Few jobs are as demanding as nursing, and although that’s a lot of what makes it so satisfying, it can also present difficulties when it comes to staying fit and healthy. This article looks at ways that you can look after yourself more effectively despite the other pressures on your day.
Shift Work and Healthy Routines
One of the biggest challenges to maintaining good health as a nurse is changing shift patterns. Our bodies tend to be healthiest when they have a regular routine. This means that if your shift patterns change frequently, it’s best to try to stick to a regular routine when it comes to eating and sleeping and alter it only as much as you absolutely have to in order to accommodate your changing hours. If you are on a shift which changes every few weeks, it’s better to try to adjust your body clock to fit with the shift, ideally by making small changes over three to four days.
Night shifts can be particularly tough, and how you should handle them will depend to an extent on the time of year and where you live. If possible, get up when it’s still light and get outdoors for a bit in the daylight before your shift starts, so that your skin can absorb a healthy amount of UV. This helps a lot with staying alert at work. After your shift, try to have less exposure to daylight. When you get home and you’re winding down, keep the curtains closed even if it’s bright outside. During periods when you’re not getting daylight, a Vitamin D supplement can help with both short- and long-term health. Always take it first thing.
Practical Eating Patterns
Most nursing jobs involve physically demanding work, and they always require you to stay alert throughout your shift, so rather than having just two or three big meals, it’s better to eat small amounts regularly. This doesn’t have to be unhealthy. Fruit, nuts, seeds, flapjacks, rice cakes, cereal bars and similar can keep your body running at maximum efficiency without causing you to pile on the pounds. Learn to listen to your body. Snack during breaks when you feel hungry, but if you realize that you’re just reaching for food out of habit and you actually feel fine, wait until next time.
As you will doubtless have heard before, the most important meal of the day is breakfast. Don’t pack it full of protein and avoid sugary food. instead, go for long chain carbohydrates such as those found in cereals, bread, pasta or rice. These will release energy slowly during the day. Evening meals can be trickier because you’re more likely to have to fit them around what other people want, but, if possible, keep them fairly light. You’ll sleep better if your body doesn’t have too much heavy digestion to do. This is a good time to have protein, which will keep you feeling full until morning.
Eating right isn’t much help if your body can’t process food properly because it’s dehydrated. Although you may see a lot of advice out there about how much you should be drinking per day, the truth is that everybody’s body is different. If you consume a lot of caffeine or alcohol, you will need to drink more water to make up for it, and physical activity will also increase your need. Obviously, you will need more when the weather is hot than at other times of year. Soda isn’t a big help because it’s highly calorific and it won’t refresh you the way that plain water does, so try to stick to the latter and drink whenever you’re thirsty. Again, the best approach is to have small amounts throughout the day. This will boost your alertness. If you’re feeling fatigued and water isn’t helping, a small glass of fruit juice is a really good way to boost your energy and restore key nutrients. If you love caffeinated drinks, try to avoid them in the two hours immediately before you go to bed.
Caring for Your Skin
You may tend to think of skin care as a cosmetic matter rather than a health one, but because in nursing you are constantly exposed to pathogens, taking care of this first line of defence against infection can make a significant difference to your overall health. Hand washing is, of course, a crucial hygiene measure, but nurses often find themselves doing it so much that their skin is damaged and some natural protection is lost. This doesn’t mean that you should do it less – it simply means that you will need to make a habit of moisturizing your hands, potentially several times a day. This doesn’t need to be expensive. Simple shea butter, coconut butter or olive oil (which you can get from the supermarket) will do most of the work. Using a simple moisturizer like this on your face is a great trick to make you feel revived at times when your energy is flagging.
Before and After Muscle Care
Because nursing generally involves a lot of physical activity, even if that just means being on your feet a lot, it’s a good idea to warm up beforehand and do muscle relaxation exercises afterwards just as you would if you were working out. If you take a shower in the morning, that’s a great place to limber up, as the warm, moist air will help your muscles and joints to move more freely. Do simple stretches to loosen up your limbs. A light massage with shower gel will help to get rid of any stiffness. Repeating stretches at work before tough physical tasks will help you to get maximum power out of your muscles and reduce your risk of injury. After work, gentle exercise like walking or swimming will help to prevent stiffness, and more stretching before you settle into your evening routine will keep your body in good shape.
Practical Exercise Routines
There are three main types of exercise which the body needs on a day-to-day basis. The aforementioned stretches will take care of your flexibility. Most nurses get enough muscle-building exercise in the course of day-to-day work, but if you’re not doing anything particularly physical, keeping a pair of small dumbbells to hand in your break room will give you the chance to work on your arms at quiet times, while squats and crunches will look after your legs and torso. As long as you repeat each movement at least five times in each mini session, there’s no need to do a lot at once in order to reap the rewards. The forms of exercise which nurses tend to find most challenging is aerobic exercise, because this inevitably takes time. One way to approach it is to run, jog or cycle for all or part of your commute. Alternatively, fitting in 30 minutes of more intense aerobic exercise three times a week, whenever they best fit around your shifts, is usually sufficient to maintain good health.
Building A Relationship With Your Team At Work
Nursing teams that work well together tend to be more efficient and display better resilience, as well as making the workplace a more enjoyable place to be. When studying on courses such as at Walsh University as well as studying modules such as Clinical Management or Organizational Financing you will develop team working skills, studying alongside other students.
Relaxation And Sleep
When it comes to staying healthy, people often underestimate the importance of sleep. It really isn’t something which you can afford to skimp on if you want to be good at everything else. Again, having a routine helps, but if you’re struggling to get to sleep, there are a few tricks you can try. First of all, do everything you can to get your bedroom to a comfortable temperature, make sure it’s properly ventilated and not too dry, and use breathable bed linen (cotton or mulberry silk is best). Avoid screen time in the hour before bed, unless you are somebody who finds that ASMR helps, but sometimes that can work through audio alone. Using pink-tinted lighting can help because our brains have evolved to associate it with evening and the sinking sun. A couple of drops of lavender oil on your pillows can make a surprising difference. Finally, if sleep isn’t coming, don’t stress – simple rest is better than nothing.
If you can introduce all or just a few of these changes into your daily routine, you’ll soon notice the difference. With the right approach, you can look after others’ health without compromising your own. You’ll feel lighter, fresher and more energetic, and when challenges arise at work, you’ll be eager to take them on.