Be Healthy: 10 Self-Care Tips and Tricks for Nurses

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    Feeling stressed out? Is it burnout or could it be more? Learn 10 self-care tips that will help you be physically, mentally and spiritually well.

    Be Healthy: 10 Self-Care Tips and Tricks for Nurses

    You just finished your third 12-hour shift in a row. As you sit down at home, prop up your feet and begin to relax, your mind wanders to all the pain and sorrow you witnessed over the past 3 days. You body tenses-up. Your heart races. The more you try to relax, the worse it becomes.

    Could you be suffering from nurse burnout or even compassion fatigue?

    It is important for nurses to understand what burnout and compassion fatigue are and how to implement self-care techniques to prevent both.

    Nurse Burnout


    According to a study by Marshall University, burnout is a state of mental, physical and emotional stress resulting from stress at work. It is associated with individuals who do "people work". Burnout can stem from short-staffing, not fitting in with other nurses at work, or long hours.

    Compassion Fatigue

    American Nurse Today defines compassion fatigue as experiencing job-related distress that outweighs job satisfaction. Compassion fatigue is often triggered by experiencing job-related trauma, such as death. Nurses who work in oncology or other areas that see more patient deaths may be at a greater risk.

    All nurses are at risk for burnout and compassion fatigue. It is important to develop a strong self-care routine to keep your mind, body, and spirit in the best shape possible.

    10 Self-Care Tips for Nurses


    1. Fuel Your Body - When you don't keep your body fueled with healthy foods, you may feel jittery, sluggish, or faint. Plan and pack your meals the day before. Pack plenty of food to last the whole shift. Eat small, frequent healthy meals. Fruits, veggies and whole grain breads or snacks are good choices.

    2. Exercise - You don't have to be an iron-man triathlete to be healthy! A simple plan of 30 mins of exercise each day that uses both your arms and legs will keep you feeling well and decrease stress. Great activities are swimming, walking, yoga, or pilates. Find an activity that works best for you.

    3. Visualization - Healthy habits make healthy nurses. Visualization helps you connect with your subconscious and decrease stress. Practicing visualization each day will decrease stress levels and improve overall health.

    To practice visualization, find a quiet place and sit comfortably. Close your eyes and take in 3 slow, deep breaths. With your eyes closed, imagine a peaceful place, like a cabin in the woods, a beach, or a mountain stream. Take a few more slow, deep breaths and then slowly open your eyes. Sit for a few minutes to reconnect with the present.

    4. Positive Self-Talk - Have you ever paid attention to how you speak to yourself inside your head? It can be a scary place some days, right? Practice positive self-talk. Create 2-3 daily affirmations and repeat those phrases to yourself as you are going through your day.

    Here are few to try:

    • I am calm and relaxed.
    • I am here for my patients.
    • I give each patient the attention they deserve.

    5. Hydrate - Water is not only to make your veins ready for blood draws! It helps your body and mind run well.

    Your body needs approximately 2 liters of water on a typical day. If you aren't a fan of water, try infusing it with fruit. You can make some great refreshing combinations, like cucumber mint, watermelon basil, or strawberry lemon.

    6. Laugh - Follow the old adage, "Laughter is the best medicine" and have a good time! Spend time watching a comedy, connecting with friends, or playing with the little people in your life. A few laughs will help melt away stress and worry.

    7. Go Off the Grid - It seems we are always attached to our phones, computers, or tablets. Take a day and fully disconnect. Go for a walk, spend time outdoors, meet a friend for coffee. Disconnecting is a great self-care practice.

    8. Practice Spirituality - You are a spiritual being. Practicing spirituality is not the same as religion. People who practice spirituality look inward for greater meaning and purpose. They also report decreased stress, the ability to accept when things are out of their control and have a larger support network.

    9. Personal Development - Hobbies provide enrichment and creativity. It is important to make time for activities you enjoy. Plan a monthly outing, take a class, or volunteer at a non-profit agency that fulfills your passions.

    10. Seek Professional Help -Burnout and compassion fatigue can be serious problems. If you start to feel hopeless, depressed, or lack enjoyment in everyday life, it may be time to seek professional help.

