Personally, I always feel like there’s a negative connotation attached to the word ‘habit’. I think it’s because as children and throughout society we always use the phrase ‘it’s just habit’ as a negative. For example, biting our nails, picking our eyelashes, snoozing the alarm. We do these things out of habit right? But why do habits have to be negative? Well, they don’t. Any action can be turned into a habit if we want it to become one or better yet, become a bigger and more important part of our lives. Healthy eating, running, swimming, exercise of any kind, reading, time management, morning routines, seeing friends, cooking, shopping, literally a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g can become a habit. It’s actually when we make these things we do for joy a habit that we can suddenly fit them into our busy lives..
A great quote that sums this up perfectly is “Motivation is what gets you started and habit is what keeps you going”
So how does having healthy habits help nurses?
People often say that nurses are the best people to have around as family or friends. Nurses love helping people and taking care of others. Where nurses fall down though is looking after ourselves. We’re very good at nourishing our loved ones but what about us? When do we take the time care for ourselves?
The only way that I believe we can truly help others wholeheartedly is when we nourish our own health, mentally and physically, the better we will be able to take of others. Until then we aren’t ever going to be showing up as our best selves. I know that sounds pretty harsh, doesn’t it?
Well, let me tell you from experience, the only way you’re going to be able to continue nursing long-term and take care of everyone you love is by taking care of yourself first.
The nursing army is a badass team of people both inside and outside of work. We are the glue that holds so many seams together when all is falling apart. We advocate for our patients and their families. We hold a hand as a family member watches their loved one go, we cry with families who lose children far too early, all whilst boosting our colleagues when they need it and spreading joy around on the gloomiest of days. That’s all before we go home to our partners, children and families to maybe cook dinner, bathe the kids, put the washing on and all those mundane jobs that must get done.
We are amazing but imagine how much more great we could be if we spent a little more time advocating for ourselves?
The way that I’ve learnt to successfully advocate for myself a little more is by creating a life that I love. From days at work to days off work, I transformed my days by filling them with exactly what I want too! I decided that if I was going to be happy as a nurse and be able to show up for my patients and my loved ones as the best version of myself I needed to find a way to inject more of what I wanted and what brings me joy into my life and make it a consistent habit.
Creating Healthy Habits For Yourself Everyday
The most challenging part of creating a life you love is that it can be challenging. We often have no idea where to start or where we want to end up and that’s okay. I hired a life coach to help me figure this out and perhaps that’s what you need too. Or maybe you just need a few tips and hints to create some healthier habits for yourself which I’m hoping you might find here.
The first thing I recommend doing is a big old brainstorm about what you want more of in your everyday life. Not the big things like skydiving or sailing the Whitsundays, we all wish we could holiday every day. No, what I want you to do is focus on everyday life, what do you want more of in your day to day? Because that’s the life we are living and the one we all should be cherishing.
Do you want to read more? Exercise more? Eat Healthier? Have More Time Off? Spend More Quality Time with Your Family? Write down all the things you’d love to have in your everyday life. Then afterwards start thinking about how you could inject your life with more of these things?
To make it a little easier I’m going to share some of the healthy habits that I’ve adopted recently that have changed my life as a nurse and person.
Healthy Habits to Adopt as a Nurse
Break Times – More Reading Less Scrolling
One of the feelings I wanted to get rid of was feeling like all I did was work during my run of shifts. I felt like I could only be Alicia the Nurse instead of Alicia the Person. So I started finding ways that would help break up my days to enjoy life, before, after and during a shift. Starting with using breaks at work for what they meant for..taking a break!
I’m a book fanatic. I always choose books over films and getting lost in a story is my favourite thing to do. When I first became a nurse four years ago I completely stopped reading during the days I worked because I simply couldn’t find the time. But somehow I was managing to keep up with what all my friends were doing on social media? So, I ditched the mindless scrolling on my lunch break.
If you watched my IGTV about how to have a more joyful shift at work then you’ll know how I feel about switching your brain off for a bit during your lunch break. Take some time to think about how you spend your break at work, do you sit gossiping for half an hour with your colleagues or scrolling Instagram. What could you do in that half an hour that brings you joy? For me it’s reading or listening to a podcast. I take my book and headphones to work and let myself indulge in 15 minutes of great fiction/one of my fave podcasts. I find it breaks the day up and takes my mind off nursing for a moment.
