How Can Busy Nurses Practice Self-Care?

January 06, 2020

Sara Reichard

Registered Nurse, RN to MSN Student

As nurses, we are trained to quickly identify the health and wellness needs of our patients and efficiently provide them with a plan of care to put them on the road to better health.

Too often, though, we neglect this care for ourselves.

Why do we let this happen? And how can we use our own nursing skills to launch ourselves into better health? It’s time we look inward and discuss these important questions.

Why do nurses fall into the trap of poor self-care?

We are busy! Nurses often work 40+ hours a week and take on additional shifts when our floor and co-workers need a hand. And it’s not just the amount of work but the nature of the work. The nursing unit is typically filled with emergent situations and emotional roller coasters, making for a chaotic workplace where nurses are expected to perform at their best under high pressure. This full work load can also be accompanied by an overactive family life of kids’ activities and social engagements. The physical and mental strain often looms large and takes over, making nurses forget to take a moment to check in with themselves.

What can we do to fix it?

Too often, our own health needs are an afterthought and so are not tended to well. Half the battle is making a conscious choice to be the master of your situation. At times, this will require us to say no to an extra shift. At other times, this may require us to seriously examine the culture of our workplace and potentially make a decision to pursue a new, healthier work environment. Make goals for your health and wellness needs, ones that are realistic and can ease you down the path of a more sustainable lifestyle.

What are practical ways to regularly practice self-care?

My first suggestion is to breathe. Oxygen is the fuel that our body needs, but when we become anxious and stressed our breathing becomes shallower. You may not notice this change, but your body and brain does. This, in turn, can make your thinking foggy and restless. Practice breathing techniques and make sure to take time to give your body doses of fresh air throughout the day.

An often repeated but extremely useful tip is to keep a schedule. Whether you work best with electronic scheduling or paper, make one and stick to it. This is the surest way to always have a pulse on how busy you are so you don’t accidentally overextend or over schedule.

Lastly, don’t forget to sleep. We need it, yet often don’t make it a priority. Our bodies, for the most part, are self-healing organisms. Sleep is a big part of how we do that, when our body works to recover and enhance its functioning. Let your body be its best self by making sure you get enough shut eye. In turn, you will be able to continue to make the best decisions for your health and wellness. It all starts with making it a priority in your life.

Learn more about American College of Education’s fully online RN to MSN program, which was designed to fit seamlessly into the lives of busy working adults.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of American College of Education.
Sara Reichard
Sara Reichard, Registered Nurse, RN to MSN Student

Sara is a registered nurse currently residing in northeast Ohio. She has been a community health nurse abroad, a school nurse and an educator. She's currently an instructor at ACE.

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