily routine is a simple way to boost your health and well-being. Whether you enjoy it hot or iced, with honey or lemon, green tea is a delicious and healthy choice that you can feel good about.
Nurses must invest in good shoes to maintain foot health.
As a nurse, your job demands long hours on your feet, and it is crucial to take good care of them. Choosing the right shoes can make a huge difference in your comfort and well-being during and after your shifts. Here are some reasons why wearing good shoes is essential for nurses:
⇒ Comfort: Wearing comfortable shoes is a must for any nurse who wants to work without experiencing any foot pain, leg cramps, or backaches. Good shoes offer proper cushioning and arch support, which reduces the pressure on your feet and legs.
⇒ Safety: Wearing the right shoes can also help prevent slips, trips, and falls in the workplace. Shoes with non-slip soles will provide a better grip on slippery floors, decreasing the risk of accidents and injuries.
⇒ Durability: The right pair of shoes can also withstand the demands of the job. Investing in a pair of durable and well-made shoes will ensure that they last longer and need to be replaced less often.
⇒ Style: Good shoes can be stylish too! You don’t have to sacrifice fashion for function. Many brands now offer shoes that are both comfortable and stylish, so you can feel good and look good at the same time.
The Nike Women’s Air Zoom Pegasus Running Shoes have great cushioning and are often worn by runners training for and running in marathons. They have great cushion and arch support without being too heavy.
Also, the cushion provides additional support for the knees and ankles. That is why these shoes are also great for nurses who often walk 15,000-20,000 steps or more in a single shift. There are over 25 other great colors to choose from.
#9. Stay Hydrated: Keep a Reusable Water Bottle
Drink water throughout your 12-hour shift and stay hydrated!
Have you ever worked an entire shift and realized at the end that you forgot to drink water for the whole 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 sealable lid (to prevent accidental spillage). Keep it where you do most of your charting in the nurse’s station. And try to make it a priority to drink your water every hour during your shift to stay hydrated.
Here are some of the most important reasons why nurses (and all healthcare workers) should drink water during their shifts:
⇒ Dehydration can cause a range of negative effects, including headaches, fatigue, dizziness, confusion, and muscle cramps.
⇒ Drinking water can help keep nurses alert and focused, which is crucial in a fast-paced, high-pressure healthcare environment.
⇒ Staying hydrated may help prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs), which can be a problem for people who are not drinking enough fluids. UTIs can be particularly uncomfortable and disruptive for nurses, who may not have easy access to bathroom breaks during their shifts.
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Make your 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 to your busy day!)
#10. Wear compression socks
Nurse health & your venous system: wear compression socks!
Prevention of varicose veins: Standing for extended periods 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 one’s 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.
Nurses need yoga, period. Not only does yoga replenishes depleted reserves after a 12-hour shift, but a relaxed and more focused nurse can give better patient care.
Yoga’s amazing benefits on physical and mental health are well documented in the literature. The Mayo Clinic reports 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:
A study published in the National Institute of Biotechnology Information investigated the effects of yoga on stress coping strategies of ICU nurses. After only eight 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.
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 flexibility but increases muscle strength and prevents injuries such as chronic lower back pain.
Prevent burnout and compassion fatigue.
A 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.”
Nurse Health & Self Care for Nurses Frequently Asked Questions
What is self-care as a nurse?
Self-care for nurses involves intentional actions that promote physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing. It’s a way for nurses to prioritize their own health and wellness so that they can continue to provide effective care for their patients.
What is an example of an effective self-care strategy for a nurse?
An effective self-care strategy for a nurse could be taking regular breaks during their shift to stretch, hydrate, or engage in a calming activity such as deep breathing. Another example could be making time for activities outside of work that they enjoy, such as exercise, reading, or spending time with loved ones.
Why is self-care important for nurses?
Self-care is important for nurses because it helps prevent burnout, reduces stress, and improves overall job satisfaction. When nurses take care of themselves, they are better able to provide high-quality care to their patients.
What are the four basics of self-care?
The four basics of self-care are eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, engaging in regular physical activity, and managing stress.
What are three examples of self-care?
Three examples of self-care could be taking a relaxing bath, going for a walk in nature, or practicing meditation or yoga.
Why do nurses lack self-care?
Nurses often lack self-care because they are so focused on caring for others that they neglect their own needs. Additionally, many nurses work long hours and have demanding schedules, which can make it difficult to find time for self-care.
