Really early mornings for clinicals, late nights buried in books, can’t remember when you last did something just for yourself…any of this sound familiar? If you are a nursing student, I bet this sounds a lot like your life right now. Nursing is a profession of caring and because of this, some of the most selfless people are drawn to being nurses. We make a living putting others first but it is incredibly important to remember that you can’t take care of others if you aren’t taking care of yourself.
But there’s so much to do! I have to study or I won’t get an A! The list of reasons that we neglect ourselves is long and we can always find ways to justify putting ourselves last. The sad truth is that this way of thinking can lead to burnout affecting not just our happiness but our health too! So, what can we do about it? Now is a great time to develop strategies in self-care that will serve you long after nursing school.
Trust me, I know those Cheetos look really good right about now. You are starving since you skipped lunch to make it to study group and the cheesy goodness is calling your name. Don’t give in! To perform your best at school and in your personal time, you need to fuel your body properly and boost your brain power. Try an apple with some cheese or celery dipped in 1 tablespoon of peanut butter. These snacks will fill you up and help you avoid the crash that comes after eating sugary and fatty comfort foods. And, don’t skip meals. You’d be surprised at how much better you will feel.
Move your body
Exercise does a body good. I’m not suggesting that you have to take up marathon training here (feel free if you want to!) but make some time to move your body. This can be any activity you enjoy. Walking, running, biking, yoga, or maybe just turning up the music and dancing in your living room. It’s totally up to you. Aim for 30 minutes of physical time every day. Walking away from the books and getting your blood flowing can help you focus better in the long run.
I know…easier said than done but getting enough sleep is important. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours of sleep for the average adult. You can check out their recommended sleep chart here. Sleep is important to your body. Without it, you can feel foggy and be more prone to making mistakes. Do yourself a favor and make sleep a priority. Incorporate rest periods into your day if needed. Even if you can’t sleep, sit back for 5-10 minutes and just let your body relax and reset.
Make social time
Humans are social. We like the company of other humans. Don’t let how busy you are in school isolate you from other people. Schedule a time to study with your fellow students and make it a social time too. If you need a break from studying, consider making a date with your best friend for a walk, some coffee, or a night at the movies. Whatever you do, enjoy the people you are with and do your best to let the stress of nursing school melt away.
With all the demands facing nursing students today it is even more important than ever to take a minute for yourself to connect. Connect with yourself, with your Higher Power, with nature, or whatever helps keep you grounded. Remember to connect with all the reasons you chose to go on this journey to be a nurse. Take time to remind yourself of your “why” so that you can refocus and gain the energy to continue, even when it is tough.
There are only 24 hours in every day and sometimes that will just not be enough to check all the things off of your to-do list. Tackle the biggest, most time consuming projects first and let that momentum help you finish all the little things. Make yourself a priority and stick with it!
These are just a few ideas on finding some balance between all the things that must be done and taking care of yourself. Nursing is a profession of caring and it’s only natural that you might feel like putting the needs of others before your own. However, to be a nurse, you must take care of yourself. You owe it to yourself to be physically and mentally healthy!