Have you ever noticed that the people who spend the most time and effort caring for others often aren’t spending nearly as much time caring for themselves? It’s something of an open secret among caregivers that many of us view self-care as an indulgence or something we just don’t have time for.
That shouldn’t be the case. Proper self-care is a crucial part of managing stress, maintaining mental and physical health, and feeling good about ourselves and the work we do. It can also increase the quality of care we provide to our patients.
Let’s look at the importance of self-care for nursing professionals more closely, examine why it’s so challenging, and learn some techniques that will help you develop a self-care routine.
What Is Self-Care?
Self-care is taking time to invest energy and care into your mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. It is an essential part of living a healthy life.
Self-care helps with stress, prevents burnout, and promotes better overall well-being. When we get enough rest, eat properly, and attend to our personal needs, we can keep our mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health in a state of positive balance.
It is especially important for people working in the nursing field to practice self-care because not taking care of ourselves makes it harder to care for others. Empathy and compassion are two key traits that nurses must maintain to perform their job to the highest standard. If we don’t have empathy and compassion for ourselves, it’s that much harder to have them for our patients.
Why Is Self-Care Important for Nurses?
Self-care is not only essential for nurses, but it’s also an ethical obligation. According to the American Nurses Association Code of Ethics for Nurses, nurses must participate in self-care to properly care for their patients.
But in addition to ethical concerns, nurses should put self-care at the top of their priority list to reduce the likelihood of burnout. Nurse burnout is a serious work condition that includes mental and physical exhaustion that comes from the stress and responsibilities of the job.
According to a study in 2020, the rate of nurse burnout was 62%; that number has likely risen since the pandemic. Patient care is also impacted when nurses feel the effects of burnout. But developing proper self-care routines can dramatically reduce the chances of nurse burnout.
Self-care can also improve job satisfaction. A recent study of workplace burnout determined that practicing mindfulness led to nurses having higher job satisfaction than those who didn’t practice this form of self-care. Self-care leads to higher self-efficacy, which also leads to better job satisfaction. Nurses who are more confident in their abilities will enjoy going to work more.
Barriers to Self-Care for Nurses
Some common barriers that prevent nurses from engaging in self-care practices include the following:
- Putting others’ needs before their own
- Having limiting beliefs about being worthy of self-care
- Having no motivation for self-care
- Having a lack of awareness of needs
- Assuming that self-care is too hard or takes too much time
Changing these negative mindsets around self-care is an important first step. Instead of looking at all the reasons why you shouldn’t practice self-care, write a list of reasons why you should. Your well-being and the well-being of the patients you care for should be enough motivation to develop self-care habits.
Self-Care Questionnaire for Nurses
- Do you eat regularly and healthily?
- Do you make time for self-reflection?
- Do you practice ways to decrease stress?
- Do you get at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily?
- Do you participate in learning activities to keep your mind engaged?
- Do you practice self-affirmations or give yourself praise?
- Do you practice being grateful?
- Do you strive for a healthy work-life balance?
- Do you practice mindfulness or meditation?
- Do you pay attention to your inner thoughts or feelings?
Self-Care Strategies for Nurses
So, what are some recommendations for self-care for nurses in the workplace? Here are five specific self-care tips for healthcare workers.
Strategy 1 – Develop a Morning Routine of Exercising
Forming a morning routine is one of the best ways to practice self-care and ensure it sticks. You can exercise for 30 minutes daily as part of your morning routine. Exercise is not only good for you physically, but it also helps your mind, body, and soul align.
You can try yoga, Pilates, walking or running, getting an exercise machine, or dancing every morning. According to the APA, regular exercise can help reduce stress levels and make the body more resilient. When you work long hours, exercise will boost your ability to perform better during the day.
Strategy 2 – Get Proper Sleep and Diet
Everyone needs a good night’s rest. Sleep restoration is essential for your body and mind to recharge. One way to practice self-care is to ensure you get a good night’s rest.
Nutrition is another vital aspect of self-care. You need to eat well and eat regularly to have the energy to perform at work. It is also important that you choose healthy foods to consume. Food is energy, so it’s important to eat foods that contain the essential nutrients and vitamins needed to keep your energy levels high. Some of the best foods to include in your diet are:
- Healthy fats
- Green, leafy vegetables
- Lean proteins
By implementing a good sleep schedule and diet, you are increasing your ability to perform your job at full capacity.
Strategy 3 – Practice Being Grateful
Have you tried spiritual self-care for nurses? Gratitude is one way you can do that. When you develop a gratitude practice, you can reduce stress and improve your overall well-being. Practicing gratitude is a form of self-care that doesn’t take up too much of your time.
You can start by making a gratitude journal. Write down three things that you are grateful for each day. It can be part of your morning or evening routine, and it won’t take more than a couple of minutes to think about some things in your life, big or small, that you are grateful to have. This small self-care practice can have an outsize impact on your overall perspective, helping you to focus more on positive thoughts and the things in your life that make you happy.
Strategy 4 – Use Positive Self-Affirmations
When you use positive affirmations for self-care, you can begin to have a more positive outlook on yourself and your thoughts. A positive affirmation is simply a positive statement that you make to encourage yourself. The more you practice positive self-affirmations, the better you’ll feel. Positive affirmations can help you develop a better sense of self-worth. When you feel better about yourself, you’ll do a better job in the workplace and in your personal life.
Strategy 5 – Enhancing Self-Care with Mindfulness
Mindfulness is the practice of being aware of your thoughts and feelings in the present moment, without attaching any judgment to those thoughts and feelings. Being mindful can help you feel less overwhelmed and more in control during stressful situations. Since being a nurse often involves being present in high-stress environments and situations, practicing mindfulness is a particularly helpful self-care technique that can improve overall wellness.
Some tips for incorporating mindfulness into your life include:
- Set aside time to be with yourself daily
- Focus on what you’re good at
- Bring positive energy with you to work
- Boost your resilience
- Try to develop a work-life balance
- Learn to enjoy the moment
Self-Care Activities for Nurses
Some self-care activities that nurses can participate in include:
- Attending seminars or webinars in your field to further your mind.
- Getting a foot massage or get new, comfortable shoes.
- Finding nursing support groups.
- Participating in wellness programs designed for employees.
- Giving yourself positive affirmations throughout the day.
- Taking some time to do something special for yourself on your days off.
Resources for Nurses to Support Self-Care
Some self-care resources for nurses include:
- Headspace app: helps you practice meditation and mindfulness.
- Care/Of app: offers assessments for your health goals.
- Lumosity app: enables you to keep your brain active with free exercises.
- Fifth Window app: provides support for nurses and nurse wellness.
- NurseWell app: provides opportunities to practice self-care techniques such as meditation and Pilates.
Practice Self-Care by Adding to Your Toolkit
Self-care is an essential way for nurses to prevent burnout and stay at the top of their game. There are many ways to practice self-care, and what works for one person may not for another. Many resources and apps can help you learn to implement a self-care routine that fits your unique needs. If you want to improve your skill set, add a health coach certification course. Sign up today for our health coach certification course.