How very little can be done under the spirit of fear”

                                – Florence Nightingale 

What is Self Care for Nurses

Self care is a phrase we hear fairly frequently in our society today and especially in high stress jobs such as healthcare, law, teaching, and law enforcement, but how many of us actually know what it is? 

Almost 50% of people in general feel burnt out in the United States and more 80% of people say they intend to incorporate more self care into their lives but only 30% ACTUALLY feel like they do it on a regular basis. 

Why is Self-Care Important for Nurses?

So what is self care and why is it important? The actual definition of self care according to the Oxford dictionary is“the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.” So it’s taking care of your health, mental and physical, especially during times of stress. This has been proven in multiple scientific studies to reduce the number of people who feel burnt out. Those who practice self care regularly report significantly lower levels of burn out than the 50%. 

So why is it important? Like Florence Nightingale said above, you can’t help or care for others when you are not in a state of well-being. Another frequently used metaphor is that you can’t fill anything from an empty cup. Self care is essentially “filling your cup” so that you have the amount of space needed to take care of your patients. 

How Lack of Self-Care Affects Nurses?

Nurses are at an increased risk for burnout due to job stress and something else called compassion fatigue. This occurs as a form of secondary trauma that we experience every day at work! Have you ever noticed that when you come home from work to a sick spouse or child and you cannot tolerate it or care about it at all? This isn’t because you’re a bad person, it’s because you spend all your time at work caring for others and NOT yourself, so your cup has been depleted. 

What 10 Strategies Promote Self-Care for Nurses?

So how can you integrate self care into your daily life? Below are a few EASY self care ideas that specifically help with things like burnout and compassion fatigue

  1. Have a morning ritual or routine– This can be as simple as playing music while you get ready, meditating for 5 minutes, or eating a good breakfast. Do whatever feels good and helps you feel good to start the day 
  2. Have an after work ritual- This REALLY helps you separate yourself from the work day and be home. This can also be something really simple like doing a quick meditation or journaling prompt when you get home and change out of your scrubs. 
  3. Have an evening ritual or routine– This can also be simple like the morning one but should include activities that help you relax like reading your favorite book, taking a long hot bath, or listening to some calming music. 
  4. TAKE YOUR LUNCH BREAK 
  5. Spend time outside as much as you can– This can be worked into your routines like sitting on your patio in the morning with your coffee, taking a walk during your lunch, even if it’s around the parking lot, or when you get home with your family. Get that vitamin D! 
  6. Exercise regularly– Start SUPER slow with this one if you don’t have a regular routine. There are great apps or youtube videos like the 7 Minute workup. Do this every morning or just start with your days off and workup slowly! 
  7. Journal– Journaling has CHANGED my life. Simple morning and evening journal prompts to help motivate me, change my self talk, and reflect on my goals have helped me and my mental health. Start slow with this too and work it into your rituals 
  8. Practice Mindfulness– This can encompass a LOT of different things from sitting and breathing for a few minutes to a full meditation. This takes practice so don’t get discouraged. I personally recommend Headspace. They walk you through mindfulness and meditation so you can practice every day 
  9. Spend time with your friends and family on your days off– As tired as you are and as much as you want to lay around, getting coffee with a friend or calling your mom will make you feel so much better than a third nap of the day 
  10. Spend time on your hobbies– This can be ANYTHING. Maybe you love listening to true crime podcasts (guilty), reading, crafting, or writing! Spend a little time every week doing things that you enjoy so you can UNPLUG. 

Remember, start slow and integrate these things into your life! After some time, you’ll notice you feel burnt out less often, you may not be snapping at your family because of compassion fatigue, and your HEALTH will improve and you can truly be the best nurse you can be. 



Sources: 50 State Boards of Nursing, University Websites, U.S. Department of Education, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Ranking Methodology.