Nurse Health: Self-Care For 12-Hour Shifts
*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.
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⇒ Take a Hot Shower or Bath
A warm shower can help soothe your muscles, reduce tension, and promote a night of more restful sleep.
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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.
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⇒ Go to Bed an Hour Earlier
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).
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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.
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Here are healthy snacks that nurses can eat during 12-hour shifts to help sustain energy levels:
- Fresh fruit: Apples, bananas, oranges, and berries are all great options for a quick, healthy snack that provides natural sugars for energy.
- Nuts and seeds: Almonds, cashews, peanuts, and pumpkin seeds are all great sources of protein and healthy fats that can help keep energy levels stable.
- Greek yogurt: A high-protein snack that can be topped with fruit or nuts for extra flavor and nutrition.
- Hummus and vegetables: Carrots, celery, cucumber, and bell peppers are all great options for dipping in hummus, which is high in protein and fiber.
- Hard-boiled eggs: A quick and easy snack that provides protein and healthy fats to help keep you full and energized.
- Energy bars: Look for bars made with whole food ingredients, such as nuts, seeds, and dried fruit, to provide sustained energy without artificial ingredients or added sugars.
- Cheese and whole-grain crackers: A small serving of cheese and crackers can provide protein and complex carbohydrates to help sustain energy levels.
- Smoothies: Blend up a combination of fruit, leafy greens, protein powder, and healthy fats for a nutrient-dense snack that can be easily consumed on the go.
- Popcorn: Air-popped popcorn is a low-calorie snack that provides fiber and complex carbohydrates to help keep energy levels stable.
- Roasted chickpeas: A crunchy, high-protein snack that can be flavored with a variety of spices for added flavor and nutrition.
By choosing nutrient-dense snacks that provide a balance of protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats, nurses can help sustain their energy levels and avoid the mid-shift energy crash.
Additionally, staying hydrated by drinking water or herbal tea throughout the shift can also help maintain energy and focus.
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#4. Eat A Healthy Breakfast
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!
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#5. Pack Your Lunch
Healthy nurse habit: pack your lunch!
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:
- Insulated lunch bag to keep your food fresh and at a safe temperature
- Bento box for portion control and organization of your meals
- Ice holder to keep perishable items like yogurt and fruit cool
- Hot and cold containers for soups, salads, and other dishes
- Mason jars for preparing overnight oats or salads
- Insulated coffee cup to keep your coffee or tea warm
- Reusable water bottle to keep you hydrated throughout the day
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When packing your lunch, try to include a balance of lean protein, whole grains, and plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Some healthy options include:
- Grilled chicken or turkey breast
- Quinoa or brown rice
- Baby carrots or sugar snap peas
- Greek yogurt or cottage cheese
- Apple slices or berries
- Mixed nuts or seeds
By packing your lunch and choosing nutritious options, you’ll have the energy and focus to provide excellent patient care. Plus, you’ll feel good knowing that you’re taking care of yourself too!
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#6. Incorporate Healthy Snacks Into Your Shift
Almonds: a healthy nurse snack!
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.
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#7. Switch Your Caffeine Source
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.
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#8. Wear Supportive Shoes
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.
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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!
Compression socks or stockings are non-negotiable for healthcare workers who are on their feet for 12-hour shifts! Here are three fundamental reasons why compression socks are a must-have for every shift worker:
- 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.
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#11. Do Yoga
Nurses need to practice yoga for self-care.
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.”
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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.
Additional Recommended Reading:
Nurses are a critical part of the healthcare system during public health emergencies. They are highly trusted, compassionate, and willing to go to great lengths to protect their patients. However, with no clear endpoint, COVID-19 is not a typical public health crisis and has created a range of mental health challenges for nurses.
Today’s nurses are working under a cloud of fear and stress, which can lead to physical and psychological symptoms. However, there are steps that nurses can take to minimize the effects of high-stress levels and keep themselves and their families balanced.