What are the seven pillars of self-care?
The seven pillars of self-care are sleep, nutrition, physical activity, hygiene, social connection, stress management, and spiritual practice.
What are the ABCS of self-care?
The ABCs of self-care are Awareness, Balance, Connection, and Support. These elements are essential for maintaining a healthy self-care practice.
What are the five domains of self-care?
The five domains of self-care are physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, and professional.
What is a nurse’s barrier to self-care?
A nurse’s barrier to self-care could be a lack of time, resources, or support. Additionally, some nurses may feel guilty for taking time for themselves instead of focusing on their patients.
How can nurses prevent burnout?
Nurses can prevent burnout by practicing effective self-care, setting realistic expectations, seeking support from colleagues and loved ones, and making time for activities outside of work that they enjoy.
Why is nursing the hardest job?
Nursing is considered one of the hardest jobs because it is physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding. Nurses are often required to work long hours and deal with high levels of stress, while also providing compassionate care to patients who may be in pain or distress.
What is the highest form of self-care?
The highest form of self-care is to cultivate a sense of self-compassion and self-love. This involves treating yourself with kindness and understanding, and prioritizing your own well-being in a way that feels authentic and fulfilling.
You can’t pour from an empty cup. Here are a few helpful mom self-care tips to keep yourself happy, healthy, and sane.
Easy, achievable mom self-care tips:
Go to sleep earlier
Sleep is essential for life. That extra episode of television is not worth the agony of next day exhaustion. Browsing through a cell phone before bed will make it harder to fall asleep and may even disrupt the quality of your sleep.
Insufficient sleep hurts mental health. There is a reason sleep deprivation has been used in history as a torture method.
Find a way to relax that works for you
For me, taking a bath is like flipping an internal switch from action mom to zen mom. No matter how crazy the day is, I can turn it off with a bath. I add a few essentials oils and bath salts and voila! It’s a makeshift spa session.
Eat more plants
A plant-based diet
Eat whole, organic foods, including many plants. There is no secret diet menu, no matter what the billion-dollar diet industry is telling you.
Instead of continually focusing on what you are eating, try the 90-10 rule. If you eat healthy nourishing food 90% of the time (plant-based, organic, whole foods), then you can relax and not worry about it the other 10% of the time (have some wine, yummy dessert, chill). On special occasions, it may be closer to an 80-20 rule (because mom needs to have a little fun sometimes too!).
The point is that the occasional indulgence is a beautiful thing so long as you treat your body well regularly.
Besides, we can’t expect our kids to eat well if we don’t. We are responsible for teaching our children healthy habits from a young age so that they grow up with the nourishment they need to grow, learn, and be amazing humans.
Limit your social media
By limiting your social media exposure, you unconsciously stop comparing your life to others, and in turn, decrease your stress levels. Also, reducing your use of social media will leave you less distracted and be more present in more critical daily activities.
We all know that social media is not a real representation of what is going on in people’s 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).
Take the time that social media is stealing from you and read a book, go for a walk, or meet a friend for coffee.
Say no more often
Permit yourself to prioritize the things that are most important to you. Mom’s needs come before getting every little chore completed. The laundry can wait until tomorrow if needed. The toys aren’t doing any permanent damage by lying on the floor a little longer.
Sometimes when I put my daughter down for a nap, I have the intention of getting several chores out of the way. But I end up taking a nap myself instead. And I feel so much better as a result.
It’s impossible to do every little thing. At some point, we have to say no. No apologies, just no.
What are you going to do to take better care of yourself this year?
(This post about how to relieve foot pain from standing all day may contain affiliate links. Please see our disclosure page here.)
How can I relieve foot pain from standing all day for work?
If I had a dollar for every time I hear a nurse say they have sore feet I would be rich! Where I work, it seems like everyone has sore feet at the end of the day.
Nurses know what it feels like to be on their feet for hours at a time. And they need to care for themselves now more than ever – especially when it comes to foot care.
Unfortunately, foot pain for nurses can become a chronic issue, and as much as we want to ignore it, it won’t go away on its own. In fact, as a nurse who writes a lot about nurse self-care, nurse foot pain and sore foot remedies are always on the top of the list. It seems like everyone else wants to know how to relieve foot pain from standing all day as well.
Do your feet hurt after standing for 8-12 hours a day?
It’s no surprise that foot pain is such a common ailment. Did you know that feet are made up of 28 bones and 30 joints (not to mention more than 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments)?