    Speak to your nurse manager to ask if your facility offers an employee assistance program. If they do, you may be eligible for a few free visits. If they don't connect with a local or telemedicine counselor.

    Self-care is an essential part of your nursing practice. You give so much to others every day, aren't you worth love, compassion, and understanding too? I think so!

    What other self-care habits do you use? Have you used any of the ones above? I would love to hear your ideas. Leave a comment and get the conversation started.
    Last edit by Joe V on Jun 14
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    About melissa.mills1117, BSN

    Melissa Mills is a nurse who is on a journey of exploration and entrepreneurship. She is a healthcare writer who specializes in case management and leadership. When she is not in front of a computer, Melissa is busy with her husband, 3 kids, 2 dogs and a fat cat named Little Dude.

    Joined: Feb '17; Posts: 161; Likes: 460
    Freelance Writer, Nurse Case Manager, Professor; from OH , US

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    8 Comments

  3. by   leilo0
    I seem to notice a recurring theme in these burnout articles. While these are good suggestions, it seem to only place the responsibility on nurses alone. As long as nurses are setup to fail - workload issues, not enough support to backup nurses when dealing with abusive families and patients, high accountability despite little autonomy, being responsible for other people's work, I can go on. The bottom line is, each and everyday we are asked to do more, care more, give more than what is humanly possible and no amount of self care can address this and it's a shame that nurse writers who have left the bedside should be advocating for better conditions for our profession but the recurring theme is that we are not doing enough for ourselves to be able to accomplish the impossible.
    Last edit by leilo0 on Mar 3
  4. by   nikegirl09
    Quote from leilo0
    I seem to notice a recurring theme in these burnout articles. While these are good suggestions, it seem to only place the responsibility on nurses alone. As long as nurses are setup to fail - workload issues, not enough support to backup nurses when dealing with abusive families and patients, high accountability despite little autonomy, being responsible for other people's work, I can go on. The bottom line is, each and everyday we are asked to do more, care more, give more than what is humanly possible and no amount of self care can address this and it's a shame that nurse writers who have left the bedside should be advocating for better conditions for our profession but the recurring theme is that we are not doing enough for ourselves to be able to accomplish the impossible.
    The system is definitely broken on many levels, much of which is beyond a nurse's control. Even fighting for reform will not produce immediate relief. But every nurse has control over how they treat and support their own bodies and minds so that they cope with the chaos, if they so choose. And we are free to start coping more effectively this very moment. Personally I think most of these tips are really good and plan to practice them, especially the visualizing one. I think it sounds really helpful.
  5. by   melissa.mills1117
    Quote from leilo0
    I seem to notice a recurring theme in these burnout articles. While these are good suggestions, it seem to only place the responsibility on nurses alone. As long as nurses are setup to fail - workload issues, not enough support to backup nurses when dealing with abusive families and patients, high accountability despite little autonomy, being responsible for other people's work, I can go on. The bottom line is, each and everyday we are asked to do more, care more, give more than what is humanly possible and no amount of self care can address this and it's a shame that nurse writers who have left the bedside should be advocating for better conditions for our profession but the recurring theme is that we are not doing enough for ourselves to be able to accomplish the impossible.
    Leilo0 - Thanks for your honest thoughts. You challenge me to think about this issue in a different light. As nurses, we must take responsibility for ourselves. But, I agree that it is an issue bigger than just what you can do for yourself.

    As a writer, I want to write articles that inform, educate and challenge. So, to get compelling, thoughtful posts back mean that I am doing what I intended to do. While I am no longer at the bedside, I have not forgotten. Things have changed, I am sure. But, I am not out of the nursing game all together. As a case manager, I am still faced with many issues.

    Again, thanks for taking the time to respond in such an honest way. I appreciate that.

    Melissa
  6. by   melissa.mills1117
    Thanks Nikegirl09! Glad you enjoyed the article and found something new to try!

    Quote from nikegirl09
    The system is definitely broken on many levels, much of which is beyond a nurse's control. Even fighting for reform will not produce immediate relief. But every nurse has control over how they treat and support their own bodies and minds so that they cope with the chaos, if they so choose. And we are free to start coping more effectively this very moment. Personally I think most of these tips are really good and plan to practice them, especially the visualizing one. I think it sounds really helpful.
  7. by   mejsp
    The first part of the Serenity Prayer reads:

    "God grant me the serenity
    to accept the things I cannot change;
    courage to change the things I can;
    and wisdom to know the difference."

