Raise your hand if you are a busy nurse who is always on the go and have a hard time finding free time to take care of yourself. If you answered a disgruntled “Oh hey, that’s me!” don’t worry; you are not alone! As a matter of fact, a recent study showed that over half of all nurses left the profession because of staffing shortages, followed by a need for a better work-life balance. On the contrary, many healthcare professionals agree that nursing is an incredibly rewarding career that offers financial stability for the future. Considering the challenges of the nursing profession, every hard-working nurse should find the time to invest in self-care practices. In fact, practicing self-care can be the key to preventing nurse burnout. Self-care activities may include establishing a healthy workout routine or getting to bed a little earlier each night. With that in mind, if you are a nurse and are craving a little more “me time,” we get you. And thankfully, there are plenty of ways you as a nurse can achieve a better work-life balance.
Keep reading to learn how to build a routine that compliments your life as a nurse and ten ways you can optimize your day-to-day activities.
1. Establishing a Better Morning Routine
Considering that many nurses work rotating shifts, waking up early is nothing out of the ordinary for most nursing professionals. But that doesn’t mean rising at the first light of dawn is easy for every nurse. In fact, studies show that disrupting a nurse’s natural circadian rhythm can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and obesity. Therefore, establishing a better morning routine could help stabilize altered sleep/wake cycles. Consequently, one of the best ways to achieve a better morning routine is to get to bed between 10:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. each night. Not only does research show that falling asleep between these hours improves cardiovascular health, but sleeping close to eight hours a night will also help you wake up feeling clear and ready for the day. As a result, your morning routine will become less rushed and more relaxed when you aren’t dashing out the door to your next nursing shift.
2. Ditch Dieting But Eat Heart-Healthy Meals
It’s common news that eating well makes you feel good. And, when it comes to nursing, making sure your physical and mental well-being is operating at its full potential is vital to staying energetic and focused while on shift. But the truth is that many nurses don’t find the time to take a break and eat healthily. Furthermore, if you are a nurse trying to diet, you may find that consistently eating healthy meals can be even more challenging. That’s because, according to one study, popular diets don’t work since most individuals return to prior eating habits after restrictive eating. Instead, it’s better to adopt a healthy eating lifestyle that incorporates a mix of heart-healthy meals and nutritious snacks throughout the day. For some inspiration on how to build better eating habits, check out our articles on healthy meal prep and quick snack ideas for nurses.
3. Stretch, Walk, Run: Get Moving
Want to learn how to build a workout routine that will stick? Then choose something you love that makes you want to move your body. This activity could be anything from incorporating daily stretches into your routine, going on a nightly walk, or taking a brisk jog in the morning. The good news is that research supports just ten minutes of exercise a day can help burn calories, improve blood flow, and help with sleep. If you are feeling up to doing more high-intensity workouts, you can check out our article on how busy nurses can stay fit. But really, at the end of the day, sneaking in a few minutes to move your limbs will help keep your body fit and peppy for your next nursing shift.
4. Build a Better Night-Time Routine
Alongside learning how to build a better morning routine, it’s equally important to establish a relaxing night-time routine. You may feel that coming off a nursing shift can leave you both exhausted and emotionally drained. Therefore, finding an effective night-time routine should take you down from sixty to zero on the relaxation thermometer. Building a better night-time routine may include self-care acts like sitting down and having a snack, taking a long shower or bath, settling down with some tea, or slipping into bed early with your favorite book. Furthermore, limiting screen time is important, considering artificial light from screens can severely interrupt your ability to regulate healthy sleep patterns. For more tips on how to create a great nighttime routine, make sure you check out our article on better sleep for nurses.
5. Get Your Glow On: Build a Skin Care Routine
The eyes may be the windows of the soul, but the skin is the window to your health (or so they say). Therefore, one of the best ways you can optimize your day as a busy bee nurse is to take care of your skin. Putting together a great skincare routine doesn't have to mean charcoal masks and cucumbers over your eyes every day. In fact, a simple, gentle facial cleanser mixed with an effective moisturizing face cream can be the perfect equation for glowing skin. Check out what nurses are saying are the best moisturizing facial cleansers and creams for nursing professionals.
6. Six Minutes of Meditation
Have six or more minutes to spare between nursing shifts? Why not try including a simple meditation practice in your daily routine? Meditation can do wonders for the mind, and studies have shown that practicing mindful meditation can help prevent stress and burnout in the workplace. Plus, the best part about mindful meditation is that anyone can do it! Just find a quiet space, set your watch for six minutes, close your eyes, focus on something that brings you peace, and breathe. If you can do this every day for six minutes, you will start to feel the benefits of meditation, including a calmer mind.
7. Add Some Sunshine
Adding a little sunshine to your everyday routine as a nurse will not only lighten your mood but can actually help ward off seasonal depression. Research supports that just twenty minutes of sunlight can help ward off seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Additionally, exposing yourself to a dose of mother earth’s natural vitamin D each day can improve sleep. Keep in mind that whether you live in an area that is sunny year-round or a place that is constantly cloudy, you can also consider investing in artificial light therapy. Either way, bathing in a bit of sunshine each day can help optimize your routine as a nurse and keep your mood elevated.
8. Carve Out Family and Social Time
If you are working long shifts as a nurse (especially as a night-shift nurse), it can be hard to carve out time to spend with friends or family. With that said, the benefits of connecting with family or friends throughout the week are important for maintaining a positive mental outlook. As a matter of fact, studies demonstrate that people who spend more time with family and friends also have a better sense of purpose in their lives. What’s more is that meaningful relationships with friends and family can help keep depression at bay and greatly reduce stress levels.
9. Enjoy a Day Off
Whether you are a full-time or part-time nurse, you probably cherish your days off. Furthermore, nurses heading towards burnout may feel they need more days off or even a leave of absence. In both cases, learning how to get the most out of your day off can help recharge your physical and mental health batteries. Activities to recharge your mind and body may include engaging in a few of your favorite hobbies and celebrating life’s little blessings. Ultimately, enjoying a day off or two is necessary for any nurse looking to catch their breath and relax.
10. Do Routines: Build a Good Work Ethic
The nursing profession involves the utmost dedication and personal resilience. That’s why it’s important to practice self-care tips both at home and on shift. In other words, being a nursing leader involves taking care of yourself by building daily routines so you can be the best version of yourself at home and at work. This best version could include always arriving for your shift on time, being proactive at work, and helping other nursing coworkers without being asked. Essentially, if you can incorporate healthy routines at home that make you feel good, you will also feel empowered to lead by example during your nursing shifts.
Nobody Is Perfect, Do Your Best
When it comes to nursing, there will be good days, and there will be hard days. And, there may even be extremely challenging days when you may even want to quit. In all of these scenarios, making sure you build self-care routines into your everyday life can help take the edge off—a lot. Because the reality is that self-care truly is the key to the fountain of health and well-being.