Our feet are very complex structures, yet they carry our entire body weight around. It is no wonder foot pain is a common complaint among doctors, nurses and other medical professionals who spend long shifts on their feet!
If you’re a healthcare or other professional who stands all day and is suffering from debilitating foot pain, there are steps you can take to help prevent or relieve the hurt.
Here are 9 helpful tips for how to relieve foot pain from standing all day:
#1. Choose the right shoe size
Preventing foot pain as a nurse starts with wearing the correct size nursing shoe.
If you’re having foot pain as a nurse or other healthcare professional, the first step is to make sure that you’re not wearing the wrong size shoes.
To measure your feet, put on socks and stand on a flat ruler. Measure the length of both feet and then compare it to the brand’s measurement chart.
It’s important to do this for each individual shoe brand you’re shopping for since sizes can differ. If you’re checking the size of your existing shoe, compare it to the measurement you made.
Also, remember that some shoes stretch out over time, so if you’ve had your shoes for a while, they might be larger than their original size indicates.
#2. Invest in comfortable shoes
Nurses rack up hundreds of miles in their shoes, which is why it’s essential to buy comfortable shoes that give your feet the support they need. In fact, investing in high quality, sturdy nursing shoes might be the best remedy for sore foot pain due to being a nurse who is on their feet for up to 12 hours a shift.
While it may be tempting to go for the softest, spongiest sole, you actually need a shoe with a bit of firmness and arch support to encourage the proper form. The sole should be thick and flexible enough that it will provide shock absorption as you accumulate steps.
#3. Buy shoes made for walking and standing
Running shoes may be very comfortable for running, but they won’t give you the support you need during a 12-hour day of walking and standing. Your feet (and therefore your shoes) strike the ground very differently while running vs. walking and standing, so the two types of shoes are constructed completely differently.
That’s why we recommend nursing shoes, which are specifically designed for maximum standing and walking support. If you absolutely must wear athletic shoes, look for walking or hiking shoes rather than running ones.
#4. Consider orthotic inserts
Relieving foot pain as a nurse might require orthotic inserts.
Shoe inserts promote proper walking and standing posture and help accommodate various foot problems, including corns and bunions. Inserts can also be used to provide additional arch support or shock absorption if the factory-made sole isn’t up to par.
Basic insoles can be purchased over-the-counter at pharmacies and online retailers, but you can also get custom inserts (called orthotics) molded to your feet if you have specific issues that you need to correct.
Tip: If you think that you might need orthotics, make sure that whatever shoe you buy has removable inserts so you can replace them.
#5. Wear compression socks
Gravity is your friend in many ways, but foot pain is not one of them.
Gravity pulls on blood, lymph and other fluids, slowing down their normal flow and encouraging them to pool in your lower body, which leads to swelling. This sluggish blood flow also means that your legs aren’t being replenished with nutrients as fast, which makes them feel tired and achy.
Compression socks provide just the right amount of pressure to keep your blood and lymph flowing to help prevent swelling and fend off lower body achiness.
#6. Elevate your feet after a shift
You can also take steps to reduce swelling after a shift.
Lie flat on a bed or couch, raise your legs above the level of your heart and rest there for 15-20 minutes at the end of your day. This position will harness the power of gravity to drain the blood and lymph from your legs, encouraging it to flow back to your core instead.
If you struggle with a lot of foot swelling and pain, compression stockings–combined with leg elevation–could really make a significant difference for you.
#7. Pamper your feet
A great nurse foot pain remedy after a 12 hour shift is to pamper your feet with a massage and soak them in warm water.
If you were looking for an excuse to spoil yourself, this is it.
A cold bath will help reduce swelling in your feet and calves, while a warm soak will loosen up stiff joints and help you move easier. Add some Epsom salts or essential oils to the water for added benefits and a nice smell.
After you soak, gently massage your feet with moisturizer while you check them for signs of calluses, bunions, injuries and anything else that could lead to foot pain.
#8. Stretch and exercise your legs
Exercising on your days off can strengthen your feet and lower legs and help prevent pain on the days that you work.
Try calf raises, ankle rolls, toe presses, and other similar exercises. Both cardiovascular and strength training activities will build your stamina more generally and make all of your body stronger, including your lower legs.
If your feet are stiff at the end of a shift, it can help to take a few minutes to stretch when you get home. This will lengthen the muscles after 12 hours of work and help keep them from cramping.
