7 Tips To Help Nurses Be Physically, Mentally, and Emotionally Healthy
By Kathleen Colduvell, RN, BA, BSN, CBC
According to a three year study conducted at London South Bank University approximately half of all nursing students are overweight and a significant number have never engaged in moderate physical exercise. While this study was conducted on nursing students it illustrates that making healthier lifestyle choices is crucial before starting as a full fledged Registered Nurse.
A nurse’s responsibility is to teach patients a healthier lifestyle which includes controlling diet, exercise, sleep, and overall management of stress. Yet, for some unknown reason, some nurses are unable or perhaps unwilling to follow their own instructions.
As nurses it is vital that we remain in good health, both physically, mentally, and emotionally.
1. Eat Before Your Shift
We’ve all heard it before and research has proven that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
According to the Mayo Clinic, adults who consume breakfast have more energy, increased brain function, are able to control their weight, and obtain more essential vitamins and minerals. Furthermore, eating before going into work decreases the chances of eating the leftovers from the prior shift which, as most nurses can attest, are unhealthy choices such as donuts, chips, and cookies.
Bring Your Own Meals And Snacks To Work
Ordering out with coworkers is fun and it’s always a great way to bond with however, by bringing your own food to work it decreases the likelihood of making poor diet choices.
Also, it is common that after lunch some nurses experience fatigue or the "carb coma". By packing your own meals you can control your carb and sugar intake. While the apple in your lunchbox might make a few rounds before it's actually eaten, the nutrition will power you through a 12 hour shift much better than the cheese fries from the cafeteria.
2. Balance Family Life and Work Life
Nicole Grisola (RNC-NIC), has worked as a Neonatal Intensive Care nurse for the last thirteen years.
"There is never an easy balance between work life and family life. My job represents everything that I stand for. Love, emotion, passion, and dedication,” said Grisola,”I wouldn't be the mother I am today without nursing."
For a healthy balance keep an organized calendar! Make time for family, friends and yourself in order to reduce stress and promote overall satisfaction with your life.
There are very few nurses that can say they get the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Getting adequate sleep can help reduce the risk of chronic health conditions.
Ann Louise Pyzik, a school nurse for almost two decades, recommends that sometimes choosing sleep over activities is a must.
"When you are younger you believe you are invincible and can function on a few hours of sleep and while some jobs you can, in our profession that is impossible,” said Pyzik, “Sleep is key to brain function between stressful shifts.”
4. Lay Off The Caffeine, Especially Late In Your Shift
Caffeine is the biggest weakness, especially those on night shift.
Excessive caffeine consumption can have detrimental effects on brain function and contribute to increased sleep deprivation. Researchers at Michigan’s Henry Ford Hospital’s Sleep Disorders & Research Center and Wayne State College of Medicine found that caffeine consumed even 6 hours before bedtime resulted in significantly diminished sleep quality and sleep quantity.
5. Stay Hydrated With Water
Water is essential to overall health. Doctors recommend consuming eight 8-oz. glasses of water per day. The Institute of Medicine further breaks it down that an adequate intake for males is 13 cups of water and 9 cups for women.
While this number seems daunting there are a few things that can be done to increase your water intake throughout your shift.
- Use a refillable water bottle and have it close to your workstation.
- Try a seltzer or add your favorite fruit for a kick of flavor without the sugar
Going to the gym after a long shift on your feet seems dismissal, but it can help recharge your batteries.
Working out has proven to relieve stress, increase energy, and control weight. Join a local gym, yoga studio, or exercise group if you don't already belong to one. Have a friend sign up with you to increase the chances of going and it’ll be more fun! Regular exercise can help tackle those long shifts with ease.
7. The Take-Away
Nurses focus majority of their energy helping others they forget It’s important to take time for themselves.
Exercising and spending quality time with friends and family are a few activities that can help you relax and refresh for the next shift. It’s important to monitor yourself and make sure to realize when you’re feeling overwhelmed or overworked.
Having a person that is available to discuss work life with is key. Sometimes it can be a partner, friend, or family member. Other times it can be a trained therapist. It doesn’t always matter who the support is after a rough shift,but having someone can make the difference on pushing forward for the next one.
Kathleen Colduvell, originally with a degree in journalism, has worked in numerous hospitals over her eight years as a NICU nurse. Currently, she works at one of the leading children's hospitals in the country in the NICU, PICU, and CICU and working as a Certified Breastfeeding Consultant.