Self Care is not Optional

super_nurse[1]

Ever since I started to practice self care, my perspective on life has changed.

Recently a co-worker asked me why I didn’t work any overtime.  She told me that she thought that all travel nurses worked over time.

I explained to her why I chose to be a travel nurse.  I chose to be a travel nurse so that I could live in different areas.  I want to be able to explore the different areas that I go to.  I love to travel and meet different people.

Even if I wasn’t a travel nurse, I would choose not to work over time.  The reason for that is because I am a better person and a better nurse when I take care of myself.  Part of taking care of myself is not working too much and making time for self care and fun.  Eating right and exercising are also parts of my self care.

On my days off, I can do whatever I want to do.  I can go hiking, just sit in the park, yoga, or just stay at home.  Those self care practices help me to stay centered, creative, and in balance.

When I was just working and not taking care of myself, I wasn’t balanced.  I was frustrated and overwhelmed.   I was stressed and I was burnt out.  My patients could tell too.

Now that self care is a priority, I’m happy and I can maintain it.

Unfortunately, the trend that I’m seeing in nursing is to make self care optional.  Its ok to work 6 or 7 days straight, as long as the nurse is getting paid well.  Its ok for the nurse to be really tired coming into work.  The nurse had 12 hours to sleep in between the shifts.

What some people don’t take into account is that the nurse also has a personal life.  When the nurse goes home, they have to take care of that home.  The nurse also may have children to spend time with.  The nurse may have a significant other to spend time with.  The nurse may have aging parents to take care of.  The nurse may have pets.

I’ve seen and heard of nurses working 6 or 7 days a week for months at a time.  They come in to work and they state that they are so tired.  They state that they wish this day would hurry up and be done with.  I have to attribute that to them just wanting and needing a day off.

Too much work and no fun or self care makes a person very stressed.

I recently read an article in Cosmopolitan magazine titled: “The Stress Solution You Haven’t Thought Of”.  The article talks about taking mental health days off from work and how important it is not only for the company but for the employee as well.  One of the quotes that caught my attention was, “Taking time off lowers the stress hormone cortisol.” – Richard Shuster.  Another quote states, “Days off can improve sleep, boost mood, and lessen risks for heart disease and depression.  And being away from work actually makes you better at work.” – Jessica Goodman.

I can attest to these statements.  When I get 4 days off a week, I come into work less tired and stressed.  When I work 4 days in a week, I feel more tired and stressed.  I love being a nurse but I also love having a thriving personal life.  I love spending time with my family and friends.  I love being able to go hiking when the sun is shining.  I love to sit around the lake and write in my journal.   I can give my best self to my patients when I’m operating at 100%.

I understand some nurses need to work more days in a week for financial or personal reasons.  This is when self care becomes even more important.  When working more hours the need for self care rises.  The nurse needs to be able to have some time to relax and to do the things that help with their stress levels.   Even if its something as simple as taking a bubble bath.

Self care is not optional.  Self care is not selfish.  Self care is necessary and important.

 

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