If you are a nursing student or a recent grad, I bet you have heard a lot about this mythical concept of “self-care”. This is the idea that nurses need to do things to restore and revive themselves, given their stressful jobs. I wonder who was the first to come up with that phrase? The crazy thing about it is the mere fact that we have to tell nurses “Hey! Did you know that you shouldn’t drive yourself insane and maybe you could do something fun every 3-4 weeks?”. Do we have to remind them to be functioning human beings because nursing is such a hard career, or do we have to do it because the people who are attracted to the nursing profession are gluttons for punishment who don’t know when to say no?
I can’t tell you how many times I have had a student nurse ask me the question “what suggestions do you have for self-care” when I’ve been their clinical preceptor. And they usually ask because they have to for an assignment, not because they really care. The truthful answer I want to give is “don’t do this silly assignment” but I usually think better of it and give them some canned comment.
“I like to spend time with my family”
“I love to have a glass of wine and relax”
“I’ll take a nice bath and read a book”
Now, it’s not that these are bad suggestions. And hey! These aren’t even technically lies! I do sometimes read a book in the bath (although, truthfully, and more nerdily, I’m probably listening to comedy podcasts), and I DO love wine (doi). And of course I like to spend time with my family, I’m not a monster. But I feel like such a phoney when I give these answers to students. Because it is so cliche, which, (brace yourselves) is just like the topic itself! Nursing profs and managers tell you that you should practice self-care all the time, but then they load you up with assignments and do little to reduce your course/case load so that you can actually accomplish it. But I suppose that doesn’t make the topic any less valid. So, to make it up to all those students I gave a lame answer to, here is my list of self-care techniques that don’t suck.
- Find your creative outlet – This is going to look a lot different to each and every one of us. And creativity is not restricted to the arts. Maybe you are not particularly artistic, but you can be creative when solving math problems just as easily as you can when painting with watercolours. For me, I have a musical background so playing my cello or practicing my vocal technique helps a lot. You may even want to challenge yourself in this area. Take a dance class! Enter a chess tournament! Submit your work for an art exhibition! One thing I keep meaning to do is to sign up for a pottery making class…guess I should practice what I preach. Plus, then I would have something to tell those students who keep asking….
- Date your partner – I know not everyone has a romantic partner, so maybe you want to skip this. Or maybe you want to date your damn self! Whomever it is that you have a special connection with, make a regular scheduled time to be alone, just the two of you. Pick a specific day each month (maybe the third Friday or a weekend when you know you won’t be working) and stick to it, no matter what. Being a nurse, or being in nursing school can be isolating and all-consuming. It is great to connect with your partner and focus on something else important in your life – your relationship!
- Connect with other humans – Don’t just wait for double-taps on insta. Go out into the world with your actual friends. Don’t have friends because you spend too much time studying to be a nurse? Go make some friends. A great way to do that is at your new creative outlet I was telling you about. Best not to find these new friends when you are out on a date. That would defeat the purpose.
- Learn how to make craft cocktails – This seems self-explanatory. Cocktails are delicious, you can drink your efforts, and it will probably lead to new or stronger friendships (see point above).
- DON’T GOSSIP AT WORK – This is, without a doubt, the best advice I could possibly give. And the hardest. Gossiping is sooooo rampant in nursing. I am not going discuss why, I am simply going to say: save your sanity and don’t participate. This will be hard. It might even seem impossible, but I promise you, this is the best form of self-care there is. Gossip will drive you insane, and that’s simply not worth it.
Take care of yourselves!