Taking Care of Yourself During These Hard Times

Taking Care of Yourself During These Hard Times

Moxie Scrubs
4 minute read

While COVID-19 may have put the spotlight on challenges facing healthcare workers, nursing has always been challenging. Many issues affecting the nursing profession such as staffing shortages, an aging workforce, long hours, and lack of sleep predate the COVID-19 pandemic. During the pandemic, however, even more stressors have arisen, amplifiying the challenges for nurses. There are increased volumes of patients seeking medical care, higher acuity patients, increased nursing turnover, personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages, and complex childcare needs just to name a few. 2022 is just getting started and it has shown us that challenges may intensify before they get better.

Nurses give so much of themselves in their jobs- they need ways to replenish themselves. Taking care of yourself is not a selfish act and should be considered an essential part of your day. Prioritizing self-care allows you to nurture your own mental and physical health, provide better care for your patients, and be your best self outside of your nursing job. 

10 Strategies for Self-Care

1. Establish a routine.

Routines are a sequence of events that are regularly followed. Once established, routines provide an automatic process that prevents mental fatigue by decreasing decision-making.. A routine can be as simple as giving yourself five minutes of quiet time before you start the day, a specific amount of time set aside for exercise, or reading for enjoyment at a certain time of day. Choose an activity that brings you joy and is sustainable for your schedule.

2. Get enough sleep. 

According to the CDC, an adult needs more than seven hours of sleep per night. Getting less than the recommended amount of sleep can result in poor health outcomes and reduced productivity. Many nursing jobs can increase the risk for sleep disruption due to long shift times and elevated levels of stress. Try spreading your work shifts throughout the week, or creating a routine (see #1) that helps to quiet your mind prior to sleeping.

3. Take deep breaths.

Deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system. This signals the body to calm down and results in increased oxygen flow to your brain and tissues. One incredible benefit of deep breathing is that it can be done anywhere!

4. Get outside.

Going outside is proven to boost wellness. This simple action increases levels of vitamin D, motivates you  to exercise, and increases exposure to your community.

5. Practice gratitude.

Seek to identify events in daily life in which you acknowledge being thankful. According to a newsletter published by Harvard Health, individuals who consistently practice gratitude have been shown to have improved happiness and satisfaction. A few ideas for incorporating gratitude in your daily routine include starting a gratitude journal, developing prompts at the end of the day to elicit reflection and gratitude, writing thank you notes, or prayer. 

6. Stay connected.

Feelings of connection have been shown to have benefits with overall health and a decrease in the risk for depression. Reach out to friends and family members via phone or text messages. Get involved in a group, virtually or in person, with individuals who share a similar interest. Connect with coworkers outside of work.

7. Get a massage. 

Benefits of massage include releasing muscle tension, improved circulation, stress reduction, and relaxation. 

8. Take your breaks.

You work hard! You deserve to take your breaks while on shift. You need them to reset your brain and improve your ability to concentrate during your long shift. 

9. Say “No” to extra shifts. 

Do you feel a duty to your unit knowing that they are short staffed or surging with patients? Do you have expenses that make the additional money seem extra appealing? You may be tempted to work overtime, but you are not obligated to fix the staffing shortfalls of your unit. Be mindful of your personal limits, set boundaries, and be intentional when deciding whether to work extra shifts to preserve your mental health. 

10. Get involved at work. 

Are you able to identify challenges with staffing or workflow and have ideas for improvement? Get involved at work to improve practices and partner with leadership for implementation strategies. 

Nursing takes hard work, dedication, and mental fortitude. With the multitude of challenges that will face the nursing workforce in 2022, intentionally make room for self-care to protect your own mental health and well-being.

Author Bio

Sarah Villavicencio BSN, RN is a freelance writer and owner of Sound Writing Solutions, LLC. Based in Seattle, she has over 22 years of pediatric clinical nursing experience with medically complex patients. When not at work, she enjoys family time, long walks and smelling the salty sea air.

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