5 Simple Self Care tricks for Nurses
Nursing by its very nature requires compassion, altruism and commitment. The dedication to helping others often causes nurses to neglect their own healing and self-care needs. Today, nurses experience increased stress as a result of more work hours and greater patient loads. It is well documented that stress contributes to disease. When the hormones cortisol and adrenalin remain too long in the blood stream, the results can be hyperglycemia, hyperinsulinemia, arteriosclerosis, hypertension, and a decrease in the function of the immune system. In addition, stress can prematurely age us and leave us chronically fatigued or depressed.
Listed below are some simple tools of self-care and self-healing that are low cost and easy to implement.
1) Deep Breathing:
This can be done almost anywhere at any time.
Here is a simple way to practice stress-reducing breathing:
- Place one hand at the top of the chest and one hand over the abdomen at approximately waist level. Breathe normally and notice whether the hand on the chest or the hand on the abdomen is moving more.
- If the hand on the chest is moving more, this is a shallow, stressed pattern of breathing. For the relaxation response to occur, the abdomen should move to breathe deeply.
- Keeping the hands in the same positions, practice breathing so that the hand over the abdomen moves first and then the top part of the chest gently moves without moving the shoulders; then exhale slowly.
- Exhale for twice as long as the time it takes to inhale; this will stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system. After breathing this way a few times, assess how it feels.
2) Positive Thoughts/ Mindfulness
Mindfulness invites a person to pay attention to physical sensations, emotions, and reactions in a conscious way and discover opportunities to change. Self-care, healing, and nurturing involve acknowledging feelings, not denying them. Ask yourself:
- What thoughts am I thinking?
- Are these thoughts helping me handle this situation or not?
- What thoughts could I be thinking instead?
For example, when you become aware of a self-sabotaging thought such as, “What a dumb mistake I just made,” you can replace it with positive thoughts: “Everyone makes mistakes,” “I will correct this as soon as possible,” or “I am doing the best I can.” The use of self-affirmations has been shown to increase self-esteem and decrease depression.
- I am relaxed, alert, and aware throughout the day.
- I am worth taking the time for self-care, and I easily find time for it.
- I release events from the day, so I sleep in peace and wake in joy.
- I am a part of the solution for creating more harmony in the workplace
- I am finding it easier and easier to speak up for myself
Voltaire said, “The art of medicine consists of keeping the patient amused while nature heals the disease.” We have all heard the saying Laughter Is the Best Medicine. Developing a sense of humor is a buffer for stress and contributes to the healing of all the issues addressed in this article. The benefits for using humor: It increases the immune system function, relaxes muscles, reduces the stress response, and improves mood. Humorous books left in the break room or putting up a bulletin board with jokes on it can help Social media is great for getting some daily humor – you can watch funny videos on Facebook, or look at cute animals doing funny things
4) Treat Yourself
We are hardwired to feel joy, however sometimes we need a treat to remind ourselves. Find time to indulge in a pedicure, a massage, a special dinner out with friends or whatever makes you feel joy. Be sure to reward yourself regularly for the wonderful care you are providing to your patients. Release any guilt you have about wanting to feel joy. It’s your birthright! Everyone needs friendship and laughter and a little bit of happiness!
5) Watch for Signs of Burnout
Many caregivers delay asking for help and support because they feel that they should be able to handle it. Everyone needs help and support, especially when caring for others. Some signs of burnout include feeling like you are on an emotional rollercoaster, getting sick often, not being able to find time to care for yourself, feeling numb or over-reacting to things that others say and do, or not remembering the last time you went out or did something fun.
If this describes you, start with any one of my suggestions for caring for yourself. If you feel you need professional support, there are many caregiver resources available, Caregiver Action Network (CAN) where you can find support. You can also talk to your facilities HR department for resources available.
Common sense suggests that happy, healthy nurses provide the best care and contribute to a healthy work environment. Make sure to take care of you!
Resources cited in this article include: