Self-Care On-the-Job: How to Treat Yourself Right Over Long Shifts
When most people think of self-care, they think about grand gestures. A spa day or a massage, for example. And while these are great examples of pampering yourself, they’re not the only ways to practice self-care. In fact, the best self-care practices are the ones that become habitual — the ones you can do throughout the day to lower your stress level and improve your mental wellbeing. This consistent approach to self-care is easier than you think, even for busy travel nurses.
Caregiving starts with the caregiver
As a caregiver, it’s a nurse’s job to help patients. But you can only heal the infirmed if you’re healthy! Many nurses make the mistake of putting the health of others above their own and, as a result, their wellbeing takes a back seat. It’s hard to care for patients when you’re at home sick with a stress-induced illness or laid up for a week with something that could’ve been addressed with proactive medicine and rest!
Even worse, nurses who neglect their own health can hamper the recovery of their patients. The last thing you want to do is bring a cold to work and expose someone who is already struggling with immunity.
Self-care isn’t a panacea for wellness, but it’s definitely a contributing factor. Consider the effect of stress on the immune system and on job performance. In one study measuring sleep deprivation in night nurses, 56% of nurses who reported symptoms of sleep deprivation were more likely to make patient errors. Another study found that nurses were twice as likely as the general public to experience stress-induced depression. It only serves to further illustrate the importance of self-care.
Self-care is rooted in wholesome habits
As mentioned, self-care doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. Sure, a spa day is great and can leave you feeling rejuvenated — but an even more practical and beneficial approach is practicing self-care throughout the day. This should include self-care for the mind, body, and soul — a complete continuum of wellness.
There’s always time for self-care — especially when you make it habitual. Here are a few nurse-recommended tips for everyday self-care practices that are proven to work:
- Take a “mindful minute” to breathe deep and clear your mind.
- Take a walk outside on your lunch break to reconnect with nature.
- Complement someone and internally complement yourself on a job well-done.
- Take a few moments to have a happy conversation with a coworker or patient.
- Stay hydrated throughout the day.
- Ask for help when you’re struggling and provide a helping hand to coworkers.
The most important thing you can do to practice self-care is to stop and ask yourself “am I treating myself well” at different points throughout the day. Listen to your body and your inner dialogue and understand what they’re trying to tell you. If you’re harboring excess stress, aches and pains, or emotional discomfort, try to find an outlet.
Many nurses push themselves to be a superhero, which is great — but it shouldn’t come at the expense of your own wellbeing. The old saying goes, “the light that burns twice as bright, burns half as long.” As you strive to go above and beyond for your patients, make sure you’re also being kind to yourself.