As a nurse, it’s your job to care for the physical, mental, and emotional health of your patients. But like many professionals, you might put your own health needs aside. Nurses’ schedules are so hectic and demanding that it’s easy to neglect simple things like stress management, finding time to exercise, eating right, or cultivating emotional and psychological health.
But just as these things are important for your patients’ health, they’re important for your health, too. While you may understandably want to make your nursing duties your first priority, you can’t take care of your patients without first taking care of yourself. Take steps to manage work-related stress, adhere to a regular exercise routine, eat nutritious meals, and nurture your mental and emotional health.
Long shifts, heavy workloads, and professional responsibility can make nursing a stressful profession, but it doesn’t have to be. When you take steps to mitigate workplace stress, you’ll be protecting yourself from a range of health problems linked to stress, including premature aging, weight gain, insomnia, and more. Be realistic about what you can handle at work, and don’t be afraid to say no to additional tasks that will make you feel overwhelmed and create more anxiety. Surround yourself with fun, lighthearted, positive people at work, and try to have some fun on the job.
If you find that nothing you do seems to ease your workplace stress, ask yourself why you stay in your job. Many people find work-related stress most overwhelming when they’re working just for a paycheck, instead of for the joy of it. If that’s you, it may be time to consider changing your career focus. One option is to go back to school for a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree that would qualify you to become a nurse educator, to fill a supervisory position, or become a nurse practitioner.
You should never underestimate the importance of regular exercise to your overall health and happiness. You might feel like you don’t have time to exercise, especially if you’re working long hours and feeling stressed. But the truth is that you don’t have time not to exercise.
You should aim to exercise for at least 30 minutes five days a week. If you’re not currently exercising regularly, you’ll want to work up to that slowly. Start out by exercising for half an hour two days a week and then add an extra weekly session every four to six weeks until you’re exercising five days a week. If you commit to exercising on your days off, that’ll be an automatic two sessions a week, no matter what.
Get up early to get your workout in before work, or stop off at the gym on your way home from work to burn off stress before spending the evening with your family. Look for a gym, yoga studio, or other facility near your home or place of work, or commit to taking a walk on your lunch break.
When you work in a hectic and fast-paced environment, it’s easy to rely on salty, fatty, and sugary fast foods and snacks to curb your hunger, but eating a healthy diet can boost your immune system and prevent most illnesses.
Start your day right with a nutritious breakfast, and bring healthy snacks to work, like baby carrots and hummus, low-fat string cheese, unsalted whole almonds, whole wheat crackers, or fruit. Bring salads, sandwiches, or leftovers from the previous night’s dinner, instead of eating out for lunch. You’ll save money as well as improve your health.
Care for Your Emotional and Mental Health
Mental health is just as important as physical health, but many people have no idea how to cultivate it. You can nurture your mental and emotional health by:
- Pursuing professional and personal goals.
- Cultivating healthy relationships with positive people.
- Following your dreams.
- Enjoying hobbies.
You can also improve your mental and emotional health by practicing skills, whether personal or professional, that help boost and maintain your self-confidence. If you have religious beliefs or a spiritual practice that brings meaning to your life, make time for it.
As a nurse, you spend your days looking after the health of others, but don’t forget to safeguard your own. By managing stress, eating right, exercising, and nurturing your mental and emotional health, you’ll stay healthy enough to keep caring for your patients for decades to come.