While the strenuous responsibilities and meticulous endeavors of many careers often lead to productive results, they can also take a personal toll on individuals. When working long hours in an exhausting, full-time position, it’s important to reserve some self-care time each week. And when it comes to self-care for nurses, reserving regular personal time is extremely important.

What Is Self-Care?

Consisting of much more than eating healthy foods and getting the recommended amount of exercise, self-care involves activities you do to care for your own mental, emotional and physical health. Often done to focus energy away from a stressful job, a true act of self-care is one that is anticipated and enjoyed rather than an activity that stressful or forced. Some popular types of self-care activities that can be easily added to your weekly schedule include:

•  Attend a yoga class with a friend.
•  Walk your dog through a serene nature trail.
•  Visit a wellness spa.
•  Participate in a book club and allow yourself to spend free time reading in a quiet environment.
•  Relax in a bubble bath.
•  Indulge in a professional stress-relief massage.
•  Take an afternoon nap.
•  Enjoy an outdoor activity, like a picnic or a tennis match, with friends or family.

Why Self-Care for Nurses Is Important

The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing reports that overcrowded workspaces, involvement with surrogate decision making, large amounts of paperwork, ever-changing staffing patterns, patient fatalities and the task of protecting patients’ rights are among the major stressors that many nurses face on the job. Not only do these intense demands of the nursing profession often cause excessive stress, but they can also lead to heightened levels of anxiety and long-term depression. To prevent these personal health issues, it’s vital that self-care for nurses is made a priority.

In addition to helping busy nurses release anxious tension, self-care has been proven to be physically beneficial in a variety of ways. The following are three long-term benefits many have experienced from practicing regular self-care.

A Strengthened Immune System

Getting plenty of sleep each night, exercising regularly and indulging in daily relaxation all contribute to the function of the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). Responsible for regulating heart rate, controlling intestinal activity and balancing energy levels, this biological system is often referred to as the “rest-and-digest” system. A healthy PNS plays a key role in the strength of the immune system and the reduction of severe physical symptoms one may experience with anxiety.

Increased Self-Esteem

Never taking time for oneself often leads to a lower sense of self-worth, which can result in decreased self-esteem and confidence. By planning regular self-care activities, you can make yourself a top priority and transform the way you view yourself. Author and psychotherapist, Dr. Emily Roberts, suggests enhancing your self-worth by making self-care activities extra special. Use your best china when brewing yourself a relaxing cup of tea. Choose a new aromatherapy candle to enhance your quiet reading sessions. Dry off with your softest towels after indulging in a bubble bath. Celebrate yourself by using the items you normally save for special occasions.

Weight Loss

When it comes to self-care, prioritizing your afternoon nap and enforcing an early bedtime will not only help you feel refreshed and focused throughout the day, but may also help you shed extra pounds. According to a study published by the American College of Physicians, adults who get less than six hours of sleep per night are likely to have more body fat than adults who sleep for at least eight hours nightly. The study, which involved the sleep patterns of dieting adults, showed that those who got plenty of sleep lost more body fat and maintained more lean muscle mass than those who were sleep deprived.

Strategies for Nursing Self-Care

Reserving time each week for self-care can restore energy, reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression and lead to an overall higher quality of life. However, for busy nurses who are new to prioritizing self-care, it should be approached properly with a plan and a thorough understanding of its benefits. Here are some tips to help you ease into a routine of nursing self-care.

Assess Your Personal Needs

Before making room in your schedule for self-care, it’s best to determine which activities are going to offer you the most benefits. Whether you’ve been neglecting your spirituality, disregarding your health or struggling to prioritize your emotions, it’s best to begin by identifying which aspects of your life need more attention.

Create a Plan

Once you understand which areas of your personal life are causing you the most stress, planning self-care activities becomes as simple as practicing time management. Start by reserving short periods of time for self-care each week as a trial period to discover which activities you enjoy most. From there, gradually add additional time to your self-care routine. For example, someone who struggles with anxiety-induced insomnia may reserve 30 minutes to read quietly before bed to promote relaxation. If this helps the person fall asleep faster, he or she may choose to extend that self-care time to an hour and read quietly in a bubble bath before bed for optimal relaxation.

Maintain the Basics

Although self-care activities should be a high priority in your life, they shouldn’t cast a shadow on the other ways in which you care for your body. Once you’ve effectively added time for yourself to your schedule, be sure to maintain the basics of self-care. Understand the difference between basic health maintenance, like staying hydrated and getting enough sleep, and specific self-care activities, like indulging in bubble baths and attending book club gatherings.

Process of Elimination

Sometimes the best form of self-care for nurses is the elimination of unnecessary activities that cause stress. For those who suffer from stress caused by non-work-related activities, examine your schedule and use the process of elimination to remove extra stressors. This may come in the form of distancing yourself from toxic relationships, disconnecting from social media or declining to work extra shifts.

Indulge in Self-Care and Education with NDMU

With the importance of self-care for nurses in mind, NDMU is proud to offer its fully online RN-BSN program. With online access to your classes, you’ll have the convenient flexibility to complete coursework whenever and wherever life takes you — which makes penciling in time for self-care that much easier.

Contact an enrollment counselor to learn more today.