Nurses are under a lot of pressure a lot of the time. Although they have a wonderful job with many benefits and positive parts, it has to be acknowledged that it is not an easy job and that it can be highly stressful. There is always something to do – usually many things to do – and that much pressure can be unhealthy.
On top of the pressure of doing a good job, there is the fact that nursing is a highly physical job; there is a lot of moving around to be done and even lifting of patients, for example. You’ll always be on the go, and on very busy days, taking a break might not be easy. As well as that, you’ll be working in shifts, which can make things difficult, and you will literally have to make life-or-death decisions in some cases.
It’s vital, therefore, that nurses not only take care of their patients’ health but their own health too. If you want to be the best nurse you can be, you’ll have to be as healthy as possible; you just won’t be able to do the job well otherwise. Yet it’s not easy. It’s not as though you are sitting in an office and can easily take breaks or get something to eat. Plus, when you’re so focused on helping others, it’s not always easy to remember to help yourself too. For some, it might even feel selfish.
With all this in mind, here are some valuable tips to help nurses stay healthy. Some are easier to achieve than others, but if you can take the time and make the effort to put at least some of them into practice, not only will you feel better, but you’ll be a better nurse too. Read on to find out more.
When you’ve just finished a 12-hour shift (perhaps even longer in some cases), it’s not very likely that you’ll want to head to the gym to do an hour or more of intense exercise. You might not even feel like moving much at all, especially if that 12-hour shift was one of many you have worked in a row in your role as a nurse. Yet regular exercise is a crucial component of keeping you healthy so you can do your job better and live your life to the fullest.
The good news is that you don’t have to spend hours at the gym if you don’t want to. You don’t even have to spend an hour in a workout class. Studies have shown that exercising for just ten minutes a day is enough to make a difference, as long as those ten minutes include an elevated heart rate and, ideally, makes you sweat. So, it might be an intense ten minutes, but it’s still ten minutes most people, even nurses, can spare.
Of course, you might say that all the physical work you’ve been doing is exercise enough, and that is fair to a point; you have been moving around a lot. However, your heart rate won’t have been raised quite to the point where it is most beneficial in terms of your health, and that’s the difference.
If you’re having trouble fitting exercise into your days, either because your shifts are awkward and don’t give you enough time, or because you’re too tired by the time you finish, there are some ideas that might help you. Firstly, could you take ten minutes first thing in the morning to exercise? You’ll be more awake, and the great thing about exercising in the morning is that it makes you much more alert for the rest of the day. Alternatively, could you exercise on the way to and from work? Could you cycle or walk rather than drive or take the bus, for example.
Finally, on your days off, you really can spare the time to exercise, so even if you can’t manage it any other time, doing 30 minutes to an hour of good exercise when you’re not working can make up for what you’re missing when you are.
When you are a nurse, every hour of sleep you get is important, which is why it’s crucial you have a good sleep schedule. This will make you more productive and efficient, and it will keep you healthy too. When you sleep, your body is using less energy on everyday tasks like moving around and thinking. Therefore, it can divert that energy to other areas of the body, ensuring that anything that needs to be repaired can be. This is why, when we’re sick, we often feel better after resting.
The problem for nurses is that they work shifts, and this can cause issues with their sleep schedule, especially when they have to work during the day for a night shift. Although this can’t be helped, it’s not ideal for your health, so you’ll need to put a few practices in place to assist you. One of the best is to ensure you unwind before bed. This is especially important if you have had a hard shift. Take time to have a soak in the tub, read a book, listen to music, or perhaps go for a walk. Relax as much as you can, and sleep will come more easily.
It’s also a good idea to invest in some blackout blinds or curtains. When the circadian rhythm is working as it should, it will tell the brain and body when it is time for bed. There are a number of things that come together to ensure this happens, but lack of daylight is one of them. If you have to sleep during the day, it can be hard even if you’re tired, simply because of the light shining through the window. Blackout blinds mean that this won’t happen, and you can essentially fool yourself into thinking it’s night.
You’ll also need to think about being disturbed. If you live with other people, particularly children, who will be awake when you’re trying to sleep, make sure they understand that you need to rest and that they should be quiet near your room if they can. This won’t always be possible – they have to have a life as well – but wearing earplugs could be a good option if need be.
When people think of nurses, they probably think of them as just working very hard, sleeping, then going back to work. Unless you understand how shift work functions, this could seem like an accurate depiction of the nurse’s average day. Of course, in some cases, when you have long back-to-back shifts, that is true, but it isn’t always the case – nurses actually have plenty of time to enjoy other things in life other than working and sleeping.
This is because, although their shifts will be long, they will work for around three or four days before having roughly the same number of days off. During that time, they can recover from their work – just like anyone would recover at the weekend and enjoy their time off if they work a standard Monday to Friday job – and take some time for fun. This is actually much more important than you might think.
As a nurse, no matter how dedicated you might be to your job and your patients, if you don’t have a good work-life balance in place, you simply won’t be able to do your job well – you’ll burnout and have to take time off to get over the issue. You might even decide that nursing is not for you if that’s the case. This would be a shame, especially after all the hard work you put in to get where you are. Therefore, having the right work-life balance and ensuring you take some time to have fun when you’re not working is absolutely crucial.
Taking up a hobby can be the answer. Not only is having a hobby fun, but it’s the ideal way to enjoy time off that you might otherwise not know what to do with. Although you can’t join a class that takes place at the same time each week due to your changing shift pattern, you can easily take up any kind of hobby that isn’t quite so restricted. Perhaps you could start collecting a specific kind of item, and you could spend your time off searching flea markets or even go online to find new pieces for your collection. You could take up knitting. You could go hiking. You could write short stories or even a novel. You could watch movies and then analyze them to find hidden depths. You could do anything. As long as you enjoy it, anything can be a hobby.
No matter what it is you’re interested in, you can make that into a hobby that you can do on an ad-hoc basis, ensuring that, when you’re not working, you can relax and enjoy other things, de-stressing and having fun.