All work and no play make Jack a dull boy- and this adage also applies to nurses. After completing stressful shifts at the hospital and dealing with death and trauma all day, it can be hard to come home and find the energy to look after yourself or socialize with a loved one. Even getting up and fixing a proper meal for yourself may seem like a huge chore. After all, nursing is one of the most demanding professions in the world, and things in this specialty can get very crazy very fast.
So how do you create a work-life balance for yourself as a nurse? What steps do you need to take to look after your well-being? Here are six tips you must follow to keep your mental, physical, and social health in good shape.
Choose a nursing path based on your circumstances
It is very easy to get influenced by those around you. You may feel that other nurses are working harder than you and putting in more effort. Thus, you may subconsciously make decisions based on their circumstances instead of yours, which will negatively affect your physical and mental health. You may even push yourself to your breaking point. Instead, you must find a nursing career that suits your circumstances. Remember that nursing jobs have different intensities, environments, and schedules. You should choose one after considering your whole life context.
For example, if you are a mother with a young child, you can create a better work-life balance by choosing the right work setting. You may choose to work in an outpatient clinic, which is less chaotic, or apply for a job in telemedicine where you can fulfill your dream of serving and helping others while also looking after your children. You can also consider completing an online masters degree in nursing if you need a flexible way to upskill and diversify your career. These tips also work for someone interested in specialties that are a little less exhausting and draining.
On the other hand, if you are passionate about traveling or providing care to underserved communities, you can consider travel nursing and international aid. Such fields will create a better work-life balance for you as your nursing career will help you fulfill your dreams. It is all about choosing the right work setting based on your priorities and circumstances.
Normalize asking for help
Nursing is very demanding, and you may frequently find yourself overwhelmed and overburdened. Thus, you need to seek assistance and ask for help, whether it’s at work or home. Talk to your nurse manager if you are overloaded with patients and find caring for all of them too difficult. You can also ask your spouse and children to pitch in and help with household chores.
Besides being physically draining, your job can also affect your mental health as this field requires a lot of empathy. The stress, trauma, and death you face can burden your mind. Consider getting help from a mental health professional to put your mind at ease.
Take care of your physical health
In focusing on caring for others, nurses often forget to look after themselves. This includes skipping meals and getting less than 6 hours of sleep on average. Their busy agendas and extended shifts keep them too preoccupied.
Here are a few things you can do to take care of your health.
- Ensure you are eating healthy meals at least two times a day. Getting the proper nutrition will help you in staying fit. It will also give you sufficient energy to maintain focus at work and provide quality care.
- Stay active. Although nursing requires you to constantly be on your feet, it doesn’t fulfill your daily exercise quota. You need to take time out and go for a walk or run. Such activities increase your heart rate, boost energy, and improve your overall health.
- Get the recommended 6-8 hours of sleep. Resting well will help you perform better at work.
Manage your time well
Time management is key to creating the perfect work-life balance. You may have a lot of conflicting demands. Thus, prioritize your commitments; say yes to the right ones, and let the others go. Plan your schedule realistically. Take time out for your health habits, like sleep and exercise. Additionally, talk to your friends and discuss having a regular rhythm for your friendships. You can arrange monthly nights out or Sunday evening brunches.
Furthermore, don’t overburden yourself at work. Don’t take on extra shifts if you do not have the time or energy. Remember, your personal and social lives are just as important and need equal attention and dedication.
Take breaks for restoration
Burnout is very common among nurses because of the nature of their job. However, prioritizing yourself and taking breaks will help you recharge and stay on top of your game.
Restorative breaks at work will also keep you centered and improve the quality of your work. These breaks do not need to be long. They can be as short as a few deep breaths in the hallway between seeing patients. Structured longer breaks should accompany such breaks. Take out time between your shifts and enjoy a fun conversation with a friend or colleague. You should also ensure to never skip your lunch breaks, as you need all the power and energy you can get.
Remember to have fun
Being career-oriented does not mean you shouldn’t nurture your relationships and enjoy activities that make you happy. Schedule hang-out sessions with your family and close friends. They don’t have to be extravagant. Even simple dinners, movie nights, and barbecuing in your backyard are great ways of destressing. And, on the days you have the energy to go out, eating at your favorite restaurant or enjoying a cold brew at a cafe are great ways to have fun.
Apart from socializing, taking time out for your hobbies and interests will help you re-energize and re-center. You can even join a book club or attend poetry readings every weekend. Just remember to have fun and do what you love.
Creating a work-life balance is important in every career. Without it, you’ll often find yourself overworked, tired, and unhappy. And as a nurse, this will greatly affect the quality of care and comfort you provide. Thus, taking time out for yourself, socializing, and enjoying an exotic vacation or two will not only have a positive effect on your life, but will also improve the quality of your work.