10. Get Enough Sleep
Working night shifts and long shifts can take a toll on your body. A lack of sleep contributes to fatigue and medical errors. It not only causes fatigue and lethargy, but it can result in the inability to cope with stress or manage difficult emotions. It also reduces creativity, as well as problem-solving and decision-making skills. And, it can impair learning and concentration.
Even a minimal loss of sleep can affect coordination, judgment, mood, mental sharpness and reaction times. The recommended number of hours of sleep for adults is seven to nine hours a day. Apart from all the other negative effects, not getting enough sleep also affects the immune system and increases the risk of getting ill.
But many nurses who work in hospitals do long 12-hour shifts. However, some only work three days a week so they have a chance to rest. Nurses must get enough sleep whenever they can. Cutting back on sleep is never a good idea. When exhaustion sets in, the immune system becomes weak.
Sleeping uninterruptedly for eight hours on a regular basis encourages a strong immune system and keeps you healthy. Some ways to adjust to working night shifts is to use the following tips when trying to sleep during the day:
- Don’t drink too much caffeine because it will keep you awake.
- Turn off all your electronics.
- Use a black-out curtain in your window to mimic nighttime.
- Exercise when you get up instead of before going to bed.
Most nurses love to drink strong coffee when starting a shift, and that is fine. Caffeine is a stimulant, but in small to moderate amounts, it can help with mental clarity. It is only a problem when you consume it in excess. And the best way to prevent that is to stick to one cup in the morning and drink water the rest of the day.
11. Find Your Work-Life Balance
Nursing means dealing with difficult situations, so it is easy to become burnt out. Finding a balance can help reduce stress, which weakens the immune system. Nurses try to do things they enjoy to de-stress when they are not on shift whether it is gardening, taking a hot bath, meeting with friends or reading a book. Indulging in leisure activities helps to decrease fatigue.
Taking time for loved ones, having fun and relaxing can help create a balance. Emotional health is as important as physical health because nurses deal with patients, families, and colleagues in challenging situations. Nurses need to cultivate relationships with people who care for them and bring out the best in them. And this also means reducing contact with those who drain their energy.
A common saying is, “You can’t take care of others until you take care of yourself.” Nurses are human beings, not robots. So, to be effective, they need to make taking care of themselves a priority. That way, they will be strong and healthy enough to do what they need to do for their patients. It’s worth taking the time to remain healthy and happy. Also, humor can be a healthy way of coping.
Laughter reduces stress and increases your immunity. Carving out time for meaningful spiritual practices also helps when coping with the emotional stress of nursing ill patients. An hour of massage is equal to eight hours of rest. Nurses have found that spending time in a spa or massage center soothes their tense muscles and makes them feel relaxed. And lastly, going to a yoga class can also be beneficial.
12. Maintain Healthy Habits
Nurses may neglect routine checkups because they feel they don’t have time for them. But not going for recommended routine appointments may result in problems they could have avoided. All men and women should go for annual physicals, testing and check-ups. Women nurses need mammograms and pap smears, as well. Both male and female nurses must follow their doctor’s recommendations for other exams, such as colonoscopies, too.
Nurses should weigh themselves weekly. Many nurses are overweight because they tend to eat junk food rather than planning their meals. The nature of the profession means they have little time, so grabbing an unhealthy snack is the easiest way to cope. They need to catch any weight gain early before it becomes a problem. Maintaining high energy levels is important for nurses, so being overweight can make the job more difficult.
Smoking and excessive drinking are not advantageous for nurses who need strong immune systems and plenty of energy. Smokers are at risk of many different health complications. If nurses drink alcohol, they should do so in moderation. Otherwise, it can affect the standard of their work, as well as the care of their patients.
One of the roles of a nurse is to educate patients about their health. They get patients to think about what they are doing that could be detrimental to their health and then they help them make adjustments. Nurses who don’t follow and demonstrate the best health practices in their own lives will find educating patients difficult. How can they expect patients to do what they are not doing themselves?
These are the 12 ways nurses can stay healthy. Although each step is simple, they may take a bit of effort and time. However, successful nurses understand the role they play in improving the lives of patients on all levels. So to be the best nurse you can be, try these tips daily and consistently.