Dr. Nicole Thomas DNP, RN, CCM
Self-Care Should be #1 on Your To-Do List – Here’s How to Get It There
Living your life around 12-hours shifts is a balancing act like no other, especially if you're swapping between day-shifts and night-shifts regularly. Find the time to do the essential tasks like grocery shopping and laundry, can sometimes be difficult, never mind trying to find some time for self-care. Don't worry, we're here to help. We've got some amazing ways that will help you make time for self-care in your busy life!
Call me a bore but I believe that an organized life, is a happier life, and here's why. Give yourself some time to sit down, once a week, and write out a to-do list. Write down everything. Get a planner with a weekly view, write in your working hours and then pop in your to-do tasks around these times. Writing everything down means that you won't forget anything and all the important stuff will be taken care of.
Schedule self-care time
As a nurse, you understand how important caring for oneself is, so apply that logic to yourself. You deserve to have time for the things that recharge your batteries. Pick a couple of activities that you feel fulfilled by and make sure they get written into your weekly plan - they're just as important as doing laundry. These activities do not need to be productive! Yes, exercise is a wonderful endorphin boost but sometimes you just need to binge-watch trashy tv and that's okay too. Planning your week out to include the usual to-do list and your self-care time, means that you can truly enjoy your chill-time without feeling like you should be cleaning or doing something productive - there's plenty of time for that, check your planner!
Routines are a game-changer. Working long shifts, especially night-shifts can mess up your natural sleep-cycle so adopting little bedtime and waking-up time routines really help your body maintain a sense of normality. I know it's tempting to snooze the alarm but getting up a little earlier can really help start the day off on a good note. Make yourself a healthy breakfast and stretch out while the coffee brews. You'll feel more prepared for the day ahead.
A bed-time self-care routine can help you wind down after a long day/night at work (not an easy task). Take a bath or shower, light some candles, and create a cozy atmosphere in your bedroom. Black-out blinds are a god-send for sleeping during the day time! Try to avoid scrolling on your phone or watching tv right before bed - this stimulates the brain and makes it more difficult to switch off. Put your phone on 'do not disturb' and swap it for a book! Meditation apps like Calm and Insight Timer also have great mini-meditations that can fit into any morning/night-time self-care routine.
Being a little bit selfish is okay. Of course, picking up extra shifts at work, to help a friend out is fine but know when to say no. Your body and mind need rest. Enjoy your days off - stay in bed a little later than usual, watch old movies, and order take-out. Whatever it is that you to recharge, do it guilt-free.
As a nurse, you spend so much of your time caring for others but self-care should be a top priority too. You've heard of the saying "you can't pour from an empty jug" - make time to take care of yourself, because you deserve it!