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 Life:  How To Achieve A Work Life Balance

Nurse Life: How To Achieve A Work Life Balance

Many nurses struggle with finding a work life balance.  With increasingly demanding 12-hour shifts, its tough to stay healthy and sane when you are constantly going mile a minute. In time you may become overwhelmed and unsatisfied with your nursing career and your personal life.

Nurse burnout is real.  The journey towards a satisfying work life balance as a nurse is within your control and will only be attainable if you make it a priority. 

Consider doing a little soul-searching.  Take a moment to sit quietly with yourself and pinpoint exactly what you need to simplify your life.  Here are a few things to consider on your journey to creating a better work life balance as a nurse:

a nurse smiling

1.  What are your priorities?

Take inventory of both your nursing life and personal life.  Is it possible you may be juggling too many balls in the air?  What do you envision your life to be like in 5 years? 

Sit down and write a 1, 3 and 5 year plan.  Make specific goals. You simply cannot create a satisfying work-life balance without fine tuning your personal and work goals.  Be brutally honest.  Are you making major life decisions based on what you want to do or what you feel like you should do?

Many people (ahem, nurses!) are inherent caregivers who often give more to others before themselves.  Now is a good time to think about how you will care for yourself firstYour happiness and success is your responsibility.  Start by prioritizing what is most important to you!

2.  Manage your stress

You have to manage your stress to achieve a work/life balance.  This is a non negotiable! 

Here are two helpful ways to manage stress:  #1)  get moving with some type of physical activity (may I suggest yoga?) and/or #2)  meditate (or just take a little time to chill out by yourself).

The benefits of exercise and mediation on  physical and mental health are well documented in literature.  For example, The Mayo Clinic has stated that “yoga may help reduce stress, lower blood pressure and lower your heart rate” among many other benefits (my yoga practice has been a life saver for me!).

In addition, a study published in the National Institute of Biotechnology Information investigated the effects of yoga on stress coping strategies of ICU nurses. After only 8 weeks of yoga the results showed that the participating ICU nurses had significantly better focus coping strategies and a major reduction in perceived mental pressure.  Just imagine how much better YOU could feel as a nurse who commits to a regular yoga practice.

Note:  It doesn’t have to be yoga (although yoga has remarkably changed my life for the better over the past ten years).  Exercise can come in any form you want it to:  running, hiking, swimming, pole jumping, dancing in your living room….  The best kind of exercise is the kind that you actually do!

3.  Create more flexibility

In addition to the (literal) flexibility I get from yoga, I have also found flexibility within my workplace and at home.

12 hour shift schedules are already rigid enough.  To find a work life balance that works for you, consider other alternative scheduling options available in your workplace.

As a nurse and a new mom I found that becoming a per diem nurse allowed me to create a better work/life balance for myself.

As a per diem nurse, I am literally employed “by the day.” Hospitals need the flexibility of per diem nurses so they can manage daily staffing needs in the hospital.  There are many pros and cons to being a per diem nurse and it is the only way I am able to effectively be a working mom at this time.Here is another way to create flexibility in your life:  Try squeezing your workouts in early in the morning before your family is awake.  Sure, you will be tired, but you will also feel incredible for the rest of the day! (I have been practicing hot yoga at 5:30 AM twice a week before my tribe wakes up and it is helping me function so much better).

4.  Think outside of the box

Working 12 hour hospital shifts at the beginning of your career is an excellent way to gain clinical expertise and build a solid career base.  But it is not the only career path within the nursing universe.  There are many unique and alternative avenues a nurse can take!

If you are a nurse suffering from burnout and looking for alternative career paths, you are in luck.   Finding a new way to practice nursing may help you find the work life balance you have been looking for.

Here are a few ideas, just to get your brain thinking outside the box!:

Are you a nurse who is struggling with how to achieve a work life balance?  I enjoy hearing thoughts and ideas from other fellow nurses.  Please leave a comment below!

P.S.  Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter- receive a free gift when you sign up below!

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! 

 

Get your FREE copy of “The Nurses Guide to Self Care”

8 Ways Nurses Can Stay Healthy

8 Ways Nurses Can Stay Healthy

(This post may contain affiliate links.  You can read my disclosure page here.  For more information about collaborating with Mother Nurse Love click here).

Nurse, take care of yourself first.

This statement may appear counter intuitive.  After all, aren’t nurses supposed to be selfless humans who give care to total strangers without concern for their own well being?

Two words:  Absolutely NOT!

Nurses NEED to put themselves first so they have the stamina and good health to care for their patients and their own families.  This is non-negotiable.

Staying healthy as a nurse is a win-win for everyone.  First off, our families get a better version of us.  Second, we have the energy and stamina to keep up with heavy patient workloads.  And third, we have better relationships with our spouses and friends.

Most importantly though, nurses who take care of themselves are happier!

