Essential Mental Health Strategies for Nurses

Essential Mental Health Strategies for Nurses

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:

  1. Eat regular meals – focus on whole foods that decrease inflammation and build immunity
  2. Stay hydrated – choose water instead of caffeinated beverages, which can cause headaches and mood swings
  3. Exercise regularly – a simple walk with the dog can keep anxiety and depression symptoms at bay
  4. Limit alcohol consumption and refrain from smoking
  5. 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:

  1. Practice meditation and/or mindfulness exercises
  2. Make time for relaxation
  3. Take mini-breaks throughout the workday to practice deep breathing
  4. Keep in touch with friends and family
  5. Limit exposure to media coverage of the pandemic
  6. Lower expectations of yourself and others, reminding yourself that “done” is better than “perfect”
  7. Practice positive self-talk, such as “nurses have a purpose and make a difference”
  8. Talk it out with colleagues or a supervisor, because nurses don’t have to walk this road alone
  9. 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, 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.

4 Helpful Nurse Burnout Prevention Products

4 Helpful Nurse Burnout Prevention Products

(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.

#1.  Body Back Buddy Self Massager

Body Back Buddy Back Massager, with Poster, Handheld Massage Stick, Trigger Point Massager, Massage Cane (Blue)

 

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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

#2.  Cordless Neck Shoulder Back Massager with Heat

Cordless Neck Shoulder Back Massager with Heat, Deep Tissue 3D Kneading Shiatsu Full Body Massager for Neck Back Shoulder Waist Foot Muscle Pain Relief, Best Gifts for Women/Men/Mom/Dad

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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

 

#3. Muse: The Brain Sensing Headband

Muse: The Brain Sensing Headband, BlackMuse: The Brain Sensing Headband, Black

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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

 

#4.  Huggaroo Microwavable Neck And Shoulder Wrap

Huggaroo Microwavable Heating Pad for Neck and Shoulders Pain Relief, Stress Relief, Back Pain Relief, Migraine Relief, Headache Relief, Anxiety Relief, Cramps | Reusable Heat Pad/Cooling Neck Wrap

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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.

In conclusion

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!!

Additional recommended reading:  

 

4 Reasons Why Nurses Should Drink Matcha Green Tea

4 Reasons Why Nurses Should Drink Matcha Green Tea

(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.

Nurses should drink matcha green tea instead of coffee

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!

Electric Kettle

 

Organic Matcha Green Tea

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Additional Recommended Reading:

9 Personal Self Care Goals I Set For Myself as a Nurse

9 Personal Self Care Goals I Set For Myself as a Nurse

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.

9 Personal Nurse Self Care Goals

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.

9 Personal Self Care Goals I Set For Myself As A Nurse

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!

9 Personal Nurse Self Care Goals

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.

In conclusion

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!

Additional Recommended Reading:

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5 Ways Nurses Can Practice Holistic Self-Care

5 Ways Nurses Can Practice Holistic Self-Care

(This post is about self care for nurses and may contain affiliate links.  See our disclosure page for more information.)

Written by Deborah Swanson at allheart.com.

5 Ways Nurses Can Practice Holistic Self Care

Self care for nurses should not be an afterthought.

Holistic nurse self care:  Are you really taking care of yourself?

While we often associate the concept of “self-care” with things like getting a massage or engaging in some retail therapy (new stethoscope, anyone?), taking care of yourself requires a much more comprehensive approach than just these occasional indulgences. A holistic approach to self-care acknowledges not only your physical health, but also your mental, spiritual and social health as well. Engaging in holistic self-care will help you become the best nurse that you can be and help you stay healthy for both yourself and your patients.

The World Health Organization defines self-care as “the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote, maintain health, prevent disease and to cope with illness with or without the support of a healthcare provider.” A holistic approach to self-care encompasses several different components—including nutrition, lifestyle, environmental and socioeconomic factors—to make sure that you’re not neglecting any aspect of your wellness. Below, we break down each of these elements and explain how nurses can practice them in their daily lives.

5 Ways Nurses Can Practice Holistic Self Cares

Holistic self care for nurses

Nurse Nutrition

When it comes to self care for nurses, we often don’t practice what they preach.  Nurses know that what we eat and drink are major contributing factors to health. While there are many diets and nutrition philosophies out there, the basics of eating healthy are quite simple. Focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and lean proteins; don’t eat too many sugary and/or fatty foods; stay away from highly processed, packaged items as much as you can; and watch your portion sizes. Also seek out a variety of foods to make sure you’re getting all your nutrients.

As for what you drink, make sure to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and avoiding sugary beverages such as soda and juice. When it comes to beverages such as caffeine and alcohol, consume them in moderation and give your body time to process each drink before downing another. Watch the calorie count on your liquids. Beverages can be surprisingly high in calories, sometimes even more than food of a comparable portion size, so check the label before slurping it down.

Additional recommended reading:

Nurse Lifestyle

As for positive lifestyle choices you can make, exercising regularly and getting a mix of cardiovascular and strength-building workouts are really important for a healthy life. Getting enough sleep and maintaining a regular sleep schedule as much as possible are also good choices. Your lifestyle can also include your social and spiritual activity, such as spending time with supportive friends or engaging in a meaningful religious community—both of which can boost your mental health.

Additional recommended reading:

Woman Running

Running is a great fast and easy workout for busy nurses to fit into their schedules.

Environment

Environmental factors that affect your health are often overlooked, but incredibly important. Certain obvious examples come to mind such as exposure to air pollution, lead paint or other toxic substances. But this is far from the only way the environment impacts your health. Access to grocery stores (which sell produce and healthy foods) and public transportation (which encourages walking and mobility) are just two other instances where the environment can impact your health.

You won’t always be able to change your environment, but being aware of how it affects your health is the first step in self-care. And when you can take steps to improve your environment—such as reducing your exposure to toxic chemicals in your workplace—prioritize them and make them happen.

Additional recommended reading:

Nurse Financials

Socioeconomic status encompasses not just how much money you make, but also what level of education and financial security you have as well as your perceptions of your own social class. Low socioeconomic status negatively affects both physical and mental health in a variety of ways. For example, those with low socioeconomic status are not able to afford preventative care or cover the costs of a medical emergency. Financial insecurity also causes stress, which can lead to a variety of other health problems.

Even though it might not seem like traditional “self-care,” make sure you’re taking steps to get or stay financially healthy. Thankfully, the median annual salary for registered nurses in the US is $70,000, so hopefully, you’re being fairly compensated—but smart management of your money is just as important as how much you make. Create a monthly budget, set aside money in savings from each paycheck and spend less than you make. Once you’ve got an emergency fund (3-6 months of living expenses), look into a 401k or other long-term savings plan.

Additional recommended reading:

While “self-care” is often used in a very narrow sense of the word, the concept is actually quite broad and requires a holistic approach to be truly successful. If you only pay attention to one or two aspects of your health but ignore the others, you’ll be doing yourself a disservice as a nurse and as a human being. You deserve to be in the best health possible, so make sure your approach to self-care covers all five components mentioned here.

About The Author

Debbie Swanson, Real Caregivers Program at allheart.com

Deborah Swanson is a Coordinator for the Real Caregivers Program at allheart.com – a site dedicated to celebrating medical professionals and their journeys.  She keeps busy by interviewing caregivers and writing about them and loves gardening.

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