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What Is Self-Care?

Nurses can become stressed, experience burnout and become unhappy about their work even when they love nursing. Nurses who are also students can experience even more stress. Self-care is about preventing burnout and taking proactive steps to care for yourself. Human beings only have so much emotional and physical energy to give and can easily overextend themselves as they try to provide the best care for others.

For nurses, this poses a particular challenge. Providing nursing care for others can cause a significant drain on your own personal resources. Restoring yourself emotionally and physically requires understanding the causes of burnout, actively working to minimize stress, and seeking sources of strength to keep yourself renewed. Self-care strategies can help you avoid resentment and can help you restore your joy and sense of peace.

These strategies can take different forms, depending on your own needs. Nurses care for patients who may be seriously ill, uncomfortable and in need of substantial attention. As such, many nurses forget the importance of taking care of their own needs. While they care for patients, nurses can begin to lose track of their responsibilities to themselves.

Recognizing Your Need for Self-Care

Nursing work can cause you to experience different types of stress, strain and burnout. You should start self-care by understanding what causes stress and how to recognize it.

Emotional Stress — Nurses who care for patients with serious health issues, work in emergency rooms or provide hospice care may become emotionally stressed as a result of empathizing with their patients.

Physical Stress — Ignoring your physical needs for rest, food, water or exercise can cause your health to suffer.

Burnout — Burnout can occur if you are under significant stress without adequate self-care. You may become dissatisfied with your job and begin looking to leave the nursing field.

Your own needs continue to present themselves while you work, but you may not initially notice the signs. Becoming more aware of good self-care practices and stress prevention can help you stop ignoring your needs. If you begin to feel unhappy about work, stop and reflect. You may be experiencing stress and burnout.

Starting a Self-Care Regimen

Self-care is a regular practice, not a one-time cure. You should develop a habit of listening to yourself and looking for signs of stress and strain. Self-care is not selfish; taking care of yourself allows you to continue helping others. Making a regular practice of self-care can help you become a better nurse.

Remember to practice the self-care basics such as eating regularly, sleeping well, getting enough exercise and taking breaks. If you ignore these basics, you may find yourself becoming stressed-out, and your own health may suffer.

Self-Care Tips

These ideas from Psychology Today suggest how to relax, rejuvenate and emotionally restore yourself:

Active Listening — With this technique, the listener restates the other person’s concerns in their own words. Instead of practicing active listening with someone else, you can active listen to your own needs by identifying what is bothering you and saying it to yourself.

Setting Priorities — Choosing to prioritize relaxation and restoration can help you care for yourself.

Laughing Regularly — Laughter is healthy for you and helps promote a more positive outlook.

Practicing Seasonal Care — Changing seasons bring different temperatures, lighting and natural scenery. Adjusting your self-care with the changing seasons can help you create a sense of balance. Your needs may also change throughout the year.

Spending Time with Animals — Animals can help us relax and de-stress.

Once you start practicing self-care, stressful situations will still be a challenge, but you will be more aware of them. Coping with challenges at work requires a commitment to a long-term process and a willingness to experiment with different coping strategies. Self-care practices can also help you in your personal life. Over time, these self-care methods will help you improve your patient care and may help you live a better, more relaxed life.

Learn more about the A-State online RN to BSN program.


Psychology Today: 17 Ways to Take Better Care of Yourself

Psychology Today: For Caregivers and Hospice Angels, Self-Care Is Not Optional

Daily Nurse: Stress Management to the Rescue: Strategies for Self-Care in Nursing

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