Busy Nurses Still Need to Stay Healthy
Saying a nurse is busy seems a little redundant, doesn’t it? Generally, nurses live busy lives no matter what type of nursing they do. Healthcare is a field with long hours, a fast-paced environment, high-stress situations, and little time to do anything besides rushing off to their next task.
Health Tips for Busy Nurses
Nurses do it because they love it. They love medicine, they enjoy helping others, and they know they can make a difference. However, it’s a career that comes at a price. Nursing is daunting on a few levels, and one of them is health. Having little time to eat, being emotionally drained, not having much time to exercise (besides the exercise that comes with the job), being focused on others, and balancing their work life and their home life are some common struggles for nurses to face. Fortunately, there are a few tips to help busy nurses have healthier lives.
Having a full, home-cooked, sit-down meal is probably out of the question for an entire shift. However, spending so much time without food is not good either — especially when you need the energy to keep yourself alert and ready to work. For a busy nurse, it’s important to make sure you have a snack somewhere easy to get to for those super busy shifts… which can feel like every single shift. It’s easy to grab a bag of chips or something, but mix in more healthy snacks that won’t leave you feeling sluggish, such as:
- Mixed nuts
- Jerky sticks
- Protein bars
- Dried fruit
Ideally, you’d have fruits and veggies. But these emergency snacks have a longer shelf life and can sit in a drawer or locker for emergencies. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can even make your own quick and healthy snacks.
Taking Conscious Mental Health Breaks
Nursing isn’t just hard on your feet or your sleep schedule, it’s also hard on your mind. Nurses practice keeping an emotional distance from their patients, but there are always times where a certain case will get to you. It’s not just hard to lose a patient, it’s also difficult to see the people around that patient handle traumatic grief. They often look to their nurse for support. That emotional toll paired with exhaustion weighs heavily on even the most seasoned nurse, so for this reason it’s important to take a few mental health breaks per day:
- Practice calming breathing exercises
- Read for pleasure
- Talk to someone
- Write in a gratitude journal
Plan it, do it, and you’ll feel better in the long run.
Even if it’s not a particularly emotional day, the longer you practice taking a mental health break, the better you’ll be at it when you need it.
Making Time for Exercise
A nurse’s whole life is exercise, so it can be daunting to imagine doing more exercise outside of work when you do so many physically demanding things on the job. However, many nurses report having severe knee pain, back pain, and sore feet as a result of their work requiring them to be active so much.
Despite seeming counterintuitive, exercise can help with that. The stronger your muscles are, the better they will handle frequent use on the job.
This doesn’t mean you have to start running marathons or working out for an hour every day, but getting in a few strength exercises during your free time can be the ticket to keeping yourself healthy on the job and off. Not only that, added exercise is great for your mental well-being.
Nurses do so much for others that it’s important to do something for themselves, too. This is, of course, true for everyone. But nursing is filled with people that sometimes don’t know how to treat themselves as well as they treat their patients.
The nursing field has changed a lot over the years, as well. With new electronic health records, enhanced diagnostics, and smarter alarm systems, the job is getting more advanced and the learning curve and inconsistencies are still difficult to navigate. Instead of being bogged down by the stress of it all, treat yourself.
- Take a weekly yoga class
- Walk around the park listening to your favorite playlist
- Get your nails and toes done
- Buy some new scrubs
- Go mountain biking
Everyone’s “treat” is different, but find what’s relaxing to you and spend some time doing it. Reward yourself for doing so much for so many.
Balancing Work and Life
It’s sometimes hard not to bring work home, especially if you’re on-call. It’s common for a nurse’s work life to bleed into normal life because it’s a job that is difficult to leave at the door. Thankfully, steps to improve nurse to patient ratios are helping staffing issues that overwhelm the nursing staff. However, even for the most perfectly staffed hospital, there is often still work to do after your shift is over. In order to find the right work-life balance, you can try:
- Work hard not to compare patients with people in your life
- Begin journaling and make a commitment to leaving certain thoughts in your journal so they don’t plague you at home or at work
- Talk about things with co-workers, family, or a therapist. Balancing work and life doesn’t mean you can’t talk about work at home or home at work; it’s just making sure one doesn’t overrun the other
- Think about one positive thing that happened during your day, every day
Finding the right balance can be hard, but it’s important for your mental health.
A simple commitment to changing your thought process can be the key to balance.
It’s not uncommon for many health professionals to have issues finding and diagnosing their own health problems. It comes down to snacking healthy, taking a mental health break, exercising a little, doing something for yourself, and making an effort to balance work and life.
Mental health is just as important as physical health, and any medical professional will tell you it’s best to work on maintaining health instead of fixing poor health. For nurses, a few tips to keep them healthy in their hectic schedules can be key. So if you’re a nurse, take time to focus on your own health, too.
And if you have a nurse in your life, remind them to take some time for themselves as well.
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