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More is expected of nurses than ever before.
But despite the many challenges, for most of us, nursing is a calling. We chose this profession so that we could help patients during the most difficult times in their lives.
But who is responsible for taking care of nurses?
The truth is, being a nurse is not for the faint of heart. It is an extremely physical and emotional career and nurses deal with stressful situations such as traumatic accidents, chronic illnesses, difficult patients and families and even death. We’ve pretty much seen it all and then some.
After all, they don’t say that nurses are on the front line of healthcare for nothing!
Nurse compassion fatigue is common in the profession.
The last thing we want to do as nurses is end up as a patient ourselves.
Fortunately, there are ways that nurses can help to rectify some of the wear-and-tear that we do to our bodies. By taking care of ourselves first, we can continue to give great care to our patients and their families.
Stress in the workplace is not going to get easier for many nurses, especially those at the bedside. Now is the time to put your health needs first.
And you can start by giving yourself a little TLC on your days off.
Here are 4 helpful nurse self care products to help manage stress:
These are items I have personally tried, either at work during a 12-hour shift or at home. Using some of these stress relieving items during and after a 12-hour shift has made a world of difference in how I feel. I hope these items help you de-stress and take better care of yourself as well.
How sore are your back, neck and feet after a busy 12 hour shift? The Body Back Buddy is a big winner when it comes to loosening up during and after a busy shift.
I was introduced to the Body Back Buddy by co-worker of mine in the emergency department where I work. He brought it to work with him as a way to help him loosen his muscles during his night shifts. At first glance it looks a little silly, but when he showed me how to use it I couldn’t believe how great it felt on my neck and back.
It didn’t take long for other nurses to ask if they could use it. Mostly, out of curiosity. But it really did help loosen up my neck and back and felt amazing on my pressure points.
In fact, I liked it so much that I ordered one that day and have been using it at home several times a week ever since.
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Here are a few features of this self massage and trigger tool:
- Full-body self-massager for simple, fast relief
- Calm painful muscle knots and aches in your back, neck, shoulders, and more with a few easy moves
- Effective pressure point therapy eases tension headaches and sore muscles & helps athletes (and nurses!) recover
- Single-piece rigid construction – very durable
During National Nurses Week in 2019 I tried this cordless neck, shoulder and back massager during my lunch break in the staff room. I liked it because it stays around the muscles you put it on and doesn’t move around like many self massagers. It also isn’t very loud and applies just the right amount of pressure to the muscles.
This device is great to use during breaks or after a shift at the hospital. It also doesn’t require much effort to use which makes it especially relaxing. And it is cordless, so you can use it anywhere.
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Here are a few features of the cordless neck, shoulder and back massager with heat:
- Cordless & hands-free design: equipped with a built-in rechargeable battery which lasts up to 100 minutes on a full charge.
- Advanced heating: The infrared heat provides necessary warmness to ease muscle tension, stress and promote blood circulation. It can be turned off manually, but will also shut itself off after 15 minutes of using (to prevent overheating).
- Full body relaxation and pain relief: comes with 8 big nodes and 8 small nodes, which provides deep tissue massages on your neck, shoulders, upper back, lower back, waist, foot, tights, calves, legs, feet and arms
- Adjustable intensity and 2 massage directions: The massagers for neck and back cordless have 3 adjustable intensity levels which allow you to get suitable pressure to relieve your muscle pain. And the body massager has built in bi-directional movement control, which also auto-reverses every minute
- One year product warranty guarantee
Meditation has changed my life for the better, especially as a stressed out nurse. In fact, before I started meditating regularly I used to have semi-regular anxiety attacks!
The Muse Brain Sending Headband is for someone who is ready to take their meditation practice to the next level. If you do not already practice meditation I wouldn’t even recommend purchasing this device. (However, if you really want to find a helpful way to find stress relief as a nurse I do highly recommend developing your own meditation practice).
Many studies have shown benefits from regular meditation including reduced stress, lowered blood pressure, increased focus and energy and improved performance in many areas. And, as nurses, we can use all the stress reduction we can get!
Here is how it works: The headband fits across the front of your forehead and wraps around your ears. A metal strip is able to detect electrical brainwaves. When certain brainwaves are very active the weather noise increases. As you calm your mind, the weather noise grows fainter and — here is the genius of the device — if you are very calm for several seconds, you can hear birds chirping. At the end you get a graph of your performance and a score.
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Here are a few features of the Muse Brain Sensing Headband:
- Makes meditation easy– is like a personal meditation assistant
- Muse will guide you to a calm mind: Sometimes your mind is calm and sometimes it’s active – Muse will teach you to recognize a calm mind and help you get there
- Allows you to immerse yourself in meditation: Put on the Muse headband, plug in your earbuds or headphones, start the app, and close your eyes. Immerse yourself within the sounds of a beach or rain forest
- Real-time tracking and feedback: While you meditate, Muse measures whether your mind is calm or active, and translates that data into weathers sounds
- You can review data after each session: After each session, review your data, set goals, and build a deeply rewarding meditation practice that gets better every time
- Comes with a travel safe case
- What is included: Muse: Brain Sensing Headband, Quick Start Guide, USB Recharge Cable (Ear buds NOT Included)
- Limited 1 year warranty
Like many other nurses, I carry most of my internalized stress in my neck and shoulders. This, combined with too much computer work and lifting and pulling patients, often leaves my neck in knots and sometimes the pain keeps me from being able to completely relax.
For the longest time I used a regular old heating pad on my neck and back- but the one I had didn’t really conform well to my body. So one day I was looking though Amazon for something to help my neck and back pain and I came across the Huggaroo.
The design is versatile, if I don’t want it on my back I fold it up so it’s concentrated on my neck and I also like to put in on my chest, almost like a weighted blanket. The quality is great and the fabric is plush but durable. It’s definitely a frequently used staple in our house. I also take it with me when I travel as well!
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Here are a few features of the Huggaro Microwavable Heating Pad:
- Delivers deep, penetrating, moist heat wherever applied
- Melts away pain, tension, and stress with heat, soothing aromatherapy, and deep pressure stimulation
- The perfect heating pad for cramps, neck pain relief or joint pain relief
- Use as a cold compress to alleviate migraine headaches or a cold pack to soothe strains or a fever
- Huggaroo is a market leader, featured in Forbes, Women’s Health, Inc, Parade, Reader’s Digest, etc.
Nurses need to manage stress better so they don’t end up a patient themselves. By setting aside a little time everyday to relax and de-stress, you will be a happier, healthier nurse and better role model for patients.
After all, everybody wins when nurses are taken care of too!!
Additional recommended reading:
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(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 important for good health. In fact, a lack of sleep is connected to everything from 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/or 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 important 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 and/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.
In addition, 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.
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2. Get some exercise
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 odd 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 preparing 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 just use that time to make my own 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
- hard boiled eggs
- cottage cheese and pineapple
- string cheese
- peanut butter and celery
- pumpkin seeds
- overnight oatmeal
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4. Power napping
Tired nurse health tip #4: take power naps to recharge during the day.
Taking a power nap helps refuel your body in the middle of the day.
According to the National Sleep Foundation naps can:
- Restore alertness, enhance performance, and reduce mistakes and accidents. In fact, 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 say it again – nurses should have sleep pods at the hospital they can access during any break. Imagine how much more productive we would be!
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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 huge time-suck, but the light from your cell phone really 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 brain 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. In fact, many nurses are walking several miles and/or 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. Which 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 approximately 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.
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7. Do restorative yoga before bed
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?
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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 are able to get a good night of sleep!
Take care of your health, nurse!
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Additional recommended reading:
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