How Nurses Can Promote Their Own Wellness in Today's Environment
By Peggy Porter, RN
How can nurses enhance their own wellness while working in today’s stressful environment? They may be promoting wellness to their patients but are they taking time to look after themselves?
Due to the nursing shortage, demands on nurses are higher today than ever before. Stress leave is becoming more necessary and sick calls are a daily occurrence on hospital floors. While there are various resources being looked at to increase the number of our nurses, what can you, as individuals, do in the meantime?
Nurses’ daily contact with patients allows them to promote and educate regarding health and wellness. If asked by a patient what you do to improve your health,what would the response be?
Isn’t it ironic that many health professionals promoting wellness to patients are totally overwhelmed by their own demands of balancing career and family?
We need to take our own advice and start “walking the talk.” Nurses have a profound impact on patients and an excellent opportunity to teach the importance of personal wellness.
There are choices we make on a daily basis that increase or decrease our level of wellness. It may not be possible at times to control the stress created by job situations but we can control our individual wellness. The higher our level of wellness, the more positive our response will be to that stress.
Where do you start? Put yourself first. How can I be so selfish,?” you may ask Feeling stressed out and overwhelmed can only have a negative effect on those we interact with daily. When you look after yourself everyone in your life benefits. Schedule “me” time. This can be as simple as reading, taking a short walk, soaking in a warm bath or listening to a relaxation tape. Plan a day to spend with friends or participate in an activity you love. Make it a regular occurrence. This will give you the time to recharge.
Positive thinking. The power of positive thoughts is amazing. As you may have heard before, what you focus on expands. Negative thoughts can spiral your day into being stressful and totally unproductive. However stressful your job situation is, make an effort to start your day focusing on being positive. Remember the contributions you make in people’s lives and commend yourself for a job well done. In other words, dispel the inner critic. Complimenting yourself and others can give the day a totally different focus. Negativity breeds negativity but creating a positive attitude can have a huge impact on your environment.
What’s fueling you? How are you refilling your energy tank—nicotine, sugar, caffeine? All of these can affect energy and mood, often becoming a substitute for good nutrition. Frequent small nutritional meals are the best way to keep energy level at a high and your mood stable. Stay well hydrated and eat every two or three hours, starting with a nutritious breakfast. It can jumpstart your day.
Exercise. This is the single biggest thing you can do to reduce stress and increase mood as well as energy. Buddy up and benefit from the socialization of it as well. Consistency is the key so be realistic and set achievable goals.
Sleep. For shift workers, sleep deprivation is unfortunately almost considered normal. Take note of your sleep routines. Can they be improved? Watch caffeine intake and take short naps if necessary to catch up on missed sleep. Make sleep a priority. Energy, mood and ability to handle stress are all decreased when you are not getting the required sleep your body needs.
Fun and humor is a necessary part of life. The ability to laugh and have fun with co-workers and patients will enhance any job situation and decrease feelings of stress. Get together frequently with family and friends whose company you enjoy. Lighten up and laugh often. There is nothing better for the soul.
Prioritize. What’s important to you in life? Are you spending time doing things that are not related to your priorities. If so, consider giving them up. Learn to say no and only get involved with things you are passionate about and have time for. Remember to put yourself at the top of the priority list.
Live in the present. How many things do you worry about on a daily basis that never happen? So much of our energy is wasted doing this. By focusing on the present and dealing with events as they occur, many of our stressors could be eliminated. Experiment with meditation. It’s benefits are extremely powerful.
Ask for what you need. Communication is necessary for healthy relationships. Tell people what you want and need. They cannot read your mind. Set clear boundaries for yourself and expect people to respect these boundaries.
Be grateful. Being grateful for what you already have increases the feeling of abundance and joy in your life. Try starting a gratitude journal. Focus on the blessings in your life and many more will come. Be grateful everyday for the opportunity you have as a nurse to impact a person’s life.
For those of you wanting to improve your level of wellness and challenge yourself, go for it. Get a buddy or start a wellness group at work. Positive changes will start taking place immediately. For all of you who are already “walking the talk,” congratulations.
Peggy Porter, R.N., is a wellness coach who is passionate about wellness and personal growth. Throughout the past 12 years she has been educating and supporting clients to improve the quality of their lives. To learn more, visit health coach or send feedback to Peggy Porter.