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!

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7 Energizing Yoga Poses For Nurses (With Photos!)

7 Energizing Yoga Poses For Nurses (With Photos!)

Here are seven great yoga poses for nurses to start their shifts off on the right foot.

(This post is not a substitution for medical care.  Please consult with your physician before starting any exercise routine.  This post also contains affiliate links.  You can find my disclosure page here.)

Nurse practicing yoga pose

7 Energizing Yoga Poses For Nurses

What do you think would happen if every nurse did an energizing 20-minute yoga routine before every shift?  

Its likely nurses have a chance to clear their heads, connect with themselves, and give themselves a moment to prepare for the busy 12-hour shift ahead.  Not a bad way to start off the day.

Many nurses may underestimate the physical and mental wear-and-tear of long shifts.  The start the day fueled on cups of coffee and then they are not getting the rest and recovery they need afterward.

So, as nurses, we must do the best we can to take care of ourselves the best we can (obviously no one else at the hospital is going to help up out with that).  This includes giving our bodies the rest, rejuvenation and tender love that we give to our patients each shift!  No more self-sacrificing attitudes!

Yoga is a fantastic way for nurses to reconnect with their bodies and make sure they are in a healthy and happy mental state – both before and after a nursing shift.

7 Energizing Yoga Poses For Nurses To Start The Shift Off Right:

#1.  Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

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Mountain Pose is a great yoga pose for nurses to start within the morning. Ground your feet and press evenly through all four corners of each foot.  Stretch your arms towards the floor and draw your abdominals in and up.

Hold for five to eight breaths to get focused and ready to move deeper into your practice.

Benefits of Mountain Pose:

  • Improves posture
  • Strengthens thighs, knees, and ankles
  • Increases awareness
  • Increases strength and mobility in the feet, legs, and hips
  • Firms abdomen and buttocks

#2. Upward Salute Pose (Urdhva Hastasana)

Upward Salute Pose

This is a great awakening pose for nurses before a shift.  From Mountain Pose, lift your arms up overhead and press your palms firmly together. Keep the tops of your shoulders released away from your ears and activate your triceps. Keep the abdominals engaged and the legs firm.

Hold for five to eight breaths.

Benefits of  Upward Salute Pose:

  • Stretches the sides of the body, spine, shoulders, and belly
  • Tones the thighs
  • Improves digestion
  • Helps to relieve anxiety and fatigue.
  • Helps create space in the chest and lungs

#3.  Cat-Cow Pose

Cat Pose

Cat Pose

Start on your hands and knees with your wrists directly under your shoulders, and your knees directly under your hips. Point your fingertips to the top of your mat. Place your shins and knees hip-width apart. Center your head in a neutral position and soften your gaze downward.

Cow Pose:  Inhale as you drop your belly towards the mat. Lift your chin and chest, and gaze up toward the ceiling.

Cat Pose: As you exhale, draw your belly to your spine and round your back toward the ceiling. The pose should look like a cat stretching its back.  Release the crown of your head toward the floor, but don’t force your chin to your chest.

Inhale, coming back into Cow Pose, and then exhale as you return to Cat Pose.

Repeat 5-20 times, and then rest by sitting back on your heels with your torso upright.

Benefits of Cat Cow Pose:

  • Brings flexibility to the spine
  • Stretches the back torso and neck
  • Softly stimulates and strengthens the abdominal organs
  • Open the chest, encouraging the breath to become slow and deep.
  • Calms the mind
  • Helps develop postural awareness and balance throughout the body and brings the spine into correct alignment

#4.  Downward-Facing Dog Pose (Adho mukha svanasana)

Downward-Facing Dog Pose

Downward-Facing Dog Pose

From neutral Cat Cow pose, push your hips up into Downward-Facing Dog Pose.

Press firmly into your hands and roll your up arms outwards. Lengthen up through your torso and keep your abdominals engaged. Actively use your legs to keep bringing your torso back in space.  Bend your knees if needed.

Hold here for eight to ten breaths.

Benefits of Downward-Facing Dog Pose for nurses:

  • Helps build bone density in the arms
  • Builds upper body strength
  • Decreases fatigue
  • Helps to decrease back pain and stiffness.
  • Helps boost circulation by putting your heart above your head

#5.  Warrior I (Virabhadra I)

Warrior I Pose

Warrior I Pose

Step your feet 3 1/2 to 4 feet apart. Raise your arms perpendicular to the floor (and parallel to each other), and reach your hands actively towards the ceiling. Firm your scapulas against your back and draw them down toward the coccyx.

