17 Self-Care Tips for Nurses & Clinicians

17 Self-Care Tips for Nurses & Clinicians

September is Self-Care Awareness Month, a time for everyone to take stock of their mental well-being. Especially for nurses, who spend their time caring for others, self-care is easy to neglect. With that in mind, here are 17 helpful self-care tips for nurses to offer some solutions for those of us who need some help with self-care.

17 Self-Care Tips for Nurses and Clinicians

Time and again, self-care is among the most highly recommended solutions for healthcare professionals dealing with issues like burnout and compassion fatigue. Even for those who aren’t struggling but who are actively enjoying the job that they love, a proper self-care regimen could help you enjoy an even more fulfilling career and work/life balance.

We also understand that not everyone will be able to do all of these activities. Our best advice is to choose a few that feel comfortable, and try to work them into your daily routine. The more you do today, the more confident you’ll be to do more next week — and the better you’ll feel in the long run!

Self-Care Tip #1: Don’t Be Afraid to Start Small

If you’re intimidated by the idea of self-care, or if you’re worried you don’t have the time to do it justice, remember: It’s okay to smart small. If all you have time for today is a five-minute break, don’t be afraid to take that opportunity. Then, try to schedule the same amount of time tomorrow – and slowly scale it up, so that you’re up to 30 or 45 minutes in two or three months.

Self-Care Tip #2: Practice Breathing Exercises

Okay, but what do you do for those first five minutes? A great place to begin is with some basic breathing exercises.

“Breathing exercises are a good way to relax, reduce tension, and relieve stress,” write the authors of a Healthwise guide to breathing exercises. “Breathing exercises are easy to learn. You can do them whenever you want, and you don’t need any special tools or equipment to do them.”

For an easy how-to guide on some basic breathing exercises for nurses and clinicians, check out the Healthwise guide, or this shorter take from Daily Nurse.

Self-Care Tip #3: Don’t Feel Guilty

As you begin to take more time for yourself, remember — it’s not only okay that you do so, but important, too! Self-care isn’t selfish, but a key part of living a healthy, fulfilling life. Especially for healthcare workers, it can be tough to take the time you need to function without feeling guilty about it. If so, overcoming that hurdle should be a key goal as you begin self-care.

Self-Care Tip #4: Try Keeping a Gratitude Journal

Keeping a gratitude journal is a simple and popular way to improve your outlook and gain some perspective on the importance of other people in your life. Keeping a gratitude journal “only takes a few minutes a day,” notes PositivePsychology.com, “but it can give you a lasting mood boost that can take you from feeling ‘okay” to feeling ‘great’ on a more regular basis.”

You can learn more at PositivePsychology.com, which offers some journal ideas and templates, or this quick guide to creating a Gratitude Journal from the Greater Good Science Center.

Self-Care Tip #5: Get Moving

If you have the time or ability, working out at least three times a week can do wonders for your mental wellbeing! And if you don’t have time to hit the gym, you can try tracking steps with a fitness app, and then set a goal of 10,000 steps a day. Even taking a quick walk over your lunch break or after work can do wonders for your wellbeing.

Self-Care Tip #6: Unplug

Especially for those of us who may spend a little more time on Facebook or other online apps and websites than we should, it’s incredibly helpful to unplug and spend at least 30 minutes a day disconnected. Ideally, this time away from screens includes not just your phone, but TV too. It’s a great opportunity to read a book, meditate, socialize, or lots of other “old school” activities.

Self-Care Tip #7: Spend More Time with Friends & Family

A great way to spend all that time disconnected from screens is with loved ones. Especially now that the worst of the pandemic is behind us and social life has resumed, taking the opportunity to connect and spend more time with friends and family can do wonders for your wellbeing.

Self-Care Tip #8: Take Up a Productive Hobby

For those who may not have loved ones nearby, finding a new hobby can be a great way to spend time in a way that also supports self-care. This can be physical activity like hiking, biking or surfing. Outdoor activities don’t have to be physically demanding, either (i.e., golfing or bird watching). If you’ve always wanted to pick up the guitar or learn a new language, it’s time to take the initiative and get started!

