Choose Self-Care before Healthcare

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Nurses are great at taking care of others, but they are not always the best at self-care. If you want to serve others to the best of your ability and for as long as possible, then you will need to prioritize your self-care. By the way, serving others does not only pertain to your patients, but also to your family, friends, and the community in which you live.

If you do not put self-care before healthcare, you will be regretting it later. Have you heard the saying that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”?  When we talk about self-care, we are talking about taking action to prevent needing healthcare. Although, we are not in the business of curing. We treat disease but rarely do we cure it.  Healthcare is very effective for acute injuries such as broken bones, trauma injuries, and some infections, but not as effective for chronic stuff. Over-time, if you do not pay attention to self-care, you will start to develop chronic conditions. 

Anybody whether they are a nurse or a patient has two roads they can take when it comes to their health. They can choose to be active or passive in their health. By active, I mean being engaged, educated, and taking action.  Passive is you keep going because your body has not stopped you yet due to health issues. Trust me if it is neglected long enough it will eventually do that.

I want to keep you from making this mistake. I will be writing a part one and a part two on the basics of self-care for nurses.  Today, I want to touch on some of the basics of self-care.

Sleep - First and foremost make sure you are getting adequate sleep. If you are on night shift, put a long-term plan together to change that. If you are not sleeping through the night, you may need to get your thyroid checked by a professional. You can do your lab test yourself here.  Also, make sure your room is dark, there is low noise in your bedroom, and you are not looking at electronic devices before bed. I have a great sleep article here, and you can check out this book on sleep.

Food – generally I would like to advice most people to lower their carbohydrate intake, make sure you are eating real food and limiting the food you eat out of bags and boxes.  Consume fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, bubbies pickles(you can buy these at Earth Fare), and pickled beets to name a few.  Also, make sure you are purchasing clean food when necessary. In other words, does it need to be organic or not?  Bring your lunch with you to work so you do not have to depend on the hospital cafeteria. Don’t get me started on that one.

Movement – most nurses have no problem with movement on work days. It is their non-workdays that they struggle with. I know what you are saying, but Brian I want to sleep and do nothing on my days off. I understand, but your body needs adequate movement every day to be healthy. Think about how fast your patient loses their strength if they sit in the bed for three days straight. You would have an elderly gentleman who was walking with a cane, and now he can not even stand on his own after being in bed for three days.  By movement, I do not mean running. Even I do not like to jog that much, and the science behind the benefits of jogging is not very good.  I suggest going for a thirty-minute walk in your neighborhood, and it does not hurt to do some sprints now and then on a soft surface such as grass or beach sand. Playing with your kids outside is great and doing some floor squats is great as well. Move your body.

Relationships – take time to spend with those who are closest to you. No matter what the relationship is, it will take time, work and sacrifice to grow it.  You can not do this if you are working too much or not intentionally nourishing these relationships. When you get older and come to the end of your life, this is one of the areas of self-care that will matter most to you. These are the people who will be there for you when you are ill or hurt. While you are well, it is vital to nourish these relationships and be there for them when they need you. Do this while you still can. Make it a priority today to spend time with those who you love not just the people that love you. Most of the time you will have to give before you expect anything in return, and that is if you do get anything in return.

Relaxation – this is different from sleep in that it involves what you do while you are awake. In my view, this is allowing enough margin in your life to take time for yourself. In other words, do something where you are relaxed and recharged after doing it. For me, that is reading a book, writing, spending time with my family, meditation, and walking in nature.   These are a few of the ways I like to relax, and I feel more energized after doing them. What is it that relaxes you after a long shift or on your days off?

To recap, I talked briefly about some basic ways to perform self-care.  I mentioned sleep, food, movement, relationships, and relaxation. I will go into more detail on these in Self-Care Part 1.  Stay tuned for this article next week.  Until then, let me know in the comments how you perform self-care and what has worked for you.  Remember, choose self-care before you have to choose healthcare.

Have a healthy week,

Nurse Brian