A Two-Pronged Approach to Managing Stress
Stress levels cannot be managed through mental health strategies alone. Making healthy lifestyle choices can directly affect an individual’s outlook on life, energy levels, and mood. These five tactics can create a positive impact on mental health:
- Eat regular meals – focus on whole foods that decrease inflammation and build immunity
- Stay hydrated – choose water instead of caffeinated beverages, which can cause headaches and mood swings
- Exercise regularly – a simple walk with the dog can keep anxiety and depression symptoms at bay
- Limit alcohol consumption and refrain from smoking
- Make sleep a priority and practice good sleep hygiene
When it comes to managing stress levels, a nurse’s mental health is just as important as their physical health. Incorporating these self-love strategies into your daily routine can help:
- Practice meditation and/or mindfulness exercises
- Make time for relaxation
- Take mini-breaks throughout the workday to practice deep breathing
- Keep in touch with friends and family
- Limit exposure to media coverage of the pandemic
- Lower expectations of yourself and others, reminding yourself that “done” is better than “perfect”
- Practice positive self-talk, such as “nurses have a purpose and make a difference”
- Talk it out with colleagues or a supervisor, because nurses don’t have to walk this road alone
- Accept help when offered, and ask for support when needed
Help Children Manage Stress
Nurses with children at home have a responsibility to help them understand and respond to our changing world. Children may pick up on the stress that a parent is feeling and struggle to understand what is wrong. Children need to receive reassurance and guidance that’s centered around safety, consistency, and love.
Here are some tips to help children manage stress:
- Maintain a consistent family routine – establish set bedtimes and meal times
- Include children in conversations about the pandemic, but keep their age in mind and help them navigate their feelings
- Set family rules for proper hygiene
- Make routines fun for kids – consider singing during handwashing or developing games for wearing masks
- Remind children that the situation is temporary
- Allow children to help out around the house to give them a way to contribute – young children can carry dishes to the sink and help tidy up, while older children can take on bigger chores such as cleaning and yard work
- Reassure children that the parent is safe in their job
Additional recommending reading:
Symptoms of Excessive Stress
Nurses should self-monitor their mental health status on a regular basis and take action when necessary. Symptoms of depression can include:
- Sleep difficulties
- Persistent crying or sadness
- Feelings of hopelessness
Nurses who are forced to make clinical decisions that conflict with their ethical training may experience signs of moral distress, such as feeling guilty or ashamed. Other symptoms to watch for include:
- Difficulty with decision-making or memory
- Emotional outbursts
- Risky behaviors
- Withdrawal from social interactions
- Unexplained physical symptoms such as headaches, palpitations, and gastrointestinal issues
Nurses experiencing moral distress or consistent symptoms of depression should talk to their supervisor and seek professional help. Early intervention can be critical to working through moral dilemmas and extreme stress. Nurses seeking to connect with a mental health professional can contact their insurance provider for options in their area.
Mental Health Resources
Anyone experiencing suicidal or homicidal thoughts should call 911.
The American Psychiatric Nurses Association lists the following crisis hotlines:
It’s Okay to Take a Break
Nurses who have decided to step away from bedside nursing amid the pandemic should keep in mind that they are not alone. Taking a break and hitting the reset button can be the difference between a nurse developing serious mental health problems and a nurse maintaining their sanity. Some nurses may use this time to further their education from the comfort of their home by enrolling in an online nursing program. An online program can keep the nurse’s knowledge current while potentially offering a pathway to a better position and higher future earnings.
Self-care is vital to a nurse’s health and well-being, especially in the face of a pandemic. Nurses can fill their mental health “bucket” throughout the day using tools of the trade, and perform regular mental health gut checks to ensure that they get the help they need when they need it.
Cindy Blye, RN
Cindy Blye is a nurse-turned-writer with experience in Newborn Intensive Care, Pediatrics, and Case Management. Her works include pediatric nurse certification review materials, policies and procedures, training materials, nursing blog articles, health and wellness articles, and local business reviews. Cindy has three grown children and lives with her husband in North Carolina where she enjoys spending time with her family, gardening, and cooking.
(This post about nurse burnout prevention products contains affiliate links. You can find our disclosure page here.)
Nursing is not a career for the faint of heart. Humans are living longer with more chronic conditions, and nurses are working hard to care for more and more patients. 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 challenging 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, demanding 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 burnout prevention has never been so important.
Nurse burnout prevention needs to be a bigger priority in the profession. Nurses don’t want to also end up as patients too, but due to lack of time for self-care, it happens.
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 attention 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.