Self-Care Tip #9: Take a Yoga Class

There’s a good reason why yoga has become so popular across the country, and among all genders, age groups and geographical locations. Even if you’ve never tried it before, joining a yoga class can be an excellent way to actively practice self-care while also getting in some exercise and meeting new people. A simple Google search will quickly show you available yoga classes in your area.

Self-Care Tip #10: Practice Meditation

According to published research, meditation “has a positive impact on nurses’ and nursing students’ stress, anxiety, depression, burnout, sense of well-being and empathy.” Much like yoga, it’s a focused, formal way to de-stress and support self-care. Meditation is even more accessible than yoga, though, and can be done in 10-minute chunks throughout the day.

If you’re new to meditation, there are a number of apps available on your phone; the Nerdy Nurse website also offers a helpful list. You can also check out this video on guided meditation for healthcare workers from the Simms/Mann – UCLA Center for Integrative Oncology.

Self-Care Tip #11: Try Eating Healthier

Busy nurses and clinicians often eat poorly out of necessity. Who wants to cook after a 12-hour shift, when there’s a fast-food drive-thru on the way home? But remember, it doesn’t take much to plan ahead. Preparing a meal the night before gives you the chance to add greens and other nutritional elements. And you’re likely to find yourself with more energy, less calories, and less stressed out.

Self-Care Tip #12: Set Milestones and then Reward yourself

A fundamental step of self-care is recognizing that you’re accomplishing important things every day, and then taking the time to give yourself the credit you deserve. This could be a basic goal like getting through every shift this week with a positive attitude. Or, it could be more ambitious, like getting in three hours of yoga or cooking four healthy meals this week.

Self-Care Tip #13: Take a Night to Treat Yourself

Whatever goal you choose, setting targets and then treating yourself for meeting them can have a huge impact on your positive wellbeing. And you should take that reward seriously! Pamper yourself by treating yourself to your favorite meal or enjoying a hot bubble bath. Or, save up your celebration for a weeklong vacation to a place you’ve always dreamed of visiting.

Self-Care Tip #14: Practice Expressing Your Emotions  

A key part of self-care for nurses and clinicians is learning to express your emotions — and that it’s okay to do so. Everyone has tough days, and it’s important to be able to discuss them with your friends and co-workers. Remember, it’s better to have little chats to let off steam, as opposed to bottling up your concerns in a healthy way. If you need help here, some basic therapy may be the right place to start.   

Self-Care Tip #15: Connect with Co-Workers

In line with expressing your emotions, it’s also helpful to get to know your co-workers. This isn’t always easy — some cultures aren’t very positive, for instance, and it can be hard to get to know folks. Or, for travelers, it can be tough making new relationships everywhere you go. But making the effort in doing so is truly rewarding. It offers not only companionship but also gives you a social network to rely upon.

Self-Care Tip #16: Try Volunteering

Helping out in the community, or even in another country, can be a great way to bring positivity to your life, while connecting with others. And as a healthcare worker, your skills are needed in many places! Rasmussen University has a helpful beginner’s guide to volunteering for nurses. The American Red Cross and Emergency Nurses Association are also great places to begin.

Self-Care Tip #17: Start the Day with an Affirmation

Whether spoken aloud or printed on a page in front of your mirror, having a daily affirmation can be a powerful way to provide yourself with some important positivity on a day-to-day basis.

It could be repeating a long-term goal, or merely saying a kind thing about yourself in the morning — “I can do this” or “I believe in me.” Whatever your mantra of choice, a daily affirmation is a great habit to start to make sure you’re beginning each day in the best possible frame of mind.

> From “I am making a difference” to “I am grateful for all I have,” here are 10 positive affirmations for nurses and clinicians.

Beyond Self-Care Tips for Nurses & Clinicians

Of course, a great way to improve your mental wellbeing is to make sure you’re working the right job to begin with. If it’s time to find a new career opportunity, CareerStaff Unlimited has you covered! Not only do we offer great gigs from coast to coast, but we’re also famous for our team of recruiters, who are friendly, knowledgeable and available to help when you need it.

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