(Attention employers:  studies show that happy, healthy nurses give higher quality of patient care.   This results in a decrease in medical errors and improves patient satisfaction, which is very good for hospital PR and the overall patient experience.  So support your nurses in their quest for a healthier lifestyle!)

8 Simple Ways Nurses Can Stay Healthy When Working 12 Hours Shifts!

8 Simple Ways Nurses Can Stay Healthy When Working 12 Hours Shifts!

Here are 8 ways nurses can stay healthy and practice better self-care on a daily basis:

#1.  Protect your back:  do core work!

As a result of years of heavy lifting many RN’s are suffering from chronic back problems. I know several nurses who have had to go out on disability and sadly still suffer from permanent chronic 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%. There is good news though: the review also presented an overwhelming amount of studies that found that regular yoga significantly reduced symptoms associated with chronic low back pain and greatly improved overall physicality.  Yoga poses (like plank pose) help you create a stronger core.  So say yes to yoga!

By working on your core at home, you can preemptively protect your back from some of the wear-and tear you are going to experience as a busy RN. You STILL NEED to use good body mechanics while lifting and turning patients- this is imperative!  But by working your core you help strengthen your back and help prevent injuries from occurring over the course of your nursing career.

#2.  Wear compression stockings

Compression stockings help increase circulation of blood flow and oxygen by helping increase the velocity, or speed of blood flow. By squeezing on the legs, the veins carrying blood to the heart are compressed. Think of how when you squeeze a hose, it squirts the water out faster. With compression stockings, the same volume of blood is able to move up the leg, but it has less area in which to move.

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 and increase in pressure. The veins then stretch from the increased pressure and cause varicose veins, which can be painful and unsightly!

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. The data found that compression stockings protected against oxidative stress in those who work in long-standing occupations.

(Learn more about the best compression stockings and socks for nurses here!)

#3.  Practice yoga

Yoga stretching not only increases flexibly, but increases muscle strength and prevents injuries such as chronic lower back pain. In a career as physically demanding as nursing, the more physically stable we are, the better care we can give to ourselves and our patients.

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.

Check out Yoga For Nurses for easy to follow instructional videos.  Then, read more about why nurses NEED yoga here.

#4.  Stay away from break room junk

Weight can creep up on healthcare workers who wear comfy, loose-fitting scrubs to work everyday, without you even noticing it!

Patients and staff often like to bring unhealthy snacks like donuts, cakes or cookies into the nurse break rooms as a “thank you” to nurses.  This gesture is very “sweet”  of them, however it doesn’t do our health or waistlines any good.  Suggest bringing in fruit or veggie platters as a healthy treat for nurses instead.

One of the best ways nurses can stay healthy by preventing weight gain is to grocery shop in advance and prepare meals the night before a shift.  That way you are not tempted to order take out or reach for high sugar goodies when you are starving at break time.

One day per week I make a big batch of quinoa and keep it handy in the fridge for myself. When I need it, I add veggies, nuts, seeds, dried cranberries, olive oil, tempeh or whatever else I have in the fridge at that moment. Not only does this help me make healthy lunches for work, but I also have delicious leftovers ready to eat when I get home from a long 12 hour shift.

(You can read more about how I prepare for a 12 hour shift here.)

#5.  Consider working per diem

Per diem means: for each day. As a nurse, I am literally employed “by the day.” Hospitals need per diem nurses to cover staffing needs in the hospital, which can vary by the day or season.

Per diem nursing has been a game-changer for me as a working mom. It is so flexible that I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to go back to being a career RN again.

Here are a few benefits I found when I became a per diem nurse:

  • Significantly higher per hour pay
  • Work as little as one day a week or as many as five days a week (as long as there is a need)
  • Make own schedule (if the hospital doesn’t need me they call me off)
  • Cancel at the last minute (as long as it is by 3am)
  • Add on a shift at the last minute
  • Incredible opportunities for learning and professional growth
  • Work in many different specialties: Emergency Room, Cardiac, Liver Transplant, Medicine, Neuroscience and Stroke, or Oncology, and more
  • Opportunities to “master in” to a unit that is chronically short on staffing needs for a period of time: this guarantees a certain number of hours and gives an opportunity to go to the same unit for weeks or months at a time

Of course, there are also several drawbacks to being a per-diem nurse as well.  It is not for every nurse.  (You can read more about how per diem nursing helped me find a work-life balance here).

#6.  Get good sleep

Nurses work very long hours and night shifts, which interrupts the normal sleep pattern.

Help yourself by creating an environment at home that is conducive to sleeping, even during daytime hours.

  • Install blackout shades in your bedroom.
  • Disconnect electronics that artificially lighten a dark room.
  • Wear an eye mask.
  • Purchase quality ear plugs so that the guy mowing his lawn next door doesn’t wake you up at noon when you are finally entering your REM cycle.