#9. Replace your shoes often
Depending on how hard you are on your shoes and how far you walk each shift, you’ll need to replace your nursing shoes every three to six months. This may sound like a lot, but trust us, it’s worth it.
Wearing worn-out shoes increases your chance of developing both temporary and chronic foot problems. It’s much better to be proactive, buy a new pair of shoes and prevent the problems before they even start.
You only have one pair of feet, so take care of them!
I hope you enjoyed this post about how to relieve foot pain from standing all day. Managing foot pain as a nurse or other medical professional is so important.
After all, debilitating foot pain could potentially compromise your ability to do your job and give the best quality patient care that you can.
Follow these nine steps to prevent and manage foot pain so you can take the next step forward in your career!
About The Author
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.
(This post about managing nurse aches and pains may have affiliate links. You can find our disclosure page here).
Written by Deborah Swanson at allheart.com
Nursing is tough on your body – even a single shift can lead to a variety of aches and pains!
Nursing also has incredibly high rates of occupational injuries, with 19,790 nonfatal injuries and illnesses occurring in 2016 due to workplace hazards.
While not every injury is avoidable, there are certain steps that nurses can take to prevent and manage some of the most common complaints.
Here are 9 strategies that will help you manage the aches and pains that come with being a nurse:
#1. Wear comfortable shoes
Nurses must wear comfortable shoes to help manage and prevent back and body pain.
Wearing comfortable nursing shoes in the proper size will go a long way towards preventing and managing foot pain. Invest in good quality shoes, even if they cost a bit more, and replace them every three to six months depending on how much you walk per shift.
If you have foot issues, such as high arches or bunions, custom orthotic inserts will help correct your walking form and accommodate the unique shape of your foot.
#2. Use proper form
Standing correctly and using proper body mechanics will help decrease the likelihood and intensity of the aches and pains that come with working 12 hour shifts as a nurse.
Walking, standing and lifting with good body mechanics will help prevent occupational injuries. Walk and stand with your head high and shoulders back to keep your spine in alignment, while keeping your feet planted firmly on the floor and your knees slightly bent.
When lifting patients or objects, use your legs and not your back, and don’t twist at the waist while holding anything. When in doubt, ask for assistance rather than risk injury to yourself.
#3. Try hot and cold therapy
Using hot and/or cold therapy can help manage some of the minor aches and pains that come with working long 12 hours shifts.
If you’ve ever iced a swollen ankle or soaked your stiff muscles in a warm bath, you’ve used hot and cold therapy.
Heat promotes blood flow to an area by dilating the blood vessels, while cold reduces swelling by constricting them. Just make sure to match the type of therapy to your ailments—heat will make swelling worse, for example.
[amalinkspro type=”showcase” asin=”B01IKS0ANK” associate-id=”mothernurse0b-20″ new-window=”true” addtocart=”false” nofollow=”true” sc-id=”4″ imgs=”8″ link-imgs=”false” specs=”Adjustable hot and cold packs offer therapeutic relief for myofascial, soft tissue soreness as well as stiff joints and aching muscles.~~~Safe for the microwave and freezer to easily rotate between icing and heating injuries.~~~Keep one in the freezer and one bag with your first aid kit ready to be heated up.~~~Includes Comfort Strap ” btn-color=”#ff9900″ btn-text=”View on Amazon” alignment=”aligncenter” hide-prime=”0″ hide-image=”0″ hide-reviews=”0″ hide-price=”0″ hide-button=”0″ width=”750″]Ice Pack (2-Piece Set) – Reusable Hot and Cold Therapy Gel Wrap Support [/amalinkspro]
#4. Book yourself a massage
If you can afford the time and money, booking yourself a massage can really help with serious muscle stiffness.
While you can massage your own feet at home, it’s hard to reach other areas like your back, which is why it helps to see a professional. You can book a standard Swedish massage or, if you can stand it, a deep tissue massage that really kneads the muscles.
Some massages also offer other add-ons such as hot stones or essential oil rubs if you’d like to treat yourself a bit.
#5. Exercise and stretch regularly
Yoga can help relax the body and manage some aches and pains that come with working as a nurse.
The last thing you may feel like doing on your days off is exercise—but trust us, it really makes a difference.
The heat from exercise can help alleviate stiffness and soreness, and it strengthens your heart, lungs and muscles to better withstand a 12-hour shift.
