It seems like self-care tips and tricks are everywhere these days—blogs, social media, online articles, and more. If you’re pressed for time, it can be challenging to incorporate self-care activities into your daily routine. After all, who needs one more thing to add to an overflowing plate?
But as a nurse, it’s important to nurture yourself, so you can have the emotional and physical capacity to continue to care for others. We’ve gathered up a list of self-care activities that you can easily incorporate into a busy workday, and they give you a minute to breathe, think, or be alone. Below are five self-care activities to try today.
1. Sneak exercise into your day.
No time to exercise? No problem! Studies show that three 10-minute workouts can be as effective at helping you achieve your fitness goals as long bouts of exercise. To sneak exercise into your day, park further away from the entrance to the building so that you can enjoy a brisk walk to and from work. During the day, take the stairs whenever possible to burn calories, build muscle, and maintain cardiovascular health. Finally, when you’re home, use an opportunity like cooking dinner or washing dishes to make room for some calf raises, squats, or lunges. Before you know it, exercise will be ingrained in your daily life.
2. Step outside.
Whether you have two minutes or five minutes, stepping outside during the day may be just the self-care activity you need to feel revived. Listen to the sounds around you and feel the sunshine on your face. Even a brief time with nature can help you clear your head and feel calmer.
3. When you receive a compliment, embrace it.
When a colleague offers you a compliment, is your first reaction to reject it? The next time someone pays you a compliment, embrace it. Knowing that your coworkers notice your efforts can go a long way toward boosting your confidence and job satisfaction.
4. Say some positive affirmations to yourself.
Feeling stressed or overwhelmed during the day? Take a moment to say some positive affirmation to yourself. Ronald Alexander, PhD, suggested five ways positive affirmations could work for you in a Psychology Today article.
First, Alexander recommended developing an awareness of the negative thoughts and qualities you believe to be true about yourself. Next, he advised writing down a powerful, positive affirmation about yourself. For example, instead of saying, “I’m a hard worker,” you might choose to say, “I have a compassionate heart towards others, and I’m an excellent listener.” Then, begin to speak this affirmation out loud during the day. In as little as five minutes three times a day, you’ll start to reprogram your mind and bolster a healthy mindset.
5. Breathe deeply.
A quiet moment to yourself to breathe deeply can almost instantaneously reinvigorate you. While there are many styles of breathwork you can implement, one, simple approach is to inhale through your nose to the mental count of five. Then, exhale through your mouth as you silently count to five. Repeat the cycle of breaths eight to 10 times. Notice how your body feels, and try to release any excess tension that might be present in your muscles. With practice, you’ll reduce unwanted muscle tension and feel more relaxed.
The goal for any self-care activity is to sustain your mind, body, and spirit. It’s an opportunity to connect with yourself and feel rejuvenated. Plus, you don’t need to take hours out of your hectic day to see results—short, but consistent self-care activities will improve your overall sense of well-being, lower stress, and help you beat compassion fatigue.
As many of us become more aware of what we should and shouldn’t be doing to improve our health and wellness, we’re continually searching for new ways to improve our diets, eat nutrient-dense foods, and cut out the bad stuff (We’re looking at you, sugar!). We want to maximize our energy so we can sustain our activity levels throughout the day, rather than having the quick surge of energy that sugary snacks or beverages give us, followed by the inevitable crash.
Although there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to nixing sugar from your diet and curbing a sweet tooth, there are some tricks to make the process less painful. Read on to find out how to cut back on this sweet substance once and for all.
1. Stay hydrated.
Sure, sugary drinks will temporarily put a little spring in your step, but a few hours later, you’re likely to feel a bit lethargic. Maintaining adequate hydration levels is essential to help your body function; even mild dehydration can leave you feeling sluggish. Rather than reaching for sugary sodas or fruit drinks, consider herbal teas or no-sugar sparkling waters like LaCroix or Polar. This way, you can drink great tasting beverages and stay hydrated without the extra sugar.
2. Watch out for low and nonfat foods.
In many cases, when a manufacturer reduces fat from a product, they increase the amount of sugar in it, so the products remain tasty—but, they’re not doing you any favors to reduce your overall intake of sugar. One example of this type of product is the low or nonfat, fruit-flavored yogurt, which can be a handy snack when you’re pressed for time. Instead, a better option is to buy plain yogurt and add fresh, antioxidant-rich fruits like strawberries and blueberries to it. You’ll have a filling snack, the benefits of anti-inflammatory superfoods, and you’ll forgo the added sugar.