Turn your left foot in 45 to 60 degrees to the right and your right foot out 90 degrees to the right.  Align the right heel with the left heel. Rotate your torso to the right, squaring the front of your pelvis to the front of your mat. As the left hip point turns forward.  Lengthen your coccyx toward the floor, and arch your upper torso back slightly.

Exhale and bend your right knee over the right ankle so the shin is perpendicular to the floor Reach strongly through your arms, lifting the rib cage away from the pelvis.

Stay for 30 to 60 seconds and switch sides.

Benefits of Warrior I Pose:

  • Stretches the chest and lungs, shoulders and neck and belly
  • Strengthens your shoulders, arms, legs, ankles, and back
  • Strengthens and stretches the thighs, calves, and ankles
  • Opens your hips, chest, and lungs.
  • Improves focus, balance, and stability
  • Energizes the whole  body

#6.  Forward Fold (Uttanasana)

Forward Fold Pose

Forward Fold Pose

Stand in Mountain Pose with your hands on your hips.  Exhale as you bend forward at the hips, lengthening the front of your torso. Bend your elbows and hold on to each elbow with the opposite hand. Let the crown of your head hang down. Press your heels into the floor and lift your sit bones toward the ceiling. Turn the tops of your thighs slightly inward. Don’t lock your knees.

Engage your quadriceps and draw them up toward the ceiling.  Bring your weight to the balls of your feet. Keep your hips aligned over your ankles. Let your head hang.

Hold the pose for up to one minute. To release, place your hands on your hips. Keep your back flat as you inhale and return to Mountain Pose. Repeat 2-5 times.

Benefits of Forward Fold:

  • Helps to relieve stress, headaches, anxiety, fatigue, mild depression, and insomnia
  • Stretches and lengthens your hamstrings and calves
  • Opens the hips and can relieve tension in the neck and shoulders.

#7.  Child’s Pose (Balasana)

Child's Pose

Child’s Pose

Child’s Pose is a beginner’s yoga pose often performed to rest between more difficult poses. The position stretches the thighs, hips and ankles and helps relax the body and mind.

Kneel on the floor with your toes together and your knees hip-width apart. Rest your palms on top of your thighs.

On an exhale, lower your torso between your knees. Extend your arms alongside your torso with your palms facing down. Relax your shoulders toward the ground. Rest in the pose for as long as needed.

Benefits of Child’s Pose:

  • Stretches the hips, thighs, and ankles
  • Reduces stress and fatigue
  • Relaxes the muscles on the front of the body
  • Elongates the lower back
  • Improves digestion
  • Calms the mind
  • Rests the body

Care for yourself first through yoga, so you can care better for patients after.

Nurses must get into the practice of taking good care of themselves first, so they can continue to take great care of patients as well.  After all, nurses serve as role models for our patients.   If we don’t take our own health advice, why should our patients listen to us about anything else?

A good way to start is by practicing these energizing pre-shift yoga poses for nurses.  And then see how much better you feel heading into your shifts!

Essential yoga props to start your yoga practice:

After 13 years of yoga practice and have tried many yoga props along the way.  You don’t need much to get started.  Here are a few of the yoga props I use at the studio and at home.

Yoga Mat

I love this yoga mat.   The quality is very good for the price.  I have this exact mat in my living room and after 2 years it still looks brand new.  It is soft with a relatively nice thickness compared to other yoga mats I have tried.  In addition, it has nice grooves that keep the mat in place.

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Yoga blocks (with strap included)

Yoga straps are useful for all levels of yoga practice and can provide support, help with alignment and improve posture.  In addition, I love the Manduka cork yoga blocks because I have had mine for 6 years and they still look brand new!  Unlike foam blocks, these don’t disintegrate over time due to sweat and regular use.  They are also heavier and more sturdy with a trustworthy grip.  It is a good idea to purchase 2 because many yoga poses require the need for two blocks.

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Additional Recommended Reading:

What are you doing to take better care of yourself, nurse?  Feel free to leave a comment below!

