The Importance of Self-Care as a Nurse

Self-Care for Nurses

It’s no secret that nursing is STRESSFUL – your colleagues and physicians heavily rely on you, your patients expect the best care, and you are likely putting pressure on yourself… so what happens when YOU need you? Here are some helpful tips to keep your mind, body, and soul aligned in a healthy way so that you can treat yourself while treating others.

You know how the saying goes: “You cannot pour from an empty cup.” Make sure you are getting yourself the help that you need.

 Caring for your patients does not equate to a lack of care for yourself. According to Dr. Bill Hetler, one of the founders of the National Wellness Institute, there are six dimensions of wellness: emotional, occupational, intellectual, spiritual, social, and physical. Achieving wellness takes time and dedication, and it is just as important as doing your job. Occupational well-being involves honing in on your unique gifts and abilities to develop a positive career path. In order to keep a good work-life and home-life balance, try to set as many healthy boundaries as you can and remind yourself that work is not all there is to life.

There are so many emotional triggers throughout your day – take care of yourself and make sure you are taking time to learn and practice healthy coping mechanisms, so that you can respond in the most productive way for you and your patients. Springer’s Minority Nurse Journal explains that “eighteen percent of nurses are suffering from some form of clinical depression—and most people will not will talk about their experiences with it, what to do about it, or what causes it.” There may be some apathy toward the discussion of mental health surrounding healthcare professionals, but it is essential to make sure that you are caring for yourself and feel supported.

If you’re struggling during your workday, find a colleague that you trust to talk things through with. As a nurse, stress can build up over time. Remember that you’re human – just like anyone, if everything becomes too much, it’s going to overflow at some point. Before you get there, try to communicate first. There is a great chance that your trusted co-worker will understand what you’re feeling. There is never any shame in asking for outside help – talking to a therapist is a great way to keep yourself healthy and grounded.

Feeling overwhelmed? Here are some ways to cope with stressors at work:

Stop, take a second, and think “am I in the right space to give the best care possible to my patients?” If not, take a minute. Even one minute just to practice deep breathing can be helpful. The American Institute of Stress explains, “Deep breathing increases the supply of oxygen to your brain and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a state of calmness.” Next time you become stressed or anxious, try some new breathing techniques.

You’re given vacation and personal time for a reason – take it. Spending time with family and friends can take the mind off of work and direct it toward self-care.

The University of Texas Arlington Online explains that practicing self-care takes dedication and commitment, but it is necessary. Long-term healthy coping starts with eating well (this means NO skipping lunch!!) Being “too busy” is not a reason to skip any meal. You need to make time, or your body will make recovery time for you. This means you also need to maintain a schedule for sleep and exercise in order to take care of yourself. 

Keep it all in perspective.

While your job is very important to you, your co-workers, and your patients, try to keep everything in perspective. All you can give is your best. Instead of beating yourself up, stressing and worrying, celebrate your successes and remind yourself of why you do your job in the first place. You are doing a great job helping people – don’t forget to help yourself.

More tips on ways to take care of yourself:

Self-Care for Healthcare Professionals

Better Patient Care Starts with Self-Care

Healing the Healer: Why Physicians and Medical Professionals Must Practice Self-Care


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Written by Heather Morris

SAMC’s Nurse Residency Coordinator

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