For maximum benefits, you should do a mix of cardiovascular and strength training exercises, which can take many forms. Many nurses find Pilates and yoga especially beneficial for their gentle, low-impact poses and focus on core strength and proper form.
#6. Wear compression stockings and sleeves
Compression socks and stockings can help nurses manage leg and foot swelling.
If you struggle with swollen, aching legs, compression stockings can help prevent them.
Gravity pulls down on blood, lymph and other fluids throughout the day, causing them to pool and making your legs feel tired and painful. Compression stockings provide just the right amount of graduated pressure to keep blood flowing and prevent fluids from pooling.
While compression socks are the most popular type of compression gear among nurses, if you suffer from swelling in other parts of your body—such as the upper arms—other types of sleeves and wraps are also available.
#7. Consider losing weight
Carrying extra body weight puts more pressure on joints and may cause additional body aches and pains for nurses working 12 hour shifts.
You can be unhealthy at any weight, but it’s true that carrying around excess pounds does put a lot of added pressure on your joints and muscles. Nursing already does a number on your body even if you are fit, but extra weight can compound the problem.
Losing even just a few pounds can lighten the load (literally) and help reduce inflammation and pain. Rather than trying to crash diet and lose a bunch of weight at once, focus on sustainable changes you can maintain over time. It’ll be easier to keep the weight off if you slowly transition to a permanently healthy diet rather than eating a very restrictive fad diet for a short amount of time.
#8. Stay hydrated
Keep yourself accountable by keeping a water bottle with you at work
What if we told you there was a magical elixir you could drink that would lubricate your joints, protect sensitive tissues, regulate your body temperature, prevent kidney damage, deliver oxygen to your body, open up your airways, flush out waste and even boost skin health?
Well, that elixir exists—and it’s called water. Yep, good old H20 provides all these benefits to your health, which is why it’s so important to stay hydrated. In general, men need about 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids a day while women need about 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) a day. These fluids can come from food and other beverages as well as water. Make it a point to sip water throughout your shift as well as on your days off.
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#9. Pay attention to warning signs
Don’t ignore aches and pains as a nurse, especially if they are not getting better with rest.
Don’t ignore your aches and pains. That’s how they develop into chronic problems. If you notice yourself developing the same symptoms over and over again after a shift, take action rather than waiting for them to become “something serious.” As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and you don’t want to risk developing a serious chronic condition that will impair your ability to do your nursing job or forces you to go on medical leave (or worse, make a career change entirely). If you take care of your body, in many cases, it will take care of you.
Nursing is hard on your physical health, but you don’t have to take it lying down—er, standing up. Follow these nine preventive tips to help fend off common aches and pains that often follow a 12-hour shift.
And always take care of yourself first, nurse!
About The Author
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.
(This article about tired nurse health tips contains affiliate links. Please see our disclosure page for more information.)
Nurses are needed round-the-clock, so what if getting enough sleep just isn’t possible?
It is no surprise to hear that getting enough sleep is essential for good health. A lack of sleep is connected to everything from an increased risk of obesity, heart disease, depression, and even getting in a car accident on the way home from work.
This is not great news for nurses working long 12 hours shifts, especially if they work mid-shifts, night shifts or swing shifts (alternating day and night shifts).
There is an abundance of information on why sleep is good for us and how to get more of it. Those are easy tips to give when you don’t work long 12+ hour shifts throughout the day and night as a nurse.
But, when you add parenthood into the picture, getting enough quality sleep sometimes becomes impossible. Just ask a shift worker with kids!
Getting enough quality sleep is always the goal
When we sleep, our bodies do a lot of necessary and essential work. Throughout the night (or day, if you are a night shift worker), our body enters REM sleep (our dream state) between 3-5 times. This is controlled by our body’s circadian rhythm, which is also responsible for helping to regenerate every cell in our body.
Without restorative sleep cycles, our body loses the opportunity to regenerate our organs and cells. We essentially lose our battery power. Then we feel tired, cranky, and unwell when we get up the next day.
But patient care is needed 24/7, 365 days a year, and nurses are working some pretty crazy hours.
So the question is: how are sleep deprived nurses supposed to care for their health when getting enough sleep is sometimes not a realistic option?
7 Nurse Health Tips When Getting Enough Sleep Isn’t Possible
Again – getting enough restorative sleep is the goal. But if that is not an option due to your work or family schedule, here are a few tips to take better care of yourself in the interim.
