How to Take Care of Yourself When You Are the Caretaker

Take care of yourself, by finding ways to decrease stress, so you can continue taking care of others. Mental health is just as important as physical health, and as nurses, we need to make it a priority.

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As nurses, we tend to naturally be caretakers, not just of our patients, but sometimes also of our family, friends, and maybe even of our church members or neighbors as well.  While it's common for people to seek out nurses for help, sometimes we have to say no or at least, maybe later. It's okay to take a break and spend time on yourself.  Nurses need time to decompress and destress for our health. We need to be able to go out and have fun with our friends and to be able to spend quality time with our families or ourselves and not feel guilty about it.  Nursing students, you need to do this as well.  By starting to learn ways to destress now, it will help to form a good habit that will follow you into your future career.

Spending time in nature is an easy way to destress or decompress.  Go for a walk after work. Go out to your local park.  My favorite way to destress is walking barefoot on a beach for the grounding or earthing benefits. In his article, Earthing: 5 Ways it helps you fight disease, Dr. Josh Axe, states, "While it might sound strange at first — ditching your shoes and digging your toes into the dirt or sand, or strolling across some pesticide-free grass — there's evidence this can be greatly beneficial for health by lowering free radical damage (also called "oxidative stress”), stress, inflammation and pain.”

I absolutely love visiting the ocean and make it a habit to visit the ocean at least once a year, usually in sunny Florida during our Winter months. I love walking on the Gulf Shores and finding shells and other sea creatures with my kids.  I believe that even wading in ocean water is healing to my body.  If you live in a Northern climate as I do, in the Winter, you can still get benefits by doing things outside, such as making a snowman with your kids.  No matter what your age, bring out your inner child by lying down in the snow to make a snow angel.  My dogs love playing in the snow as well.  Our black lab's favorite thing to do is catch snowballs in his mouth! Take some time to destress with your furry friends outdoors.

Using essential oils can be another way to decrease stress. Many essential oils are known for their relaxing properties.  Lavender is one of my favorite oils to help me destress and fall asleep.  Sometimes, I mix a couple of drops of Lavender with a healthy skin oil like coconut or jojoba and rub it on my lower back.  Other times, I will add a few drops of essential oils to Epsom salts and then add a cup of the salts to running water for my bath or a foot soak.  Not only do I get the benefits of the essential oil, but a hot Epsom salt bath or foot soak can help the muscles relax and help people detox and absorb some Magnesium via the skin.  Many studies on PubMed indicate that Lavender can help people lower stress and anxiety.   Essential oils such as Orange, Lemon, and Peppermint are known for their ability to lift the mood and help boost the immune system.  Some companies have blends of relaxing oils such as Stress Away or Peace and Calming.  You can diffuse these or roll them on your skin to help you relax.

Signing up for a sports team can be another great way to relax and boost your endorphins while having fun with friends and meeting new people. An article by Mayo Clinic notes that almost any form of exercise can help boost endorphins and reduce stress.  You don't just have to join a sports league or a gym. There are many ways to exercise, including free videos and tutorials on places like YouTube.  Schedule some form of exercise into your regular routine to help counteract the negative effects of your work stress and increase your endorphins.  Take a new exercise class, learn a new sport, or even sign up for some dance lessons with a friend or your significant other.

Spending time doing something physical that you enjoy is the best medicine to counteract caretaker stress and burnout.  Take care of yourself, so you can continue taking care of others.  Mental health is just as important as physical health, and as nurses, we need to make it a priority.


Earthing: 5 Ways It Can Help You Fight Disease: Dr. Axe

Stress management: Mayo Clinic

The effect of lavender on stress in individuals: A systematic review and meta-analysis: National Library of Medicine

Noelle Collins specializes in Internal Medicine and Oncology and is branching out into Freelance Writing. When not working, she loves to try to conquer the newest Escape Room with her husband and two sons.

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