Self-Care for Nurses Part 2

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Last time in Self-Care for Nurses Part 1 I talked about how proper sleep, movement, and food & drink are essential to your self-care. In part 2 I want to further expand on the topic of self-care and how you as a nurse can further enhance your self-care so that you can live your life to the fullest.

I want to reiterate that the main purpose of self-care is to enhance your energy, productivity, and resilience so that you can best serve others.  If you are sick and in and out of visits to see your physician you will not be able to serve others to the best of your ability. This will have a negative impact on your life from your finances, time, quality of life, relationships, and your emotional well-being to name a few.  I think this is a pretty crucial topic that is underestimated by many nurses, especially younger nurses. 

I want to finish the area of self-care by talking about some other areas I feel are important for your self-care to be optimized.  These include your relationships, faith, passions, environment, and mental health.

Relationships – I think this comes more naturally for females, but is often underestimated by male nurses sometimes.  I have had many moments in my career as a nurse where I felt alone and did not have a lot of support. This can make it tough to get through certain situations when there is no one to talk with that you trust.  It is important that you have positive relationships in your life or in other words people who will be on your side.

So, how do you find these positive relationships?  Well, look inside yourself first.  Make sure you are the type of person who attracts positive people and doesn’t repel them.  Give others the benefit of the doubt, do not gossip, wish the best for others, smile, and go out of your way to help others. Also, look for opportunities to be a part of groups, social gatherings, or volunteer for something you believe in or are passionate about.  One example for me is I am apart of the Nursing Organization for VA Nurses (NOVA) and just got back from the national conference.  This was a great way to get around other like minded nurses who want the best for our Veterans and a way to network and be mentored by other nurses who are where you would like to be.

Over the past five years, I have learned the importance of relationships and being there for others. Also, having mentors in the areas of life where you need guidance to move forward with wisdom and overcome obstacles in life and your career.  It is always best to try to learn from others instead of reinventing the wheel. 

Also, it helps to be involved in a group outside of nursing where you share a common interest with others. For me, that is my church.  My relationship with Jesus is the foundation of my life and others at my church feel the same way. To develop my relationship with Christ, I fellowship with others in the church and also get together with a men’s group where we talk about faith and the challenges in life that may derail our faith.  All I am saying is find a group where you share a common interest and have a group around you that will support you and lift you up when you need it most.

One last thing I would like to talk about when it comes to relationships is your family. Take the time to be intentional about spending time with them. Relationships take work and time to develop.  I have had to say no to opportunities in my career, so I am intentional about building the relationships with my family. When patients are asked on their death bed what do you regret? The answer is not I wish I would have worked more, but I wish I would have spent more time with the ones I loved. Make sure you do that today.

Purpose – This is one you may be surprised by. Yes, discover your purpose. In other words, what specifically do you want to do for society using your nursing talents and skills? If that is taking care of patients at the bedside or some other kind of direct care for the rest of your career, then that is great. Maybe you would like to do something different in the profession or reach more people than you do now. Find what it is through clarity, get specific, and be intentional about going after it.

If you line up your skills (the skills you have to offer), talents (where you are gifted), and your purpose (the problem you want to solve in the world) and put all this together, you will be in your sweet spot. When you are in your sweet spot, you will have the energy and motivation to push against the obstacles and criticism you may face on the way to achieving your purpose.  You also want to make sure this can make a living for you.  It likely will if you are truly in your sweet spot.

I also wanted to point out that when you have clarity on your purpose, you will know what to say yes to and what to say no to as far as opportunities that come your way. In nursing, I have found these are often distractions from you achieving your purpose.

After you have established your purpose, you need a vision which is the way you plan to get to the purpose. In other words, what steps will you need to take to achieve your purpose? Next, you will need to establish goals which are specific steps you need to take to realize your vision.

Having a purpose in your work is so important, and it is different for every nurse. Often nurses have not taken the time to identify their purpose. Identify it today, and it will give you the fire you need to feel energetic and excited about your profession again, and that is essential for self-care.

Remember your purpose is not found but discovered through learning and your experiences.  I give credit to Dan Miller’s podcast for that last sentence. You can find his website and podcast here.

Faith – this is a very important point, but I will not go into a lot of detail here about it. My faith is essential and the foundation of my life. All I would say is I believe it is important for you to believe in a higher power whatever that is for you. When you are alone or facing a crisis and it feels like there is no way out your faith can offer hope. As we know from our training and experience as nurses, this is often the last thing people have.  Also, the community you connect with in that faith can offer you the support you need if you do not have a lot of family support.

So, if you are not active in your faith, I recommend you get involved and connect with others who share your same beliefs and interest as you. It gives you a chance to help them, and they will be there for you when you need them.

Mental Stability – Basically, this one is about keeping the negative thoughts out of your head and having a positive attitude about life.  I am usually optimistic and believe the glass is half full. However, there are times I catch myself being a pessimist.  If I am at work and I get floated it is hard to be excited about that. If I look at how I am helping my organization better and the new people I will meet, I start to look at the situation in a different light. 

Another way to keep you mentally stable is to make sure you are starting your mornings with some margin. You do not want to be rushing out of the house and rushing to work. This will make you feel stressed and likely make you feel like this the rest of the day. To do this you will need to get up earlier. The easiest way to make sure you get up early is to go to bed early. Having this margin in the morning and having a structured morning routine will allow you to feel relaxed in the morning instead of stressed. Try it for a couple of weeks and see for yourself.

One last piece about mental stability and stress I wanted to talk about is making sure you are taking time for yourself. I like to relax by reading and getting things done around the house. These types of activities refill my tank. What I am getting at here is say for example you take a trip where you spend your vacation in Disney Land or World, and you come back from the trip and feel exhausted. This is what I am talking about. So, give yourself margin and a chance to do what you like so you can reduce stress, and you are doing something that fills your tank instead of depleting it. Every nurse has a limit on how much they can give whether it is your profession or your family. So be wise and make sure you are refilling your tank so that you can keep going and persisting towards your purpose and be healthy when you achieve it.

Meditation is also something worth looking into and being mindful of your daily activities. I have other resources I can point you to for details on these valuable tools for self-care.

Environment – this is one I did not think much about when it comes to self-care, and you may not have thought of as well. Your environment has to do with the people you surround yourself with. Are these people who lift you up or bring you down? Some people are unavoidable (like your spouse). I am fortunate to have a very supportive spouse who is a wonderful mother. 

Sit back and think about the negative people you are allowing into your life. Are these relationships necessary? Can you cut ties with these people?  This could be friends, co-workers, a boss, other relatives besides children or your spouse.

I believe your spouse and children should be approached differently in this situation. These are relatives that you have a duty to care for.  Parents and older children you may need to limit your time or put boundaries on them if they are bringing you down. Spouse is a tough one, but you can start by being an example yourself. I do not advocate divorce as a solution, but sometimes it may be necessary for your situation. Divorce is not an option for me in my marriage.

The last thing I want to say about your environment is to make sure you live in a safe community and that your household or the people you live with are supportive of you performing self-care. If you live in a noisy, unsafe, or toxic(people) environment, then get out of there.

To recap, I talked about how relationships, purpose, faith, mental stability, and your environment all play a part in what your self-care looks like.  These last two articles are not an exhaustive list and I know I missed some things. Please share with me how you perform self-care and how it has made a difference in your life. What are some of the obstacles you have had to overcome to get to where you are now? I look forward to hearing your about your experience with self-care. Prioritize self-care before you require healthcare.

To your health,

Nurse Brian