Tired nurse health tip #1: drink matcha tea instead of coffee
Matcha green tea contains vitamin A and C, iron, calcium, protein, and potassium – none of which are found in coffee. Matcha also contains types of antioxidants called catechins, which are known to prevent cancer in the body. Many studies have linked green tea to a variety of health benefits such as weight loss, preventing heart disease, and preventing type 2 diabetes.
Also, matcha green tea provides a less jittery caffeine high than coffee. That is because matcha contains L-Theanine, an amino acid that helps your body process caffeine differently than coffee. As a result, matcha contains much less caffeine than coffee yet has a more sustained energy boost, without the crash later on.
As you probably know, nurse break rooms are filled with junk foods like donuts and cookies. Not getting enough shut-eye may make you more likely to reach for those unhealthy snacks for extra energy. Adding a cup or two of matcha green tea instead can help nurses get a little extra nutritional fuel while also maintaining alertness throughout the day.
Tired nurse health tip #2: get moving for more energy!
When you’re sleep-deprived, the last thing you want to think about is moving more. But, sleep and exercise are inter-correlated with one another in a way that may benefit the sleep-deprived nurse.
First of all, when you are fatigued, getting in a little exercise might be exactly what you need to feel more energized and boost overall health. I know what you’re thinking – lack of sleep makes people not want to exercise. However, even a 20-30 minute brisk walk can help you feel better when you are fatigued.
Second, exercise has long been associated with achieving higher quality sleep. Many nurses work odd hours – so the opportunity for slumber can fall at really strange times. Evidence demonstrates that exercise helps you fall asleep faster and achieve better quality sleep – a benefit to shift workers who have difficulty sleeping during unusual times.
Tired nurse health tip #3: pack your lunch, so you don’t reach for unhealthy snacks when you are tired!
When nurses are tired and short on time, we tend to gravitate towards unhealthy convenience foods. A helpful way to prevent this from happening is to prepare all of your meals and snacks for your shifts ahead of time. By making ahead, you can plan healthy, easy-to-grab snacks instead of reaching for the donuts or other junk food lurking in the break room.
Start by meal prepping one day a week, or if you are like me, just pack your lunch the day before your shifts. As a mom, I’m always preparing food for my kids, so I use that time to make my lunches as well.
Then it’s easy to pack it into your lunch bag the night before.
Here are a few healthy, easy snack foods for tired nurses on-the-go:
apples and almond butter
almonds or trail mix
smoothies (put all the chopped ingredients in a Nutribullet, add liquid and blend when you are ready to eat!)
veggies and hummus or guacamole dip
cottage cheese and pineapple
peanut butter and celery
A lunch bag makes it easier to pack healthier foods for work.
Restore alertness, enhance performance, and reduce mistakes and accidents. A study at NASA on sleepy military pilots and astronauts found that a 40-minute nap improved performance by 34% and alertness 100%!
Naps can increase alertness in the period directly following the nap and may extend alertness a few hours later in the day. Great for nurses working 12+ hour shifts!
Napping is psychologically beneficial and provides an easy way to get some relaxation and rejuvenation.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll repeat it – nurses should have sleep pods at the hospital they can access during any break. Imagine how much more productive we would be!
An eye mask will make it easier to nap during the day.
5. Avoid mindless social media browsing when you do have the opportunity to sleep
Tired nurse health tip #5: sleep when you have the opportunity to sleep.
Not only is 99% of social media browsing a colossal time-suck, but the light from your cell phone messes up your 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 mind that its time for slumber. As a result, smartphone light can disrupt the sleep cycle, which makes it hard to fall and stay asleep.
In other words, better quality sleep = happier, healthier nurse.
6. Drink lots of water (get a water bottle!)
Tired nurse health tip #6: Always have a water bottle with you at work, so you drink enough water during shifts!
Nursing is a physically active profession. Many nurses are walking several miles and are on their feet for most of a single shift. Making sure you are adequately hydrated can make a big difference in how you feel because dehydration can make sleep deprivation even worse.
Water helps carry nutrients to your body’s cells and helps remove waste. This is why when you are dehydrated, you may feel tired and weaker than usual. Consuming a sufficient amount of fluids in beverages and water-filled food (such as fruits, vegetables, and soup) will help replenish the water your body loses throughout your shifts and can help you maintain your energy.
