As NURSES, we play a critical role in caring for our patients. For us to be able to fulfil this role well, we need to be physically and mentally fit. Self-care is very important especially during this time of crisis. As a nurse, we are focused on taking care of our patients and helping them on becoming well that we can easily forget that we need to take care of our own selves too. We may feel burnt-out and ill effects on our health and well-being. This cannot only affect our health, but also our relationships & the quality of care we provide to our patients.
Self-care is taking care of one’s own health & well-being. We need this so that we can be more of who we want to be, do more of what we want to do & give more of what we want to give.
Here are few simple tips on how to practice self-care.
1. Start with your WHYs.
Simon Sinek, best-selling author and popular motivational speaker, said; ‘’ Working hard for something we do not care about is called stress, working hard for something we love is called passion’’ and so what we do as nurses should be fuelled by passion otherwise it becomes a source of stress for us. Now, everyone may have different reason why we work as nurses, whether that’s because we see nursing as a way to improve our families’ lives or its our ticket to greener pastures, but to work without aim or reason will certainly lead to our downfall. This can lead to poor work outcomes and lack of motivation which could then lead to bigger problems. So, the best way to start is to remember the spark that pushed you towards where you are now. Rekindle that drive and nurture the positive energy that it would bring. Invigorate yourself with the thought of achieving your goals because you know where you are now, you know what you desire and you are working towards it today.
2. Love the Process.
If you feel you are terribly busy, (toxic admissions, non-stop drug rounds, night shifts) and would not have time do all self-care activities, start small. A simple 10-minute walk or a 5-minute meditation can be part of your self-care plan. But create a schedule to form a habit. Eventually, it will no longer feel like a task but will eventually become a part of your daily routine. In the best-selling book Atomic Habits, James Clear, the author, greatly emphasises on the process. He said; “When you fall in love with the process rather than the product, you don’t have to wait to give yourself permission to be happy. You can be satisfied anytime your system is running.” So rather than focusing on your goals alone like let’s say you aim to do ten push ups and ten sit ups a day, you do not obsess on the achieving the reps but focus on the quality of the form. Once you obsess on how you do it, then the goal becomes the by-product of what you love doing.
3. Focus on the basics. Wouldn’t it be ideal if a weekly spa can be part of your self-care routine? But your self-care routine does not need to be this expensive and complicated. Start focusing with the essentials or basics list —such as:
o FOOD. Eating a well-balanced meal should be part of our basic plan. What we feed our brain and body will not only affect our energy level but also our mood. Food also has an impact on how we feel about ourselves. Choosing the right type of food is also important as some may give us the wrong type of nourishment, which can lead to diseases/illness. We are now living in a world where healthier alternatives are available. So, for most of us Filipino Nurses instead of eating rice all the time, (I know rice is life!) why not try the healthy alternative of cauliflower rice instead?
o WATER. Water is a major component of our body. According to National Academies Press, our body is composed of nearly three fourths of an average body weight. Water is needed for our brain and other organs to properly function. We, nurses, sometimes would replace water with high sugar drinks like cola or energy drinks and for some of us, caffeine is the alternative. Remember nothing still beats water! Make it a habit to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
o SLEEP. A good night sleep is equally as important as food and water. It is when we sleep that we allow our body to repair cells and recharge. Sleep also allows our brain to reorganise its neurons. Thus, when we have poor quality of sleep, we experience difficulties in concentrating, or we easily lose our focus or struggle in problem solving.
o EXERCISE- Regular exercise is now part of the essentials. Studies have shown that regular exercise does not only improve one’s physical health but also has positive effects on one’s mental well-being. Exercise can release endorphins, hormones that we can make us feel good. It can also reduce the risk of dementia. Despite all its good benefits, exercise, can at times, be neglected. It may be because of lack of time, energy, knowledge or will. Nowadays, it is easy to access everything through the internet. Tutorials can easily be seen in Social Media, particularly in You Tube. Yoga with Adrienne, Joe Wicks, Liveloveparty and 10 minute HIIT You Tube channels are very popular nowadays. Live sessions on Yoga, Zumba and other work-outs are also available via Facebook and Zoom.
4. No to Negativity
Our work environment can be stressful at times. We must try to find ways on how to lessen it. Find time to relax. Meditation or having a good hot bath after work may can be a good way to relax. OR simply having a chat with your family or friends. If you are living alone abroad, then use the wonders of technology, video calls, to get that positive vibe from your loved ones. You can even host a quiz night!
Aside from destressing, we also need to stay away from the negative thoughts that we are feeding our brain. Social Media is a very powerful tool— it is too powerful that it can easily influence your mood and eventually, your mental state. It can give you false sense of security and can even give you anxiety. After a busy day or night, the last thing you need is to hear negative things which may not even be true at all! You, as a Nurse see it first hand everyday, no need to remind yourself how dreadful it is once you get home.
Instead of consuming your time scrolling or reading feed/ negative news from your social media pages, find other things to do—such as trying a new hobby or reading a book or talking to a friend. Feed your brain with positive thoughts. Watch cute puppies wagging their tails or funny kittens doing silly things.
5. Ask for help.
Self-care can also require asking for help or receiving help from others. There may be times where you feel that you feel highly pressured at work or even at home. You might also feel alone. Do not be afraid to ask for help. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but a strength. It is also not a sign of selfishness. We are humans. We are born to give and to receive. By asking for help, we are showing that we are allowing others to give and help us become better. Nurses are not just strong-willed frontliners, we too have a heart that feels emotions.
If you feel pressured at work, do not hesitate to ask help or support from your manager. Do not suffer in silence. Raise your hand and speak out. Nobody can hear what you think, but people might appreciate and understand you more if they hear your voice.
There are still other ways on how you can practice self-care in your daily life. Whatever you do, make Self-care a priority because we can never give what we do not have. A nurse who cannot take care of herself or himself will struggle to take care their patient. So go on, after work, put your feet up, enjoy a cup of tea and relax.