The nature of healthcare is inherently all about caring for others. If you’re in the field, you know how demanding the job can be, both physically and emotionally. The culture within healthcare fosters the practice of self-sacrifice, where healthcare professionals often put their patients’ needs first by default.
Unfortunately, this high-intensity schedule can stretch even the most energetic person quite thin. As a result, both your patient care as well as mental health can truly suffer. When that happens, it’s time to shift gears and bring the focus back to yourself.
But what is self-care?
Although it differs for everybody, here’s why self-care for healthcare workers is essential and how you can incorporate it into your life.
Why is self-care important for nurses and MDs?
Self-care is the engagement in activities that improve your physical and emotional well-being. Oftentimes, mental health benefits can arise, too.
Although it’s a crucial life skill, nurses and doctors often put their own self-care on the back burner. And the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have only made this habit worse.
Unfortunately, every aspect of your life begins to tumble without that self-care in nursing and other healthcare professions. Maybe you snap at your coworkers. Perhaps you’re less attentive with your patients, or you’ve started to make silly mistakes. A lack of self-care can impact your immune system as a whole.
Obviously, putting yourself at risk is a no-go, but as a healthcare worker, you carry the burden of duty to your patients. It’s important to recognize that by not prioritizing self-care or failing to address your own health problems, you’re putting more than just your life on the line.
On the flip side, a good daily routine can help you avoid this. You’ll be more attentive. Your personal relationships may improve, and you will likely see a decrease in side-effects from chronic stress—so long as you keep those self-care strategies for nurses and other healthcare professionals consistent.
Here are a few self-care aspects to consider.
6 self-care examples
Mental and emotional health
Why is self-care important for mental health? If your headspace is not in the right place, your healthcare will suffer.
Your mental well-being can have a cascading effect, good or bad. To improve your mood, try learning a new hobby, listening to audiobooks, going outside for a bit of sunlight or watching a funny TV show. You can download fun apps to play casual games, too.
This doesn’t refer to a religious mindset. Not always, at least. We’re talking about getting in touch with the core values you hold dear to help you recenter yourself and find peace.
Volunteer for a cause you believe in, become more active in your community of faith or declutter your home. You can take time to reflect on what you’re grateful for as one of many self-care examples.
When people think about different forms of self-care, this is the one they’re most likely to reference.
Incorporate exercise into your healthy lifestyle routine; even a tiny amount each day will improve your energy. Pick activities you enjoy, like walking or cycling. Combine this exercise with healthy eating and ample sleep.
It might seem strange to include this, but it’s hard to do much of anything if your financial situation is rocky.
To practice financial self-care, set out a budget for each month so you know what you’re spending and where. As a reward for meeting your financial goals, indulge in a little retail therapy. Jaanuu scrubs for men and women are great options, and we have gift cards, too (if you’re trying to treat someone else).
Just like any other muscle in the body, the brain also needs exercise. Find ways to stimulate your mind. Take on a new hobby, learn a new skill, join a book club or study a topic you find interesting. If you’re motivated by professional milestones, this can include creating career goals, too.
Humans are social creatures by nature. Well, most of us. Either way, loneliness is a silent killer. If you don’t have enough love and support from those around you, your mental health can suffer.
To boost your social interactions, talk to your coworkers regularly and celebrate your wins. Have dinner with your family, or designate a night of the week to watch movies with your friends.
Tips for taking care of yourself
Stay connected with your loved ones
All of us have different levels of introversion and extroversion. After a long day at work, you may feel like being a bit antisocial. While that’s definitely fine to lean into, know that personal connections with loved ones tend to be more emotionally fulfilling than those with coworkers. Without them, loneliness can mount in a big way. So, even when you’re exhausted after a long day, try to make time for a quick phone call or meet up with a family member, caregiver or close friend. It’ll be worth your while.
Reach out for support if needed
No healthcare worker is an island. You’re supposed to work as a team, and it’s okay to ask for help.
Knowing when and where you’re overwhelmed can ensure better patient care. Even outside of your job, it’s okay to ask for support, too. Talk to a therapist, for example, if you’re struggling with anxiety or depression.
Sometimes, it’s hard to eat at home; a busy workday that zaps your energy can make you less than thrilled to spend time in the kitchen. Meal prepping is an excellent way to avoid this problem and fit that healthy eating into your schedule.
Learn how to set boundaries
Remember, it’s okay to say “no” when someone asks you to do something unreasonable. While you might say “yes” to every request to avoid hurting another person’s feelings, a lack of boundaries can result in unsafe working conditions and personal burnout.
Don’t forget good quality sleep
Sleep deprivation is a common occurrence almost everywhere, healthcare or not. However, lack of sleep can severely affect your health, so try to get some quality shut-eye when you can. Seven to eight hours is the recommended dose.
If you want more info on feeling better, check out our article on making yourself a priority. Remember: self-care is healthcare, too!