Many people who want to enter the nursing industry are well aware that working as a nurse can place a significant emotional toll on a person. After all, nurses are on hand to help people through some of the most difficult moments in their lives, whether as the result of long-term illness or acute trauma. Nursing isn’t for everyone. If you want to survive in this profession, here’s what you need to know.
Many new nurses overlook the role that their physical health will play in determining their resilience to the emotional demands of their job. Our physical and emotional health are intimately linked; they are intertwined in a way that many people underestimate. If you are in poor physical health, and you do nothing to address the situation, it won’t take long for your emotional health to begin suffering as well.
Here are some very simple but also essential tips for ensuring that you maintain good physical health as well as emotional health when working as a nurse.
- Don’t neglect your diet: Different emotions are caused by different levels of neurotransmitters and hormones within the brain. Our brains are a sea of different endogenous chemicals, all working together in a delicate dance to produce a specific effect. If your body does not have the basic biological building blocks that it needs to produce these endogenous chemicals, the result will be that your brain is physically unable to create the state that it wants. In the simplest terms, if you do not have a well-rounded and balanced diet, your brain is going to be trying to make things without the proper ingredients. The result of this for you is that your moods are more unpredictable, and you’ll find it much harder to maintain control of them.
- Eat before your shift: Even if you were to sit down for several hours in front of Netflix, you would still be burning up energy. If you are burning energy and not replacing it properly, you are going to end up fatigued and exhausted. You should always aim to eat before you go on shift, especially if you are expecting it to be a long one. You don’t have to have an entire three-course meal, but you should try to have a high-energy snack that will enable you to power through the day.
- Exercise when you can: Many people think of exercise as the lynchpin of their physical health, but massively underappreciate the effect that it will have on their emotional health and wellbeing. A lack of exercise has numerous negative knock-on effects for both your physical and emotional well-being. You don’t have to be hitting the gym for an intense workout multiple times a week. However, you should be trying to get in a good 15 to 20 minutes of exercise every other day. Even if it’s only a brisk walk around your block, that’s much better than doing nothing at all.
- Pack your own lunch: Unless we make a conscious effort to maintain a good diet, it is disconcertingly easy for your eating habits to go completely off the rails. Part of the problem is simply that, in the modern world, there is a huge amount of processed food out there. Even if you are conscious of this problem and want to actively avoid such foods, it is becoming increasingly difficult to do so. In fact, the only way that you can really be sure of exactly what you are eating is to prepare all of your meals yourself.
Working as a nurse is incredibly rewarding and provides you with numerous opportunities to help other people and make a very real difference in their lives. However, for every success story, there is a tragedy. Anyone who wants to work in the nursing profession in the long-term needs to be prepared for the emotional toll that it can take.
- Maintain balance in your life: Nursing is one of those professions that demands everything from its workers. Nurses will regularly find themselves having to go above and beyond for their patients. This is not an industry to enter into if the thought of doing even a minute of unpaid overtime is unacceptable to you. Nurses who are dedicated to their patients and willing to go the extra mile for them are the best that the industry has to offer. However, it is vital that you balance your desire to help your patients with your own emotional needs. It doesn’t help you or your patient if you burn yourself out and deplete your emotional reserves. Remember to make time for yourself and be prepared to act in what might seem like a selfish way if that’s what’s required to get you through the day.
One aspect of nursing that is unique, and which draws many people towards the profession, is the ability to advance through the ranks at your own pace. Nurses are able to go straight from earning their RN to enrolling in accelerated BSN programs if they choose. While it might be tempting to steamroll through the ranks as fast as you can, many nurses find it better to take some time to adjust to their role before they begin pursuing more advanced opportunities. You don’t want to overload yourself with academic pressure.
- Practice mindfulness: There are lots of misconceptions about mindfulness and what it entails. There is now good scientific evidence to show that mindfulness does have a tangible impact on practitioners’ outlook and overall well-being. Mindfulness is a fantastic way of reducing stress and anxiety, it is also an effective tool for nurses who need to maintain their objectivity and composure in the face of very emotionally trying situations.
Finding Your Feet
- Know your strengths and weaknesses: There are innumerable nursing roles that a qualified nurse can pursue. While most nurses will begin working directly with patients in hospitals, many will go on to more specialized roles. Understanding your own strengths and weaknesses will help you to settle on the most suitable role for your talents.
- Set yourself long-term goals: Don’t pressure yourself into achieving your goals as quickly as possible. Instead, make long-term plans that enable you to both be ambitious and to relax and enjoy your work.
- Be open to new opportunities: There are boundless opportunities for nurses who are willing to step outside of their comfort zone. Don’t be afraid of new challenges. In fact, they should be embraced.
Nursing is a very rewarding but also very demanding career. If you are serious about working as a nurse in the long-term, you need to be prepared for the challenges that lie ahead. Make sure that you pay attention to your physical and emotional health as you work your way through the ranks.