3. Combine protein, healthy fats, and fiber for a power-infused meal.
Simple carbohydrates and sugars cause a surge in your blood sugar, then it plummets. But foods high in protein, healthy fats, and fiber keep your blood sugar steady, so you won’t experience such highs and lows in your energy levels. Plus, eating meals rich in protein, fats, and fiber will keep you feeling fuller longer, so you’ll be less likely to indulge in those donuts in the breakroom.
4. Bring healthy snacks with you.
When you’re in a hurry, but you’re hungry, vending machines are a quick and accessible way to satisfy an immediate need for food. However, with just a few minutes of preparation each day, you can bring healthier snack alternatives to work that will truly feed your body.
Not sure what to bring? Consider protein-packed hard boiled eggs, healthy fats like nuts and avocados, or vegetables with hummus. With time, you’ll begin to notice your tendency to reach for the sweets lessens, and your sugar cravings start to subside.
5. Take small steps towards change.
Going full throttle into a new diet is tempting. But, if things don’t go smoothly (which they often don’t), you may find yourself slipping back into old patterns. As a substitute for banning sugar from your diet all at once, pick one meal a day and make it a sugar-free meal—like a breakfast omelet loaded with fresh veggies. This nutritious meal will fuel your body and start your day off on the right foot.
If you fall back into old your old routine—no big deal! We all do it from time to time. Just restart your healthy habits the next day, and don’t be too hard on yourself. If sugar has been a mainstay in your diet for a long time, it’s going to take several weeks to months to get used to a diet without it.
Do you find that it’s difficult to separate your work life from your home life? Are you more accustomed to saying yes to people rather than no? Have you noticed that you often bring your work home with you in some capacity? If you feel like your work life is becoming indistinguishable from your personal life, maybe it’s time to rethink your boundaries.
Here are four ways to do just that.
1. Establish boundaries at work.
When you’re at work, what things make you feel frustrated, anxious, or overtaxed? Maybe you said you’d come in early, stay late, or take an extra shift when you didn’t want to? Take note of when negative feelings arise and the circumstances that may have caused them.
Next, think about the parameters you need to do your best work. These “parameters” are potential areas to consider for boundaries, and the feelings you experience when you disregard them are likely your body’s way of telling you to set some limits.
Then, examine how you’d feel if you’d made a different choice. Perhaps you’d have more time with your family or participate in the activities you enjoy. The boundaries you create for yourself in the workplace will make your job more enjoyable—give yourself permission to stick to them!
2. Acknowledge your limits.
When your profession involves caring for people, it’s easy to put others before yourself. But your abilities, whether emotional, mental, or physical, have limits. Acknowledge those limits, and don’t shy away from saying no if you’re stressed out, overwhelmed, or uncomfortable with something.
One way to know you’ve reached your maximum capacity is to think of your feelings on a spectrum, according to Dana Gionta and Dan Guerra, authors of From Stressed to Centered. The authors suggest rating your level of discomfort about a situation on a scale of one to ten. A rating of one to three tends to have a minimal effect on you, while ratings of four to six cause a medium impact on your emotions. Furthermore, a circumstance with a score of seven to ten will likely cause a high degree of distress. The authors recommend taking inventory of interactions or situations that produce a medium to high degree of distress and setting a boundary so that you can preserve your well-being.
3. If someone tries to push past your boundaries, discuss it as soon as possible.
Eventually, someone will push past the boundary—the safeguard—you’ve put in place for yourself. When that happens, try to address the interaction or circumstance at that moment, rather than waiting until a later time. If too much time passes, the person may not get the complete picture of your level of discomfort. But if you confront the situation as soon as possible, it can help you avoid unnecessary job drama and feeling overwhelmed, overworked, or resentful down the road.
4. Be mindful of your boundaries at home.
Sometimes, you may not be able to avoid bringing work home with you. But if that’s the case, try to stick to a planned schedule. For example, designate a specific amount of time to address work issues, then, stop when that time frame is up. While it may be tempting to ignore the timer, doing so can leave you feeling exhausted and drained.
As a health care professional, it’s essential that you honor the boundaries you’ve established for your home life as well, so you can feel refreshed and be at your best when you’re helping others.
Creating healthy boundaries doesn’t happen overnight; it takes time and practice. And, if your boundaries get a little off track now and then, you can always refocus your attention and reaffirm your commitment to the limits you set to maintain a healthy work-life balance.