Nurses: Protect yourself against stress and burnout this National Nurses Day and beyond
Nursing is an exceptionally rewarding career path and one that promises excellent remuneration, satisfaction and benefits. However, it can also be challenging – which means that it’s vitally important for these medical professionals to take care of themselves physically and mentally.
In this article, we’ll explore how nurses can protect themselves against the strains of the job in their day-to-day work, on their days off and while preparing for the next stage in their career.
Build resilience and achieve a healthy body and mind at work
There are a number of ways in which you can take care of yourself physically and mentally while on shift.
It’s important to practice good time management so that you arrive at your place of work in plenty of time. If you’re stressed and rushing right from the start of your shift, it can be tough to turn things around.
When possible, try to stick to your set breaks and support your colleagues by stepping in to ensure they get down time when it is scheduled.
A supportive atmosphere is important when you’re working shifts in a medical environment, as things can get busy and schedules can be tight. The more you are able to champion your colleagues and help them maintain their own mental health, the more they will do the same for you.
In anticipation of extremely busy shifts, it’s a good idea to stock up on your favorite quick, portable and healthy snacks such as bananas, nuts, protein bars (check the sugar content) and even popcorn. It can be far too easy to grab a handy chocolate bar or bag of chips if you have nothing else on hand.
Finally, don’t hesitate to speak to a supervising member of staff or someone higher up if you have concerns about your own mental and physical health or that of a colleague.
Medical facilities and other nursing environments should try to avoid a culture of overwork. The more you communicate honestly with your manager or supervisor, the easier this will be.
Many people in these positions are very busy themselves and may not notice when someone is struggling, so never feel as if you cannot mention matters of this kind to them in order to keep them informed.
Self-care outside of work
Be aware of how shiftwork is likely to affect your eating and sleeping habits, and take care to retain as much of a routine as possible. Whenever you are at home, try to aim for eight hours of sleep per day, and even allow yourself to take the occasional nap if you feel your body needs it.
You should also eat a nutritionally balanced diet. A great way to do this is to plan your meals and grocery shopping carefully. Consider meal-prepping, which involves purchasing ingredients and preparing full meals, or part of meals, in one cooking session. Store them accordingly in your refrigerator or freezer and label them carefully so they don’t spoil.
Meal-prepping will save you so much time on your days off, allowing you more opportunity to relax. During this time, you can also prepare dishes to take to work for your lunch break.
As a nurse, you are likely to be on your feet for long periods of time. At home, therefore, it can be very tempting to crash out in front of the TV whenever you have time off. However, doing this too frequently can give rise to a range of avoidable “way of life” illnesses.
Instead, we highly recommend that you try to spend a little time outside. Enjoy the fresh air and take care of your mental health by heading for a green space like a park, or even take yourself to the beach.
Pamper yourself with a relaxing scented bath and spend some time giving your feet the treatment they deserve, too. Pick up some soothing scrubs and balms to rejuvenate them, as you’ll have undoubtedly done a lot of walking during your shift.
Make sure to spend time with friends and family as well, as this is a great way to unwind and reduce your stress – but don’t indulge too much, as alcohol in particular can exacerbate low mood and feelings of stress and anxiety.
Think about the future
One of the best things about nursing as a career is that it offers a great many opportunities for progression. Why not spend some of your downtime thinking about where you’d like to be in five years’ time and how you plan to get there?
Start considering the practical steps you’ll need to take. Look into relevant training opportunities and courses that will help you to attain the qualifications you want.
You don’t even need to attend these courses in person as there are a range of remote, flexible options available, such as the post-baccalaureate Distance Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program at Baylor University. This particular program offers training and clinical placements that will allow you to qualify to become an RN in just one year.
Courses of this kind are designed to be arranged around your current job and responsibilities to help you move forward quickly and effectively in your career. However, as you juggle both work and further education, it’s natural to feel stressed. Repressing these feelings of stress or ignoring symptoms of overwork and burnout can be highly problematic and can lead to bigger problems further down the line.
It’s highly advisable that medical professionals in high-pressure jobs arrange regular therapy sessions to talk through any and all of their concerns relating to the job. Don’t bottle things up – if you feel stressed, try to find ways to talk about it with people who will listen and understand.
Nursing is a very rewarding career but also challenging. However, the hard work they do is not overlooked. National Nurses Day, which is celebrated annually on May 6, is an opportunity to show appreciation for those in the nursing sector and the endless ways they contribute to the health of ourselves and the ones we love. With accelerated nursing programs offered at Baylor University, aspiring nurses can get the training they need to start making a difference in the community.
By taking good care of yourself both physically and mentally, and by being supportive of your colleagues doing the same, you’ll find that your career as a nurse becomes still more fulfilling and exciting – and the potential for burnout, stress and physical health problems will be significantly reduced.