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 continually going a 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 precisely 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

* This post contains affiliate links.

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 an excellent 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?) 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 lifesaver for me!).

Also, 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 significant 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 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 can effectively be a working mom at this time. Here is another way to create flexibility in your life:  Try squeezing your workouts 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!

Additional recommended reading:

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 well-being, you can be both a healthy nurse and give great care to your patients.  Its time to focus on nurse self-care!

11 tips to THRIVE as a nurse during 12-hour shifts:

#1.  Sleep

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’s sleep!

Nursing schedules revolve around a need for 24/7 patient care.   Sleep deprivation is a real concern, especially for those working night shifts.  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 than 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 earplugs and a sleep mask
  • Get into bed an hour earlier than you usually do (& see how much better you feel after one week!)

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#2.  Exercise

Exercise is great for nurse health.

Nurse, get your heart rate up!

Get your heart rate up on your days off!  The benefits of exercise have been well documented 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 allows nurses to 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.

#3.  Grocery shop

a well balanced diet is important for nurse health and wellness.

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.

#4.  Eat a healthy breakfast

Oats: a simple yet nutritious way to start a 12 hour shift!

Oats: a nutritious yet straightforward way to start a 12-hour shift (nurse self-care can be tasty!)

Studies show that eating a nutritious breakfast (as opposed to the doughnuts and other goodies often found in the breakroom) can help give you:

  • More strength and endurance to engage in physical activity and maintaining stamina to survive through a 12-hour shift.
  • Improved concentration, which can help you give better patient care.
  • A diet higher in complete nutrients, 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 benefits. Then top it off with a dash of cinnamon for a delicious ready-to-eat breakfast.

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#5.  Pack your lunch

Healthy nurse habit: pack your lunch!

Healthy nurse habit: 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:

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#6.  Incorporate healthy snacks into your shift

Almonds: a healthy nurse snack!

Almonds: a healthy nurse snack!

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

 

#7. Don’t overdo caffeine

Green tea: high in antioxidants!

Green tea: a healthy drink for 12-hour shift workers!

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, it’s 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 additional antioxidant benefits and without the caffeine jitters!

 

#8.  Get good shoes

Nurses must invest in good shoes to maintain foot health.

Nurses must invest in good shoes to maintain foot health.

It is not uncommon for nurses to be on their feet for 8 to 12 hours or longer during a shift.  That is why it is 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 six years.  My feet thank me for it.  Invest in quality footwear 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.

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#9.  Remember to drink water

Drink water throughout your 12 hour shift and stay hydrated!

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 seal-able 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 a few favorites:

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 into your busy day!)

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#10.  Wear compression socks

Nurse health: wear compression socks for venous health

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 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 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 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.  (If that is what can happen after only eight 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.”

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! 

Additional recommended reading:

Travel Nurses Need Yoga To Stay Healthy!

Travel Nurses Need Yoga To Stay Healthy!

If you know anything about me at all, you know that I absolutely LOVE yoga (its a little obsessive actually).

And as you also know, I really love to write about why nurses need to practice yoga.

In particular, travel nurses have a lot on their plate!  They take travel assignments in cities where they’ve never even been and then work in different units with entirely new staff.   And then when they finally think they have everything figured out their assignment ends and they go someplace else!

On top of that, they also have the physical and mental stress that comes with working 12 hours shifts.

Travel nurses need yoga.

By taking care of ourselves we are able to replenish our reserves and take better care of our patients and families.  There is an endless amount of studies on yoga and its amazing benefits on physical and mental health.

As nurses, we need to practice what we preach and help lead our patients by example.  Why should our patients take better care of themselves both physically and mentally if we are not doing it ourselves?

My Yoga Props Essentials:

Gaiam Yoga Mat 

I love this mat because it doesn’t get slippery once I start getting sweaty during a yoga practice.  It is a thicker, more durable mat with a great chakra design.

Yoga Blocks

Cork yoga blocks are the best.  I love these blocks because they are durable and have a really good grip.  They can assist with alignment and help you get deeper into many yoga poses.

Yoga Bolster

These are amazing for restorative chest opening poses!  I have 2 of these in blue and purple.  I use them all the time to help me wind down after nursing shifts.  I also love using the booster to put my hips and legs up the wall after being on my feet for a twelve hour shift!