    Your article validates my advice for friends who are hurting. Take care of YOU. People we love are struggling. We can't tell them, "Run, get away, leave that marriage, change jobs, ignore those toxic relationships, etc..." What we can say is: prioritize your needs.

    It is a gift to receive gratification as a caregiver. The world needs us which fulfills our need to be needed, but we forget to tend to the person in the mirror. I enjoyed your article.
  8. by   leilo0
    Quote from melissa.mills1117
    As a writer, I want to write articles that inform, educate and challenge. So, to get compelling, thoughtful posts back mean that I am doing what I intended to do. While I am no longer at the bedside, I have not forgotten. Things have changed, I am sure. But, I am not out of the nursing game all together. As a case manager, I am still faced with many issues.

    Again, thanks for taking the time to respond in such an honest way. I appreciate that.

    Melissa
    Thank you for your reply Melissa. I read your article through a header under "Tips that will save you from burnout" and with that premise, it did struck a chord. Your article on its' own is helpful in reminding us the importance of practicing self-care because bedside or not, nursing is a challenging job and we all want to do right by our patients but not at the expense of our own well-being.

    My thoughts were meant to be a blanket statement of my own observations regarding the conversations we have about our profession. I apologize if I worded it in a way that discredits your non bedside role. I don't doubt the challenges you face in your current position and with that, I believe that it's important that we change the nursing rhetoric from self care to questioning why our working conditions and standards are what they are,

    The healthcare system and environment is evolving. Patients are sicker and heavier while nurses are burned out and overload with work. I'm sure other allied health professional face their own issues but you notice a vast difference between our working condition with theirs - they get to go to lunch on time, leave on time. If they're short, they just see less patients. I'm not sure what I can do on my own, as I have already made an honest decision for myself to leave this profession but for those who have yet to walk this path and for those who continue to do so, I hope for a better way.

    I want to thank you sincerely for having an open mind to my comment and for being a voice to this profession that greatly needs it.
  9. by   melissa.mills1117
    No offense was taken whatsoever. I acknowledge you for writing your open, honest opinions. That is the only way change will ever happen. If we, as a profession, simply accept the conditions, nothing will change. ~Melissa

    Quote from leilo0
    Thank you for your reply Melissa. I read your article through a header under "Tips that will save you from burnout" and with that premise, it did struck a chord. Your article on its' own is helpful in reminding us the importance of practicing self-care because bedside or not, nursing is a challenging job and we all want to do right by our patients but not at the expense of our own well-being.

    My thoughts were meant to be a blanket statement of my own observations regarding the conversations we have about our profession. I apologize if I worded it in a way that discredits your non bedside role. I don't doubt the challenges you face in your current position and with that, I believe that it's important that we change the nursing rhetoric from self care to questioning why our working conditions and standards are what they are,

    The healthcare system and environment is evolving. Patients are sicker and heavier while nurses are burned out and overload with work. I'm sure other allied health professional face their own issues but you notice a vast difference between our working condition with theirs - they get to go to lunch on time, leave on time. If they're short, they just see less patients. I'm not sure what I can do on my own, as I have already made an honest decision for myself to leave this profession but for those who have yet to walk this path and for those who continue to do so, I hope for a better way.

    I want to thank you sincerely for having an open mind to my comment and for being a voice to this profession that greatly needs it.
  10. by   PocketSize
    I take a trip every so often. Could be 3 days, could be 10 days. Could be local or further away but when I begin to feel run down and I feel the burn out coming on best believe I'm on Southwest.com booking a flight. I'm single without kids, I have no interest in dating or having kids in the future so my situation may be different than some but I'm thankful my nursing schedule and salary allows me to get away without much financial strain or having to take much time off (if any). Nevertheless, it is imperative we take time for ourselves. Can't heal others if we don't heal ourselves first.

    I believe everyone should have an interest or a hobby unrelated to work to release stress and decompress. Find your outlet.

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