Nurses work hard to keep their patients safe and in the best health possible. Unfortunately, a lot of them struggle to look after their own health.
A lot of nurses experience high levels of stress, poor sleep, and obesity. Some of them even struggle with chronic back pain (1) that makes it hard for them to keep themselves fit physically and emotionally.
In order for you to take care of your patients, you need to prioritize your own health. You need to be mentally and physically healthy before you can perform your duties and responsibilities.
How can you do that?
Here are 11 tips on how to be a healthy nurse.
1. Eat well.
This is simple yet hard to commit to. Like most nurses, you probably struggle with preparing your meals since you’re always loaded with tasks.
If that’s the case, consider preparing your meals ahead of time. At the start of the week, sit down and plan your meals for the coming days. Try to find ways to add more fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet. Add more proteins and whole grains, too.
Bring snacks to work, too. This is one way to make sure that you won’t run out of energy in the middle of your shift. Protein bars and carrot sticks are excellent choices.
Preparing your own meals is one way to control your carbohydrate and sugar intake. It can also help you in losing weight since you won’t have to order meals from restaurants or eat junk foods.
2. Start a fitness routine.
Your busy schedule shouldn’t stop you from working out. The key is to find what will work best for your schedule. Take note that you might have to go through a trial-and-error process before you can find the right one for you.
If you plan on exercising after work, consider doing a quick yet effective workout. You can do a 20-minute HIIT session. In case you don’t have the energy for that, a restorative yoga class might work for you.
If you work day shifts, you may want to look for a gym that’s halfway between your work and home. This is one way to break up your commute.
3. Get that vitamin D.
Break up your long workday. If it’s your lunch break, take a quick walk outside or eat lunch outside of the hospital. Those few minutes of soaking under the sun can help build strong bones and improve your mental health.
4. Stay hydrated.
You always remind your patients to drink enough fluids so you should do the same thing. Be mindful of your water intake and make sure that you’re properly hydrated.
If your hospital doesn’t allow you to carry water bottles in your area for infection control purposes, you can set a timer on your phone to remind you to take a quick break and drink.
Also, if you need to pee, don’t hold it in. You wouldn’t want to end up with an infection in your urinary tract.
5. Do deep breathing exercises.
Nursing is a stressful job so you have to find an effective coping skill to keep your stress levels down. Practicing deep breathing exercises can help you with that.
They can help improve mood and relieve emotional stress. Plus, they can also help you let go of things that are not within your control. If you are feeling mad or emotional, deep breathing exercises can help you, too.
6. Work on your skills.
Working in a hospital shouldn’t be the endpoint of your career. As a nurse, you should work on improving your skills. This will help you gain more confidence at work and gives you a better chance of getting promoted.
7. Find a mentor.
Look for someone you can reach out to for support and guidance. This will enable you to meet the demands of your work without experiencing burnout.
A mentor can help you in recognizing your emotions as well as expressing them. You see, when you are able to express your emotions, you’ll be able to lessen your emotional problems and tension.
8. Cultivate better and healthier relationships.
Assess the people you spend most of your time with. Ensure that you only keep the good ones in your life and take a step back from those who drain your energy.
Also, don’t forget to spend time with your family and friends. Say no to extra hours of work so you can be with your loved ones for dinner or a get-together.
9. Get enough sleep.
Getting enough sleep can help minimize your risk of chronic health problems. It’s also one way to keep your focus at work and avoid medical errors.
In between stressful shifts, try to get as much as 7 to 9 hours of sleep. If doing night shifts is making that impossible, consider establishing a routine. Waking up and sleeping at the same time helps.
It’s also a good idea to unplug before bedtime. Turn off your devices about an hour before you go to bed. Make sure that the room you’re sleeping in has a dark and quiet atmosphere to enable your body to produce the necessary chemicals it needs to fall asleep.
10. Watch your health.
Do monthly testicular and breast self-exams. If you are scheduled for an annual physical checkup, don’t miss it. And if your doctor recommends a routine colonoscopy, follow it.
In case you drink alcohol, do it in moderation. Better yet, stop the habit. The same goes for smoking.
11. Do what you want.
Take that vacation you’ve been planning for a long time. Start that hobby you’ve been wanting to try for years. Visit that old friend you’ve promised to see.
Whatever it is that you want to do, find time to do it. It’s never too late to start a new hobby, try a new specialty or learn a new language.
Working in the hospital and advancing your career aren’t the only ways you can feel fulfilled. You can also experience the same thing by pursuing your other passions in life.
1. Hignett, S. (1996). Work‐related back pain in nurses. Journal of advanced nursing, 23(6), 1238-1246.