Let’s be real: being a nurse isn’t glamorous or healthy. Most nurses in the break room are eating a quick DoorDash or fast-food meal during their 30 minute lunch. As a new nurse, you’ll likely take one look at those seasoned nurses, wondering if you’ll inevitably end up with the same poor eating habits. And, what about the fast-paced, high stress lifestyle that we call “nurse life.” With the unpredictability that comes with each day, we often put ourselves second all day long. So, as nurses, we have to be intentional about making our health a priority. Otherwise, it’s far too easy to let our health fall into a downward spiral.
Why Nurses Should Prioritize Their Health
We could discuss the benefits of creating healthy habits all day, but there are a few to specifically pay attention to. Personally, healthy habits increase our immune response and prepare our bodies to readily fight off disease. Professionally, they prevent us from burn-out and allow us to provide the highest level of patient care. And emotionally, healthy habits increase our resilience to those inevitably hard days and help us recover from many traumatic situations that we may encounter.
Healthy Living Tips for New Nurses
It is possible for every nurse to change the norm when it comes to our health. With these health tips in mind, you can conquer those mid-shift munchies, energize your mind and body, and serve your patients to the best of your ability:
- Snacking Smart: Look for snacks that satisfy cravings while still providing fuel for your body. Snacks that are high in protein and fat will give you the most bang for your calories and sustain you until your next meal break. Here’s some ideas to get you started:
- – Apple and nut butter
- – Greek yogurt with berries, granola
- – Turkey jerky
- – Trail mix
- – Cottage cheese with fruit
- – Hummus and veggies
- – Protein smoothies
- Mental Health Breaks: Burnout, especially among critical care nurses, is a huge issue in healthcare. Often, nurses are more-than-willing to sacrifice their personal needs for their patients. In order to combat burnout, it is important to take ownership of your mental health and recognize when you need a break. These are a few effective ways to take a mental health break:
- Meditating– Process your shift at the end of the day and take a few minutes to handle your feelings and traumas. Then, leave it at work. Don’t take the after-math of your work home with you. I recommend doing this on the car ride home. Once home, work stays behind and you can focus on you and your family again.
- Talk to Someone– Find another nurse or friend, who knows you well, and can understand the things you are experiencing.
- Get Outside– Enjoy some time in the great outdoors- whatever that looks like for you. Walk the dog, go for a run or hike, take a swim, or bike around the neighborhood. Being in fresh air can really ground you!
- Practice Deep Breathing Exercises– Deep breathing can help calm a flustered mind and recenter your mental priorities. This is a great way to reduce stress and refocus mid-shift.
- Stretch/Practice Yoga – Physically releasing stress and tension from work does wonders. The mind-body connection is so strong! If you are mentally fatigued, work on releasing physical tensions in your body to overcome the mental blocks.
- Write in a Journal- Reflecting on your experiences is an amazing way to recognize your progress. Keeping a professional journal, as well as a personal one, is a great way to help wind down at the end of the day.
- Make Time for Exercise: I have yet to meet a person who doesn’t feel better when exercising regularly. It can be difficult to prioritize exercise with long 12 hour shifts. So, consider prioritizing your workouts on off-days to better fit your schedule. Make it a goal to do something active every single day. Whether walking around the hospital or going for a walk with a friend, movement is a great mood booster and healthy habit to implement.
- Work-Life Balance: I don’t mean to beat a dead horse, but burnout is one of the biggest reasons nurses leave the bedside. Make sure that you set boundaries with your job in order to maintain a healthy relationship with nursing. This may look different for everyone, but here are some questions you can ask yourself to create healthy work boundaries:
- – Do I have friends outside of work? If so, are you able to discuss things besides work when you hangout?
- – Is overtime becoming burdensome (the money is nice, but what is the cost to your friendships)?
- – Do I look forward to going to work?
As a fellow nurse, my goal is to help each and every one of you form healthy habits that improve your quality of life. If you have more suggestions of healthy habits for busy nurses, share them with me below!