Nursing is a great career choice, but there’s no denying that it comes with certain unpleasant side effects. In fact, working in healthcare is notoriously bad for one’s health, ironically. Many nurses and doctors struggle with obesity, joint pain, back pain, premature aging, sleep problems, depression, and anxiety. It’s impossible to pinpoint what the culprit is exactly; it’s more likely that it’s a combination of long hours, unpredictable shift work, and the emotional toll that nursing takes.
If you find yourself struggling with any of a variety of health complaints as a nurse, here are a few tips to help you stay healthy in your nursing job.
- Atmosphere is Everything
While there’s not much you can do to change the atmosphere of your hospital, clinic, or other organization, you can take ownership of your personal workspace to increase the level of calm you experience at work. First of all, take the time to clean and organize your workspace. This means getting rid of loose sheets of paper, broken pens, and all the random bits that tend to gather in these places. Once your space is clear, make it your own. Add a framed picture of your family, your favorite souvenir from your latest vacation, or a piece of art. Whatever you choose, it should bring you calm and peace for those moments when you just need to relax.
- Say No
Every boss loves a “yes woman” or “yes man.” These are the employees that will never say no to an extra assignment, overtime, or an extra shift. While it’s good to be a dependable nurse that others can rely on, it’s crucial for your health to say no a bit more often. The key here is to know your limits and stick to them. If you always say yes to what is asked of you, people will never stop asking you to do things, which means you’ll burn out rather quickly. If you struggle with saying no, start practicing!
- Surround Yourself with Good People
We’ve all worked with a certain type of person that seems to drain the energy out of everyone they come into contact with. You’ve probably come across them in nursing school and at work. They are the type of person that is a “downer,” constantly complaining and never has anything positive to say. Avoid this person! Instead, focus on people who are positive and enthusiastic. Attitudes and moods are contagious, so surround yourself with the people who help you feel good.
- Eat Right
It’s difficult as a nurse to eat right. We obviously know what we should be eating and what we should be avoiding but following that is a lot more complicated than it sounds. We don’t get a long enough lunch break, the work is so demanding that we have little time or energy to cook at home, and sometimes we just forget to eat!
To combat this, make a point of planning your meals for the week. Making a large batch of a dish you can portion out easily is very helpful. For example, a huge pot of vegetable soup is easy, cheap, healthy, and it even freezes well so you can have some in a pinch. All you need are your favorite veggies, some broth, and a bit of spices and herbs!
You may think that because you’re on your feet all day you are getting the exercise you need, but this isn’t entirely true. Unless your heart rate is up for a solid 30 minutes, you aren’t really getting the benefits of exercise. It can be difficult to gather the energy to work out, but this will keep your body running better for longer, making your work easier in the long run. It might be hard now, but it will make things easier later on.
- Keep It in Perspective
Being a nurse is stressful. There are a lot of people who rely on you for help. That’s one of the great things about it! You are useful, helpful, and appreciated. Don’t forget that you don’t have to do it all. Yes, people need you, but you will only be useful if you are taking care of yourself properly.
When it comes to deadlines, projects, and assignments, do your best, but don’t forget that nothing is worth your physical or mental health. Keep it all in perspective and remember to not overdo things. It’s not the end of the world if you can’t do everything.