Okay, this one is quite a new one for me but it’s already having a huge impact on my life as a nurse. If you haven’t already then I urge you to read The Morning Miracle by Hal Elrod because it could have the possibility to change your life completely. I’ve never titled myself as a morning person, in fact on my days off if the time was anything before 11:00 I wasn’t getting up.
Then what do you know, by the time I’ve got up, showered, had breakfast and can do something with my day off its 2 pm and what’s left of the day is slim. Compare that to the girl who now gets up at 5 am on my nursing days and 7-8 am on days off, I have so much more fulfilment in my life. That time was there all along I was literally just wasting it in bed!
I could chatter on about The Morning Miracle for ages and I will do a separate post on how I adapt it to my life as a nurse this month but for now I urge you to buy and read.
If you want a quicker simpler fix to having more of a nurse life balance on your days off then try setting your alarm half an hour earlier. Get up, drink water, get out of your PJs, get a hot drink and read a book, or go outside, blog or whatever it is you like to do. Dedicate just half an hour or hell, even 10 minutes, to yourself before a shift and you will notice a huge change in your mindset on shift.
Downtime after work
Just like having some dedicated time to myself in a morning, I also dedicate time to myself at night too. This applies to me more after a shift. I follow a simple routine of getting home, showered, eating and then doing something I love for as long as I have time for. I always get into bed half an hour early before I want to sleep to read. But before that I like to catch up with some things for this business of mine. Finding something to focus on after a shift can really help you let go of what’s happened during the day. If I feel I need it I’ll journal especially, if it’s been a hard shift or I’m feeling a bit icky about something that unfolded. Check out my simple journal process for nurses here!
Sounds silly but so many of us and in particular nurses do not prioritise sleep. I get it, as nurses we are used to running on empty. So many of us have trouble sleeping during the day time during our run of night duty and that often leaves so many of us having trouble sleeping at night too. As a nurse, our body clocks can be all over the place but I’m sorry that’s just an excuse.
Do whatever you need to do to get more sleep. Turn Netflix off and get to bed so you can get as much sleep as you need. I know that I need 8 hours so in the last few months I’ve prioritised this big time and I’m so much more joyful for it. If you struggle to sleep then visit your GP, try out melatonin, eat foods high in melatonin before bedtime, get blackout blinds, an eye mask, earplugs, move to the quieter neighbourhood, find a relaxation routine that works for you! If you’re going to succeed as a nurse you need to be able to sleep.
Over the years numerous studies have been conducted which shows that 28-55% of nurses in the United Kingdom and the United States of America are overweight. You don’t need to look at the studies to see it’s a problem you just need to have a look around. As nurses, we use excuses like working nights and having irregular shift patterns as to why we can’t eat healthily. This really is just an excuse.
There is no reason why we cannot eat healthily and do exercise. I’ve completely changed the way I eat recently and I feel so much better on my shifts. We need to concentrate for up to 12 hours at a time so we need to fuel our body with good food. If you have no idea where to start I really recommend reading some of ‘The Other Shift’ blog posts as they have some great tips for eating and working shifts!
Get Outside on Days Off
It can be so tempting to sit inside on your days off and catch up on rest. I used to do it all the time but the best thing for our bodies and minds is to get outside. When we are feeling low on energy we need to create our own. We all know that the hormones realised during exercise, even the light kind, make us feel energised and more awake so get outside on those days off! Take a walk around the woods, visit your favourite park, take a day trip to the beach or simply walk around the block. Whatever you do just get out into the fresh air. As nurses, a lot of us spend our days inside an air-conditioned hospital that circulates dry air around all day. We are around sick people all day so getting out into fresh air is exactly what we need.
This post is already way longer than I expected it to be so for now, I’m going to make this the final healthy habit that has the power to serve all nurses. Get organised in life. Make charts, big charts if you need too, make lists of things you need to do but get organised. I used to leave the food shop until the day I began nights, forget birthdays here there and everywhere and just feel completely unorganised.
But when my calendar became my best friend and I started planning my days I felt like a weight had been lifted. I now plan out every single day whether it’s day at work or off work. I meal prep for my shifts so I’ve got nutritious meals to take to work and yummy meals that I can simply reheat after a shift too! I always know when the next roster is coming out and I always know what I want to request in terms of shifts. It pays to be organised, we manage our time at work so why not try it out at home?
I hope that you’ve found some of these healthy habit tips useful. And I really hope you can find some time to think about what habits you might like to adopt to help you achieve a better nurse life balance and avoid burnout! If you have no idea where to start then take one of my habits and try to implement it in some way. If you need any extra tips then please shoot me an email at [email protected]
Love, Alicia x