Prioritizing Self-Care: A Guide for Nursing Students
The CAP Hub understands that nursing school is a whirlwind. Between rising early for clinical rotations and studying late into the night, each day is a race against time. Stressful situations and dire outcomes for those in your care add to the demanding nature of the field. Amid all this, it’s a challenge to find time for vital self-care practices like sleep, exercise, and healthy eating.
Tackling this stress and learning how to balance what often feels like the weight of the world is the heart of our upcoming June Fireside Chat, “Balancing Work, School, & Life: Strategies for Success.”With scarce time to unwind and care for yourself, you might find solace in binge-watching Netflix, labeling it as the “self-care” you need. However, this isn’t self-care and probably doesn’t meet your genuine needs.
What is Self-Care?
According to the World Health Organization, self-care is the ability to promote your health, prevent disease, maintain health, and cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a health worker. It requires you to actively participate in your health care, including your mental health. Self-care doesn’t replace the need for the healthcare system, but it gives you other options and strategies to care for yourself.
Why Should Nursing Students Care About Self-Care?
Have you ever heard the phrase, “you can’t pour from an empty cup”? Essentially, this saying means that you must care for yourself before being well-equipped to care for others. Therefore, nursing school is the ideal time to learn the strategies you need to care for yourself throughout your nursing career.
Self-care is a crucial part of managing your overall wellness during stress. However, it’s important to point out that you must consistently prioritize self-care to get the full benefits. So, waiting until the pressure of nursing school is overwhelming won’t work. Or, even more detrimental thinking is putting off self-care strategies until you’re a licensed nurse. The time to learn how to adequately manage stress and care for your mental, physical, and spiritual needs is now.
Tips for Prioritizing Self-Care
When you engage in self-care activities, you must go beyond doing a 15-minute face mask. Instead, you must consider activities that meet the mental, physical, and spiritual needs that help you realize the best version of yourself. Below are a few tips you can use when making self-care a priority.
Get Better Sleep
Getting a good night’s rest doesn’t always come easy. Stress can make it more difficult to fall asleep and stay there. If you’re looking for ways to improve your sleep, start implementing a few sleep habits, such as the following:
- Set a sleep schedule and stick to it. Consistently go to bed and wake up at the same time every day of the week.
- Avoid things that will keep you awake at night, such as caffeine, alcohol, large meals, and using electronic devices while in bed.
- Set the scene, so your brain knows it’s time to sleep. For example, dim the lights, keep it quiet or play soft nighttime music, and keep the bedroom cool.
- Exercise regularly each day. Be sure to limit physical activity later in the day because it can keep you up at night.
- Strive to get seven to eight hours of sleep each night.
Connect with Your Peers
Nothing beats having friends who understand what you’re going through. Shared experiences can connect you in new ways and create lasting memories and bonds. If you don’t already have connections to other nursing students, use these ideas below to develop friendships:
- Find a study buddy or create a study group with a few others in your most challenging classes
- Meet for dinner weekly to celebrate a small milestone or win
- Practice skills together in the lab and give open, honest feedback to achieve skill competency before check-offs
- Volunteer on the weekend with a few friends from nursing school at a local nursing home or a local health fair
Hit the Gym
You might look at your schedule and wonder where to find time for exercise. You don’t have to be a fitness influencer to get the benefits of physical activity. You only need 30 minutes of exercise each day to reduce stress. You can do this by going for a walk or run or doing a free workout at home by tapping into online resources.
Avoid adding exercise as an afterthought. Instead, add at least three dedicated periods of activity to your weekly schedule if time is tight. Choose times that don’t interfere with your study schedule. If you need extra motivation, find a friend or family member to exercise with you. Better yet, find a fellow nursing student who will be your accountability partner.
Stretch it Out
Whether you do an entire 60-minute yoga session or just take 10 to 15 minutes, stretching has loads of benefits when you’re under stress. Linking your breathing to movement and then adding in the meditative portion of yoga can differentiate nursing school sanity and insanity. You can find many free yoga classes online. Or, if you’re on the go, download a yoga app for easy access to great courses.
Stress can convince your mind that chocolate and other sweets sound the best. But, in reality, you need a good dose of healthy fruits and vegetables. If you’re in class for long hours each day or in clinical, pack high-protein snacks to keep your energy levels steady throughout the day. For example, consider hard-boiled eggs, yogurt with fruit, or celery and peanut butter.
We must also cover beverages when discussing healthy nutrition. While coffee and other caffeine-packed drinks help you get through, be sure to prioritize drinking water. Buy a quality water bottle that keeps your drink cold throughout a long day. Add fresh fruits to flavor your drinks if plain water isn’t appealing.
Practice Positive Self-Talk
It’s easy to tell yourself you’re not smart enough for nursing school. However, the more you tell yourself negative things, the more likely you believe them. So, flip the script and practice nurse affirmations that can help you feel confident about yourself and your abilities. You can write one or two that resonate with you on a small card and tape it to your bathroom mirror. Then, recite the affirmation every morning while you’re getting ready to receive maximum benefits.
Our favorites to keep yourself motivated include the following:
- I am focused on providing excellent care each day.
- Every day, I am close to my goal.
- I am an excellent student.
- Nursing is a meaningful career.
- I know this is the right career for me.
Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help
Feeling overwhelmed is a common experience, and reaching out for help is crucial when it gets too much. Whether it’s a nursing instructor, fellow student, trusted friend, or family member, someone out there can offer you the support you need. Expressing your feelings is a significant step toward managing stress. If things become unbearable, consider consulting a counselor to help you design a plan for maintaining mental and physical wellness throughout your school journey.
Mark your calendars for an inaugural Fireside Chat on June 28th. Our distinguished panelists will share insights on “Balancing Work, School, & Life: Strategies for Success.”
This captivating forum is among the many offerings provided by The Career Advancement Program (CAP Hub). From finding scholarships to help finance your nursing school education, to handling industry pressures and connecting with experienced coaches, the CAP Hub equips you with guidance and resources. Together, we’ll cultivate a fulfilling healthcare career you’ll love.
Secure your spot for the June Fireside Chat by clicking the registration link below.
BY MELISSA MILLS