Healthy Living Tips for Nurses

Paula Phillips, RN on May 5, 2017 10:03:43 AM
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The life of being a nurse can be both rewarding and challenging and all in the same day.  We are honored to witness some of the happiest, as well as some of the saddest, times in a person’s life.  This in itself can have an impact on us: We are human, with amazing hearts full of love, compassion and empathy.  How we view these situations can shape our future both personally and professionally. 

Long days, tasking work, emotional roller coasters and physical demands are our way of life, the life we have chosen, the life we love.  Our profession requires resiliency, being able to process everything that has happened and begin it all again, with the end goal of providing exceptional care to the patients who are counting on us. 

Taking care of ourselves begins with our mindset:  A mindset of resilience, a mindset of optimism, a mindset of happiness.  Happiness is a choice, one of the few choices we have in life, and one only we can control for ourselves.  We cannot control how others think, feel or act, however we can control our response.  Choosing to be happy in the face of adversity or a stressful negative experience, is a true act of resilience. 

Our patients depend on us to care for them, help them through their difficulties, celebrate their accomplishments, comfort them in their times of need. While we have chosen this calling, we cannot provide this without taking care of ourselves.  Taking care of your mind is the first step to taking care of you. 

With this in mind, I asked our Clinical Operations Directors to share their experiences with staying healthy as a bedside nurse. Below are excerpts from some of their stories.

Paula Phillips, VP Clinical Operations

Linda Dailey, RN

Nurses live in a fast paced world. What effect does this lifestyle have on our nurses? Working too hard can lead to employee stress or burnout. It’s really important for our nurses to actually disconnect and recharge their energy. They need time to rest and unwind after a hard day’s work. Here are some techniques I use to accomplish this:

  • Develop your creative side. Start a fun project or resume a favorite hobby. Select activities that have nothing to do with work.
  • Take time to relax! Yoga, meditation, and deep breathing are excellent relaxation techniques
  • Get plenty of sleep. Getting a good night’s sleep is essential for any job
  • Make exercise a priority in your life. Exercise may be the last thing you want to do after a day at work. However, it is a powerful antidote for relieving stress and tension.

Jamie Anderson, RN

One of the most important responsibilities of a nurse is taking care of patients.  What is commonly overlooked in the nursing profession is taking care of YOU!

As a mother of four children under the age of eight, a wife, and working full time, I have very little time to take care of me.  I am sure you all have different variables in life that pull you in different directions leaving little time for YOU. 

I have made it my goal for 2017 to make sure I make time for myself each day. I do this in various ways through:

  • Working out
  • Running
  • Meal planning to make healthy choices, and
  • Taking 20 minutes of alone time for spiritual growth

This has become a part of my daily routine. I really believe it has helped my growth as an individual and in positively impacting each person I come in contact with on a daily basis.

Edwina Temple, RN

You have to take care of yourself. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to take care of another person.

Every morning I start with a drink from my cup of spiritual sunshine, to remind myself of who I am before I step into the world of “this is who we think you are.” Spirituality is reflected in everyday life: It can be expressed through prayer, meditation, practicing gratitude, spending time in nature, and through various other endeavors that have meaning for you. Our spiritual journey helps us to understand what our challenges are, and how to overcome them.

Your spirituality will guide you through the flow of life, as you link to your Creator.  Within there is a sense of peace, balance and knowing that you are part of a dynamic whole.  

Your first responsibility is to you. Be good to yourself; be honest with yourself and others. As the caretakers of humanity, we must take care of self-first. Let your spirit soar, be your bright shining spiritual self and encourage others to do the same.

As nurses, we have the opportunity to heal the heart, mind, soul and body of our patients, their families and ourselves. "They may forget your name, but they will never forget how you made them feel." – Maya Angelou

Jamie Jonke, RN

Working as a nurse is tough business.  From twelve hour nonstop shifts to behinds the scenes quality and data work we all work for a common interest and goal, our patients.  Keeping our patient healthy and safe is everyone’s top priority.  It’s easy to overlook our personal needs when faced with such an important and honored task. 

As nurses we must remember that in order to take the best care of patients we also need to take the best care of ourselves.  I learned this the hard way, unfortunately, on an early February morning in 2014. 

I was working a 3p-3a shift in a very busy level I trauma center ER. I stayed after to help my peers get caught up and left the hospital about 4am.  I had a 35 mile highway drive home which I made a million times before.  However this night was different.

I fell asleep going about 80 mph on the highway.  I awoke when I smashed into the car in front of me.  I remember spinning and flipping and finally coming to rest upside down.  I struggled with getting out of the car.  I took one look at the other car and feared I had killed someone. 

By the grace of God no one was hurt, it was not our time that early morning on the cold Illinois highway.  I vowed never to compromise anyone else or myself again. When we work tired, distracted and unfocused this is what we are doing. Compromising our patients and ourselves. 

The best ways I found to care for myself are by:

  • Getting enough sleep. I know the rigors of family and life don’t always allow this but try to establish a pattern and stick with it.
  • Drinking plenty of water. Stay hydrated and try to eat good natural not processed foods. This will help give your brain the fuel it needs to stay sharp. 
  • Exercising. I believe it is the best stress outlet! Not only are you doing good for your body but it will help you minimize stress and blow off some steam.

In my experience doing these things helped me be a better person and in turn a happier nurse.

Carmelita Riley, RN

“Healthy eating should be fun. Period.” This statement is written on a sticky note and posted on my computer screens, mirrors and anywhere else I can think of to act as a constant reminder.

Like a lot of Americans, I developed a love-hate relationship with food from as long as I can remember. Serial-dieting kind of became my thing and I developed a knack for finding and trying the newest diet trends; the crazier and more restricted the diet plan, the more determined I was to try it.

Not surprisingly, the results were not what I was expecting, especially in the long term. When I became a nurse, I suddenly became the oracle for health information to my family and friends who were not concerned with the newest fad diet, but how their diet could help them improve or prevent a health condition such as diabetes and hypertension.  In addition, patients rely heavily on nurses for advice on food to complement their doctor prescribed program.

Nursing changed the way I looked at food. Eating whole, nutrient dense, live foods was now more important than any fad diet promising I’ll “Lose 20lbs in 10 Days by inhaling my food.” 

I still had to work on changing my mindset and how I incorporated healthy practices in my lifestyle. If it’s easier to make a habit, the less likely I would be to get romanced by the promise of yet another fad diet.

My “aha” moment in this journey came when I began substituting sparkling water with lime for red wine. I saved over 300 calories and more per week doing my Thursday night “Olivia Pope from ABC’s Scandal” ritual. I still use the wine glass though!

Simple, effective food substitutions and having fun exploring new foods and their health properties coupled with a “no deprivation” mindset has taken away the stress that usually accompanies restricted diets. Besides, stress is the leading cause of weight gain and a host of other health conditions such as hypertension, insulin resistance, and premature aging.

For additional tips, ANA is hosting a webinar called, A Nurse's Guide to Preventing Compassion Fatigue, Moral Distress, and Burnout. To learn more or to register, click here

Topics: Healthcare, Nursing, Nursing Perspectives, Nurses Week


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