The Food and Nutrition Board set general recommendations for women at approximately 2.7 liters (91 ounces) of total water each day, and men an average of roughly 3.7 liters (125 ounces daily) of total water. However, the reality is that a person’s size, activity level, and medical needs, among other factors, will result in different fluid intake requirements for different people.
Stay hydrated during your shifts by keeping your water bottle close by.
Tired nurse health tip #7: restorative yoga will help you fall asleep faster.
Restorative yoga is a great way to wind down from a shift at work, especially when you need a little TLC. The practice allows you to be still, focus on your breathing, and invite a sense of calm into your body. All of which helps to relax the nervous system and prepare your body for a good sleep.
Yoga also helps relieve stress and anxiety that come with busy nursing shifts, especially when they are exacerbated by chronic sleep deprivation. Start with a few rounds of deep breathing and tune into yourself. Follow with a seated twist, knees-to-chest pose, happy baby, a reclining twist, and then end your practice with your legs up the wall.
Why not start a nightly restorative yoga ritual to help to drift off to sleep peacefully instead of losing sleep by getting stuck on your phone?
Leave your yoga mat out so you are reminded to use it!
Sleep is crucial for overall good health. Unfortunately, many nurses work unpredictable and unusual hours compared to the rest of the world. That often leaves nurses in a position where no matter what they do, getting enough sleep during the night doesn’t always happen.
But when you prepare ahead, there are still other ways that you can take good care of yourself – at least until you can get a good night of sleep!
Here are seven great yoga poses for nurses to start their shifts off on the right foot.
(This post is not a substitution for medical care. Please consult with your physician before starting any exercise routine. This post also contains affiliate links. You can find my disclosure page here.)
7 Energizing Yoga Poses For Nurses
What do you think would happen if every nurse did an energizing 20-minute yoga routine before every shift?
Its likely nurses have a chance to clear their heads, connect with themselves, and give themselves a moment to prepare for the busy 12-hour shift ahead. Not a bad way to start off the day.
Many nurses may underestimate the physical and mental wear-and-tear of long shifts. The start the day fueled on cups of coffee and then they are not getting the rest and recovery they need afterward.
So, as nurses, we must do the best we can to take care of ourselves the best we can (obviously no one else at the hospital is going to help up out with that). This includes giving our bodies the rest, rejuvenation and tender love that we give to our patients each shift! No more self-sacrificing attitudes!
Yoga is a fantastic way for nurses to reconnect with their bodies and make sure they are in a healthy and happy mental state – both before and after a nursing shift.
7 Energizing Yoga Poses For Nurses To Start The Shift Off Right:
#1. Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
Mountain Pose is a great yoga pose for nurses to start within the morning. Ground your feet and press evenly through all four corners of each foot. Stretch your arms towards the floor and draw your abdominals in and up.
Hold for five to eight breaths to get focused and ready to move deeper into your practice.
Benefits of Mountain Pose:
Strengthens thighs, knees, and ankles
Increases strength and mobility in the feet, legs, and hips
Firms abdomen and buttocks
#2. Upward Salute Pose (Urdhva Hastasana)
Upward Salute Pose
This is a great awakening pose for nurses before a shift. From Mountain Pose, lift your arms up overhead and press your palms firmly together. Keep the tops of your shoulders released away from your ears and activate your triceps. Keep the abdominals engaged and the legs firm.
Hold for five to eight breaths.
Benefits of Upward Salute Pose:
Stretches the sides of the body, spine, shoulders, and belly
Tones the thighs
Helps to relieve anxiety and fatigue.
Helps create space in the chest and lungs
#3. Cat-Cow Pose
Start on your hands and knees with your wrists directly under your shoulders, and your knees directly under your hips. Point your fingertips to the top of your mat. Place your shins and knees hip-width apart. Center your head in a neutral position and soften your gaze downward.
Cow Pose: Inhale as you drop your belly towards the mat. Lift your chin and chest, and gaze up toward the ceiling.
Cat Pose: As you exhale, draw your belly to your spine and round your back toward the ceiling. The pose should look like a cat stretching its back. Release the crown of your head toward the floor, but don’t force your chin to your chest.
Inhale, coming back into Cow Pose, and then exhale as you return to Cat Pose.
Repeat 5-20 times, and then rest by sitting back on your heels with your torso upright.
Benefits of Cat Cow Pose:
Brings flexibility to the spine
Stretches the back torso and neck
Softly stimulates and strengthens the abdominal organs
Open the chest, encouraging the breath to become slow and deep.