Helpful nurse burnout prevention products to help manage nursing stress:
These are items I have personally tried, either at work during a 12-hour shift or at home. Using some of these nurse burnout relief products 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 a 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 did help loosen up my neck and back and felt amazing on my pressure points.
I liked it so much that I ordered one that day and have been using it at home several times a week ever since. This is a fantastic product for long- term nurse burnout prevention.
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 excellent to use during breaks or after a shift at the hospital. It also doesn’t require much effort to use, which makes it uniquely relaxing. And it is cordless so that you can use it anywhere.
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 that 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 eight big nodes and eight 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 two massage directions: The massagers for neck and back cordless have three 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. Before I started meditating regularly, I used to have semi-regular anxiety attacks!
The Muse Brain Sending Headband is for someone 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 want to find a helpful way to find stress relief as a nurse I do highly recommend developing your 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 can detect electrical brainwaves. When specific 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. In the end, you get a graph of your performance and a score.
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 quiet 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 an enriching 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 (Earbuds 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 relax completely.
For the longest time, I used a regular old heating pad on my neck and back- but the one I had didn’t conform well to my body. So one day, I was looking through 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 excellent, and the fabric is plush but durable. It’s a frequently used staple in our house. I also take it with me when I travel as well!
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.
Nurse burnout prevention is possible and we need to manage our stress better, so we don’t end up as patients ourselves. By setting aside a little time every day 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!!
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(This post contains affiliate links. You can find my disclosure page here.)
The benefits of green tea have been touted for decades. But I recently discovered a new shade of green tea that I’m pretty obsessed with called matcha.
I initially tried matcha green tea because I was tired of the caffeine highs and lows that I got with coffee. As a nurse and new mom who works 12 hour shifts in an emergency room I need caffeine, but coffee can be intense. So as an experiment, I decided to switch out my coffee habit entirely with matcha green tea for 30 days to see if I noticed any differences. (And by the way, this was a huge step for me, as I am a coffee addict and a coffee snob!).
I put my Kuerig in the pantry and set my electric kettle in its place. I didn’t want the temptation to brew my regular coffee in a moment of weakness.
And guess what? It has been several months and I’m still drinking a cup of matcha green tea every morning. I feel better when I drink matcha than I do coffee – and I can see a noticeable improvement in my skin as well!
What is Matcha Green Tea?
All green teas, matcha included, are derived from a plant called Camellia Sinensis. As opposed to regular green tea that comes in a tea bag, matcha is 100% green tea leaves that have been ground into a fine powder. That is why matcha is so concentrated and why you only need 1/2 teaspoon per cup!
In addition, matcha is higher in caffeine than
regular green tea so you don’t need to add more then 1/2 to 1 teaspoon per cup of tea. However, you can vary the amount of caffeine based on how much powder you add.
Matcha green tea offers many health benefits compared to coffee.
4 Reasons Nurses Should Drink Matcha Green Tea Instead Of Coffee:
#1. Matcha is healthier for you
Like other green teas, Matcha contains a type of antioxidants called catechins. It is specifically high in a type of catechin called EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), which is 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.
As a nurse who practices evidence-based care, I know it is important to create healthy habits to help prevent illnesses in my future. Matcha is just another way for me to take better care of myself on the job.
#2. Matcha is high in vitamins
Compared to coffee, matcha scores significantly higher in nutrition. It contains vitamin A and C, iron, calcium, protein, and potassium. In addition, the high chlorophyll content in matcha also makes it an effective detoxifier that helps the body rid itself of toxins and heavy metals.
Coffee does not even compete with the nutrition that you get from matcha. By starting the day off on the right nutritional foot with a cup of matcha tea nurses can help meet their nutritional needs. Not to mention, many break rooms are fills with sweets like donuts and cookies. Adding a cup or two of matcha can help nurses get the nutritional fuel they need to continue giving great patient care.
#3. Matcha creates a sense of calm alertness and concentration
As opposed to the highs and lows that many people get with drinking coffee, matcha provides a less jittery caffeine high. That is because Matcha contains L-Theanine, an amino acid that helps your body to 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 front line workers in the hospital, nurses need to stay calm in stressful situations. Our patients lives depend on us to make critical decisions that effect their overall health and well-being. In addition, nurses need to be able to focus clearly, often for hours on end without breaks. A slip-up , such as a medication error, could be deadly.