When I first started working night shifts I even went so far as to use “blue blocker” sunglasses when I was driving myself home at 8’o clock in the morning.  (“Blue blockers” are the aviator style sunglasses that Zack Galifianakis and the baby wore in “The Hangover.”  Who new one of the best ways nurses can stay healthy involves also looking stylishly cool?).

“Blue blockers” have orange glass lenses that cut the blue portion of the light spectrum.   This helps prevent the light-inducted melatonin suppression and helps make it easier to fall asleep after seeing the morning sun.

#7.  Meditate for 5 minutes a day

One of the best ways nurses can stay healthy is through meditation.  Meditation is the practice of focusing your mind on a particular thought or activity to achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm state.

A few benefits of meditation:

  • decreased burnout
  • better focus and ability to ignore distractions
  • boost compassion
  • better sleep
  • stress relief
  • happier state of mind

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

I listen to Headspace with my headphones most nights before I go to bed.  It helps me relax after a long day and even helps me to get a better nights sleep.

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

#8.  Practice gratitude

Intentionally choose gratitude.

Try keeping a gratitude journal.  Writing down what you are grateful for consciously reminds you that even though being a nurse is frustrating at times, the good stuff far outweighs the bad. It keeps you aligned with the positive aspects of being a nurse that we should keep our energy focused on:  giving great patient care and helping save lives.

I love being a nurse, despite the fact that is it overwhelming and at times even maddening.  Practicing gratitude helps me recognize how lucky I am to be a nurse who gets to help other people as my profession.   I go home everyday with a sense of accomplishment that even I can “be the change I wish to see in the world.”

Additional recommended reading:

Yoga For Nurses:  3 Crucial Reasons Nurses NEED Yoga

Yoga For Nurses: 3 Crucial Reasons Nurses NEED Yoga

This post contains affiliate links.  For more information, see my disclosures here.

Yoga for nurses:  we need to care for ourselves first.

Yoga’s amazing benefits for physical and mental health are well documented. The Mayo clinic has stated that “yoga helps reduce stress, lower blood pressure and lower your heart rate” among several other benefits.

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 before about why nurses need to practice yoga if you are interested in reading).

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

Why Nurses Need Yoga And The Essential Props You Need To Start Your Practice- Mother Nurse Love

Why Nurses Need Yoga And The Essential Props You Need To Start Your Practice- Mother Nurse Love

1.  Stress management

Nurses have a high workload in many hospital wards. The stress is compounded by managing patient healthcare needs and treatments, daily occupational stressors and even the many frequent changes in technology.

A study published in the National Institute of Biotechnology Information investigated the effects of yoga on stress coping strategies of ICU nurses. After only 8 weeks of yoga the results showed that the participating ICU nurses had significantly better focus coping strategies and a major reduction in perceived mental pressure. If that is what can happen after only 8 weeks, imagine the impact a regular, permanent yoga practice could have on stress management levels.

2.  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%. Fortunately, the review also presented an overwhelming amount of studies that found that regular yoga significantly reduced symptoms associated with chronic low back pain and greatly improved overall physicality.

Yoga stretching not only increases flexibly, but increases muscle strength and prevents injuries such as chronic lower back pain. In a career as physically demanding as nursing, the more physically stable we are, the better care we can give to ourselves and our patients.

3.  Prevent burnout and compassion fatigue

Lack of self-care can easily result in burnout and compassion fatigue in the nursing profession. As much as I hate to admit it, even I have questioned how long I can continue with the immense workload and emotional drain that is required of me as a nurse. Thankfully, I have found a productive way to manage this is through yoga and meditation.   They help reignite my passion for encouraging others to take better care of themselves.

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.” While the control group demonstrated no change throughout the course of the study, the yoga group showed a significant improvement in scores for self-care, mindfulness, and emotional exhaustion outcomes.

My yoga prop essentials list to start your yoga journey:

I have practiced yoga pretty religiously for 12 years and have tried many different things along the way.  These are a few of the yoga props I use at the studio and at home that are good for anyone starting their yoga journey.

1.  Yoga Mat, by Yoga Nat

I love this yoga mat.   The quality is very good for the price.  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.  A Velcro carry strap comes with the yoga mat to keep it rolled up nicely.

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 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.

Yoga for nurses: yoga block

Yoga for nurses: yoga block

3.  Yoga Strap

This yoga strap is useful for all levels of yoga practice and can provide support, help with alignment and improve posture.  This one even comes with a DVD to show several ways you can use the strap.

Yoga for nurses: yoga strap

Yoga for nurses: yoga strap

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 strap

Yoga makes you feel good!

Don’t we all want to feel good in our 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?

Are you a busy nurse or mom who is interested in starting a yoga practice?  Do you already have a yoga practice?  What are your thoughts?  I would love to hear!

Happy yoga practicing!

Sarah, Mother Nurse Love