How to Take Care of Your Health and Wellbeing as a Nurse

Nursing is a compassionate job, and therefore nurses of all ages run the risk of developing what is known as compassion fatigue. It can hurt to take care of others. To work so hard for others and to either feel a lack of appreciation or to watch them as they deteriorate and even die under your care. You cannot always stop it, though studies have proven that more BSN RNs on staff actually saves lives and improves the overall outlook of patients across the board.

Even doing all you can, however, won’t always be enough. There will be very hard, very dark days, and that’s just part of your regular schedule. Add on an online degree, and suddenly you have stress coming in from all angles with seemingly no way out.

When stress bears down on you, the best thing you can do is build up your own strength and fortitude. When compassion fatigue wears you down and makes you heavy of heart, then finding a different way to help is the smartest way forward.
 
Caring for yourself isn’t selfish. In fact, it is one of the most important parts of being a nurse. If you cannot care for yourself, then you cannot provide expert care to others. You must be strong because it is your strength they are relying on.
 
Safeguarding for your health and wellbeing comes in two main forms. It comes in the everyday routines, and it also comes in making the right changes for your future. Not everyone can work in a hospital or even a clinic, and that is okay. There are so many people in need of care, and in fact, options that are better for your mental health are also in high demand due to a lack of nurses in that position, like telehealth.
 
Many of the tips and advice in this guide apply to roles that take an emotional toll, as well. Firefighters, police officers, public defenders, social workers – use the advice outlined below, and care for yourself, because if you can’t do that, how can you care for others?
 

Improving Your Health

 
Improving your health is one of the smartest ways to handle stress. Stress itself is horrifically hard on the body. It causes ulcers, muscle knots, headaches, insomnia, a reduced immune system, and so much more. Carrying stress can make your current health levels deplete, meaning you need to do so much more than your usual to counteract your stress and feel ready and able throughout the day.
 

Diet

 
Combine a lack of time and a lack of energy, and suddenly the thought of healthy eating goes right out the window. You’ve worked hard, and you just want something filling that tastes good. You can do this with your health in mind, but it is going to require some forethought.
 
The first thing to do is stock up on nutritional snacks. Nuts, dried fruit, oat bars – the options keep going and you can save by going to a bulk food store or by making some of the options yourself at home. Protein bars can be done at home and made in massive batches, so you have a healthy to-go snack whenever you need it.
 
You can take this prep idea and turn it towards your lunches and dinners as well. Homemade sauces, pre-cut and portioned veggies, and so on are easy to do and simple to put together when rushing to get to work.
 

Sleep

 
A good night’s sleep when on shift work can feel impossible, but if you use the same routine and tricks, you can get your brain on your side. Try to sleep at least seven hours, though ideally more. Get blackout curtains even if you work normal hours to cut out any light from outside. Try not to watch TV or look at your phone for a few hours before you go to sleep. Instead, have a relaxing, luxurious routine, such as a bubble bath, read a book, listen to soothing music.
 
By doing the same activities before you sleep every time, you can wind your mind down and get that good night’s rest.
 

Fitness

 
You should be fairly good at fitness if you seem to run around all day long. The only thing you should aim to do on top of that is work on your flexibility, as this will also help with how you hold yourself and your strength. Yoga is a great option.
 

Mental Health

 
If you feel like you are suffering from depression, anxiety, or acute stress, then don’t deal with it alone. At the very least, talk to your loved ones about it and have their support. Better yet, use the mental health services available to you. Compassion fatigue is a very common problem amongst nurses, and that is just the tip of the iceberg. Your problems are not unique. They happen regularly. So seek out help because there are options available and you don’t deserve to deal with a mental illness alone.
 

Improving Your Situation

 
Improving your health is always the first step. It may help you adjust and handle the stresses of your current position, or it may get you emotionally and physically ready for a change of pace and scenery. The point is, get healthy, and then work to improve your situation.
 

Be Honest About the Work/Life Balance You Want

 
Be honest with yourself. There is no shame in hating shift work. There is no reason to shy from being honest that working at a hospital isn’t for you. Not being honest with yourself means you suffer, and if you suffer, your patients won’t receive the best in care.
 
There are so many open roles and options out there, and even options in the same setting you are working in now. Instead of working in a huge hospital, you can move more rurally to a small, local hospital and enjoy an immediate difference.
 

Explore Alternative Options for Your Career

 
There are so many ways to take your existing career and doing something better for your health and wellbeing. In nursing, you will always be helping others, no matter where you are or in what capacity you are working in. If working directly with patients has taken its toll on you, there are other areas that desperately need your help and attention.
 

Nurse Educator

 
You can work as a nurse educator and make a bigger difference than you ever could as a single nurse. For every student you teach, that is one more nurse on the field, helping others. With such a massive shortage of nurse educators, thousands of qualified students are turned away every year. By teaching, you help fill this shortage and train the next generation.
 
There are an estimated 800,000 unfilled RN positions, and a further million are expected to open up once the oldest generation begins to retire in 2030. On top of it all, many states are working towards 80% of their RN staff to hold BSN degrees.
 
Nurse educators are needed now more than ever, and the work/life balance is enviable. If you struggle in your current position but want to make a real difference in the world, a nurse educator is a great choice.
 

Nurse Researcher

 
Nurses are needed in research centers to help deliver tests, care for patients, and so much more. You will be helping care for patients still but in a much more controlled and laid-back position. You will also be helping create the next generation of treatment and cures.
 

Telehealth Nurse

 
With the current pandemic, telehealth has never been more important. Even without the risks associated with the pandemic, telehealth is one of the most critical ways forward for healthcare. It is how you can improve the level and quality of care for patients, how you can better serve those who live in remote areas, and it is how you can monitor patients from afar, to greater effect and less interference.
 
Telehealth is the way forward, and the pandemic has brought forward sweeping new rules and funding for its future. Work to become a telehealth Nurse Practitioner, and you can help others in different ways, and actually work to save lives on a grander scale because you aren’t just dealing with patients who finally couldn’t make an excuse not to go to the clinic or hospital. Instead, you are providing the preventative care necessary to ensure your patients live long, healthy lives.
 

Branch into Different Workspaces

 
Many times you might love your job but still cannot handle the stress. Chances are it isn’t so much as what you want to do, but the pace and even the environment you are doing it in. You need to have a strong support system at work, and if you don’t feel like you are getting that, there is no shame in looking elsewhere for work. There are patients everywhere, and your help will be essential in almost every setting. Find where you can make a second home because you deserve to feel welcomed when you go to work.
 
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Claude Monet
 

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