#4. Matcha gives you whiter teeth
And better oral hygiene as well. Matcha has antibacterial properties that provide vital protection to the teeth, prevent plaque build up and improves oral health. On the other hand, coffee stains the teeth and causes bad breath – a major turn off for patients.
Most nurses I know don’t brush their teeth after drinking coffee or eating meals at work – even if they had the time. Drinking matcha helps eliminate coffee breath and keeps nurses’ oral hygiene healthy to boot.
What you need to make your own matcha green tea at home:
Making matcha green tea at home is an easy as making a pot of coffee. Just add 1/2 teaspoon matcha to 12 ounces hot water. Add sweetener and milk if desired. Enjoy!
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As s a nurse I have been exposed to so many stressful situations. I’ve been cussed at by angry patients (more times then I can count), swung at, kicked, had a full urinal thrown at me, been exposed to, been in the middle of dozens of violent patient situations and take-downs, and been the victim of nurse bullying.
In addition, I see other nurses being treated poorly from patients, family members, doctors and even sometimes other nurses. In fact, it’s not even unusual. And, like other nurses, I am expected to continue giving compassionate patient care without regard to my own well being.
This sacrificial attitude of putting myself last on a very long spectrum of compassionate care is just not going to cut it anymore. The thought of spending an entire career with this amount of wear-and-tear is frightening. Something has to give before I completely fizzle and burn to a crisp.
Nurses need to have compassion for themselves too.
I came out of nursing school with equal parts compassion and adrenaline to save lives and make a positive difference in the world! In fact, I left a very lucrative 10 year medical equipment sales career so I could do just that. I was determined to advocate for and serve my patients to the best of my ability. Compassion was one of my greatest strengths.
As an overachiever for most of my life I have always maintained the attitude that I can do anything as long as I try hard enough. And now, after 7 years as a registered nurse, I am discovering that I am failing at the one thing that actually defines a great nurse: compassion.
The nurse burnout is real.
What I am currently experiencing is a state of physical and emotional exhaustion that is more extreme than anything that I have ever experienced in my adult life. I started my nursing career with the determination to give amazing patient care and here I am, 7 years later, losing my compassion.
(And just so you know – this has been hard for me to acknowledge because I have been a “yes” person my entire life.)
There is beauty in the breakdown.
My nursing burnout amplified after the birth of my first child in 2015. Then, it got even worse after my second child in 2018. In fact, I started writing regularly again out of desperation to find an outlet for the exhaustion and overwhelming fatigue I was feeling as a nurse and new mom. My goal was to find more effective ways to take better care of myself and make my life a little easier. And it actually has helped me find a little reprieve.
But most importantly, it has opened my eyes to the fact that I need to make some huge changes in my life. Most of all, I need to find my compassion again. But this time I am unapologetically focusing my compassion on myself, first.
So, in light of this discovery, I am 100% accepting and honoring these uncomfortable feelings. I am using them as a catalyst to make changes in my professional and personal life. My mental and physical pain will be an opportunity for growth and finding self-compassion.
I rarely take the time to do nothing and reflect. This is a good year for more of that.
I am on a mission for self-compassion.
You know how when you fly in an airplane, there is the safety warning before take-off? Passengers are instructed to put the oxygen mask on themselves first, then help others around them. Because if you pass out from lack of oxygen, you’re not helpful to anyone!
So, here is me putting the oxygen mask on myself first. Some of the changes I am making are professional and some are personal. But they are all things I have been wanting to do for a really long time but haven’t because I was thinking about others’ needs before my own.
Here are my new personal nurse self-care and self-compassion goals:
#1. Work two 12 hour shifts a week instead of three
This one is hard for me because it equates to a significant decrease in pay (and I really like money!). With two toddler age children, child care is our biggest expense (besides housing) and it’s not going away any time soon. But fortunately, we are in a position to afford it for the time being and I want to use the extra day off to spend more one-on-one time with my adorable babies.
In addition, since most hospital shifts are 12 to 13 hours I don’t get to see my children at all on the days that I work. I am also staying away from working back-to-back shifts because I just don’t want to be away from my children for more than one day at a time.
#2. Work fewer holidays and as few weekends as possible
After I had children I really hated having to work on holidays. I have missed so many birthdays, Easters, 4th of Julys, Thanksgivings, Christmas and New Years to be working at the hospital. At some point, I started to resent missing that time with my family. Working on holidays is the norm for many nurses, and I expect to work some. But since I will be working a little less anyway this will also equate to working fewer holidays as well. The same goes for weekends.
Self Care for nurses is more important now than ever.
#3. Continue working per diem
There are a lot of benefits and drawbacks to being a per diem nurse. For example, I love that I can schedule myself to work on the exact days I WANT to work. However, it also means that if I am not needed then I get canceled at 0400 and then I don’t make any money for that day. And since I end up paying for a nanny regardless, that’s a double whammy.
The best part of being a per diem nurse is that it offers me a much better work-life balance. When I worked as a career nurse it was almost impossible for me to secure childcare because my work schedule was always changing. Some weeks I got the schedule I needed and others I didn’t. So on the whole, being a per diem nurse is the right choice for me and my family.
#4. Continue writing and growing my website to help other nurse moms
In 2016 I became a nurse blogger. My venture was born out of my frustration with burnout as a registered nurse and my desire to create a more flexible work-life balance. Writing about nurse lifestyle topics that interest me and exploring ways that nurses can take better care of themselves helps me to take care of myself better too.
My little blog is even starting to make a small monthly income, which absolutely thrills me. I have a dream that if I keep working hard my website will make enough money that I can work one day a week instead of two.
#5. Take a comprehensive course in website management and blogging
Last week I signed up for a comprehensive blogging course that will probably take me the next 6-8 months to complete. I honestly haven’t been more excited to do something for myself like this in a really long time. In fact, I can’t wait to see my progress over the next year!
#6. Explore other medical-related career options
A few weeks ago I interviewed for an aesthetic sales position. Although I didn’t end up working for the company, it did open my eyes to the fact that there are so many other great opportunities that I could be interested in and also fit my skill set as a nurse. A nursing practice can take many forms and I am giving myself permission to continue learning about other nursing career options.
#7. Focus more energy into my family and friends
One of my New Years resolutions this year was to “choose fun.” So many studies have shown that spending quality time with family and friends is incredibly helpful in decreasing stress and improving burnout symptoms. Since I will be working a little less I will have more time to focus my energy on the people who matter most to me.
#8. Enjoy my new fancy gym membership (with childcare on site!)
In the spirit of investing more in myself, I started 2019 off with a gym membership. It has been a complete game-changer for me. In fact, the old me would never have never splurged on a fancy gym membership. Making regular time to work out always makes me feel great, clears my head and gives me more stamina. And my 1 year old loves the Kid’s Club, so it’s a win-win.
As a nurse and mom, my life basically revolves around caring for everyone else, and I am SO GRATEFUL to be able to do that. But if there is one thing I have learned through my own compassion fatigue it is that I need to put the same care into myself as I do into my patients and family. So in the spirit of self-compassion, I am metaphorically putting on my oxygen mask first, before helping those around me.
#9. Practice more yoga
I have been regularly practicing yoga for 14 years. Finally, in 2o15 I completed Yoga Works’ 4 month Urban Zen Integrative Therapy program for medical professionals. I learned how to teach simple yoga, do guided meditation and perform Reiki. It was amazing!
However, in recent years I have not been practicing as much as I would like, and that is going to change. My goal is to incorporate yoga into my busy schedule every single day. Even if it’s just for 10 minutes. Yoga helps me stay balanced in times of great stress, gives me flexibility (both physically and mentally) and has been extremely grounding. In fact, I recently started teaching my 3-year-old daughter a series of yoga poses and it is bringing us both great joy!
These two are already happy about self-care goal #1: Work two 12 hour shifts a week instead of three. Job flexibility has never been so important to me.
Nurse self-care matters. If we don’t care for ourselves then how can we expect patients to listen to our health advice and education? I am taking this opportunity to give myself compassion and hopefully lead others by example.
If other nurses find themselves feeling as unappreciated and burnt out as me I encourage them to find ways to care for themselves first. Otherwise, we are perpetuating a broken system that does not acknowledge that nursing burnout is a real issue and ignoring nurse health and well being.
So nurse, what are you going to do to take care of yourself today? Leave a comment!
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