I have 40 years of nursing experience under my belt, have worked across the continuum of care, including hospitals, outpatient clinics, home care & hospice, and was even a school nurse. I’ve seen just how much healthcare is evolving and the significant changes it’s creating for nurses. They have more patients they’re caring for and are required to do more with the same or less resources. They often struggle with reaching a healthy work-life balance.
It is crucial that nurses put just as much focus on caring for themselves as they do their patients. They must practice self-care and reset their minds, bodies and spirits, even if it’s just for 10 or 15 minutes to breathe, laugh, think positive and forgive. The following are tips on how nurses can get into the habit of practicing self-care:
Breathe deep – Slow, rhythmic breathing helps release tension and stress and, releases endorphins to make us happier. Nurses can practice breathing deeply anywhere that makes them comfortable. Breathe in from your abdomen (2,3,4) and out (2,3,4). Do this over and over again for a minute or two. A brief video where I share additional insights on breathing techniques can be found here.
Think positively – Write down positive affirmations such as “I am strong,” “I am healthy,” “I can handle anything.” When you write what you want to be and keep thinking about it, your mind will begin to adapt and become that positive affirmation.
Practice laughter – It is the best feel good medicine and is free. Studies show laughter releases endorphins in our brains and even makes us healthier. Children laugh a few hundred times a day, but an adult laughs only about 11 times a day. Nurses are undoubtedly busy, but they need to focus on laughing freely. Create a list of things that make you laugh, such as books, movies, comedians or even specific colleagues. Include them in your life everyday…laugh hundreds of times like children! Fake laughing has the same positive mental impact.
Forgiveness – Studies have shown that forgiving others leads to better mental and physical health. People who forgive have lower blood pressure, less anxiety and higher self-esteem. When we fail to forgive, it only hurts ourselves. Think about who you may be upset with, whether in your professional or personal life and ask, “Besides myself, who I am going to forgive today?”
When thinking about self-care, we infrequently talk about caring for the spirit. Truly take the time to be still, meditate and connect with the spiritual part of yourself. When nurses are at a place of peace, they’ll be able to easily incorporate breathing, thinking positively, laughing and forgiveness into their daily lives…even for ten minutes a day.
My SelfCare for HealthCare program is a one-of-a kind, fun, interactive, 12-month transformational program that creates positive behavior change in health professionals, and is proven to increase nurses’ health, engagement and retention.
How are you practicing self-care? Share your tips below.