Calms the mind
Helps develop postural awareness and balance throughout the body and brings the spine into correct alignment
#4. Downward-Facing Dog Pose (Adho mukha svanasana)
Downward-Facing Dog Pose
From neutral Cat Cow pose, push your hips up into Downward-Facing Dog Pose.
Press firmly into your hands and roll your up arms outwards. Lengthen up through your torso and keep your abdominals engaged. Actively use your legs to keep bringing your torso back in space. Bend your knees if needed.
Hold here for eight to ten breaths.
Benefits of Downward-Facing Dog Pose for nurses:
Helps build bone density in the arms
Builds upper body strength
Helps to decrease back pain and stiffness.
Helps boost circulation by putting your heart above your head
#5. Warrior I (Virabhadra I)
Warrior I Pose
Step your feet 3 1/2 to 4 feet apart. Raise your arms perpendicular to the floor (and parallel to each other), and reach your hands actively towards the ceiling. Firm your scapulas against your back and draw them down toward the coccyx.
Turn your left foot in 45 to 60 degrees to the right and your right foot out 90 degrees to the right. Align the right heel with the left heel. Rotate your torso to the right, squaring the front of your pelvis to the front of your mat. As the left hip point turns forward. Lengthen your coccyx toward the floor, and arch your upper torso back slightly.
Exhale and bend your right knee over the right ankle so the shin is perpendicular to the floor Reach strongly through your arms, lifting the rib cage away from the pelvis.
Stay for 30 to 60 seconds and switch sides.
Benefits of Warrior I Pose:
Stretches the chest and lungs, shoulders and neck and belly
Strengthens your shoulders, arms, legs, ankles, and back
Strengthens and stretches the thighs, calves, and ankles
Opens your hips, chest, and lungs.
Improves focus, balance, and stability
Energizes the whole body
#6. Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
Forward Fold Pose
Stand in Mountain Pose with your hands on your hips. Exhale as you bend forward at the hips, lengthening the front of your torso. Bend your elbows and hold on to each elbow with the opposite hand. Let the crown of your head hang down. Press your heels into the floor and lift your sit bones toward the ceiling. Turn the tops of your thighs slightly inward. Don’t lock your knees.
Engage your quadriceps and draw them up toward the ceiling. Bring your weight to the balls of your feet. Keep your hips aligned over your ankles. Let your head hang.
Hold the pose for up to one minute. To release, place your hands on your hips. Keep your back flat as you inhale and return to Mountain Pose. Repeat 2-5 times.
Benefits of Forward Fold:
Helps to relieve stress, headaches, anxiety, fatigue, mild depression, and insomnia
Stretches and lengthens your hamstrings and calves
Opens the hips and can relieve tension in the neck and shoulders.
#7. Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Child’s Pose is a beginner’s yoga pose often performed to rest between more difficult poses. The position stretches the thighs, hips and ankles and helps relax the body and mind.
Kneel on the floor with your toes together and your knees hip-width apart. Rest your palms on top of your thighs.
On an exhale, lower your torso between your knees. Extend your arms alongside your torso with your palms facing down. Relax your shoulders toward the ground. Rest in the pose for as long as needed.
Benefits of Child’s Pose:
Stretches the hips, thighs, and ankles
Reduces stress and fatigue
Relaxes the muscles on the front of the body
Elongates the lower back
Calms the mind
Rests the body
Care for yourself first through yoga, so you can care better for patients after.
Nurses must get into the practice of taking good care of themselves first, so they can continue to take great care of patients as well. After all, nurses serve as role models for our patients. If we don’t take our own health advice, why should our patients listen to us about anything else?
A good way to start is by practicing these energizing pre-shift yoga poses for nurses. And then see how much better you feel heading into your shifts!
Essential yoga props to start your yoga practice:
After 13 years of yoga practice and have tried many yoga props along the way. You don’t need much to get started. Here are a few of the yoga props I use at the studio and at home.
I love this yoga mat. The quality is very good for the price. I have this exact mat in my living room and after 2 years it still looks brand new. It is soft with a relatively nice thickness compared to other yoga mats I have tried. In addition, it has nice grooves that keep the mat in place.
Yoga straps are useful for all levels of yoga practice and can provide support, help with alignment and improve posture. In addition, I love the Manduka cork yoga blocks because I have had mine for 6 years and they still look brand new! Unlike foam blocks, these don’t disintegrate over time due to sweat and 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.