As much as we appreciate the mug that says “World’s Greatest Nurse” on it, finding practical ways to maintain high morale and work performance while serving others can be challenging. In this business, it’s easy to place the needs of others before ourselves. But experts recognize that work performance improves when caregivers take time every day to care for themselves. “The sad reality is nurses ‘accept’ health problems that come from the physical and emotional demands of the profession, and while caring for others often do not care for themselves” says Susan Letvak, PhD, RN, FAAN.
Along with suffering from higher rates of musculoskeletal disorders, higher risks of acquiring blood-borne pathogen infections, tuberculosis, and allergies, Letvak found that hospital-employed bedside nurses had a 17% depression rate compared to the national rate of only 9%.
With National Nurses Week scheduled May 6 – 12, now is the perfect time for nurses, and those who rely on them, to celebrate the essential role of nursing. Here are seven ways to uncover your best self while you provide the best care for others.
1. Learn to love lavender.
Whether enjoyed as a candle or applied as an essential oil, lavender is popular for its soothing, relaxing properties. For added benefits, try combining a few drops of lavender oil within a small spray bottle of water and spritz your bedsheets, pillows, closet, car seats—anywhere you may enjoy a quick emotional lift.
2. Rediscover bathtime.
Combining essential oils, a relaxing candle, comforting music, and a hot bath is the best diagnosis for pampering and ultimate relaxation. Unlike a quick shower, a lingering bath is the perfect prescription for weary muscles.
3. Schedule a healing massage.
As a popular remedy for treating patients suffering from anxiety or muscle tension, the basic massage can be a secret weapon for igniting much-needed energy to finish your day. “We bring in a massage therapist for students and staff every few weeks where they can receive a 15-minute neck and upper back massage,” says Julie Aiken, CEO of Ameritech College of Healthcare. If you don’t have a massage therapy handy, here are five easy ways to give yourself a quick massage.
4. Hit the trails.
There is something special about nature that helps calm those anxious feelings. A study conducted by the University of Michigan School of Medicine found that “group nature walks are linked with significantly lower depression, less perceived stress and enhanced mental health and well-being.” If you lack the time, take a 30-minute stroll around the nearest park or public garden. The fresh air and physical activity will do wonders for your physical and emotional health.
5. Be still for 15 minutes.
The practice of meditation has been used for thousands of years as a tool for relieving stress and anxiety and providing clarity on our relationship with surrounding elements. “Our nursing philosophies are grounded in caring and the interconnectedness of the mind, body, spirit, social/cultural, emotions, relationships, context, and environment,” Aiken says. “All of these aspects combine to create a person; in order to heal the whole person.” A 15-minute investment in personal reflection and meditation can prepare someone to experience hours of peace throughout the day.
6. Greet the sunrise.
On that same line, waking up early to start the day with the sunrise helps put things in proper perspective. Whatever happened yesterday, it’s a new day—literally.
We hear about the benefits of yoga virtually everywhere—and with good reason. “Yoga is more than just exercise. Its benefits can be realized from within the body and from without the body,” says Kerstin McSteen, BSN, MSN, ACHPN, CNS-BC. “A consistent yoga practice can have a positive impact on body chemistry, disease prevention, symptom reduction or alleviation, and emotional health.” Whether taking a class or enjoying online personal instruction, yoga is a popular and effective addition to your daily routine.
This year, as we celebrate the “Year of the Healthy Nurse,” expand your role as one of our most important caregivers to include self-care. By making your physical and emotional well-being a top priority, you can be sure you are providing the best care for others while you’ve taken the time to care for yourself.