As nurses we spend our working lives looking after other people’s health but, arguably, it’s one of the hardest professions in which to look after our own! With a lack of routine, long hours and few breaks, it can be all to easy to neglect our own self-care and fall into negative habits as we rush around.
The RCN recognises this and has a Healthy Workplace, Healthy You toolkit, as well as a Healthy Weight Initiative for Nurses (WIN) tool, both designed to help nurses nurture their own mental and physical wellbeing and lead healthy lifestyles. Whether you’re trying to lose weight, reduce stress or maintain a better balance, the key is in making small changes rather than expecting an overnight solution. So here is the Richmond Nursing guide to the small steps that can make a big difference!
Keeping hydrated aids digestion and prevents dizziness and headaches. It fights fatigue and helps keep your body cool. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day is one of the easiest yet most effective ways to better health. It also prevents hunger – and it’s free!
2. Rethink your caffeine intake
You don’t have to give up tea and coffee, but could you switch one or two cups a day for a healthier option, such as green tea? Many of us swear by a fix of caffeine to get us going in the morning but, in fact, drinking cooled boiled water with a slice of lemon in it first thing is a much better way to wake up your body and get it working well.
3. Talking of tea and coffee…
How many sugars do you have in yours? Again, we’re not talking about cutting it out altogether (these are small steps, remember!), but think about reducing the spoonfuls in each cuppa. You’ll be amazed how quickly your taste buds adjust!
4. Working shifts can play havoc with your eating habits
So the key is to plan well in order to avoid stodgy options in the workplace canteen or grabbing a chocolate bar from the vending machine as you go. Prepare healthy salads or wraps the night before your shift and keep handy wholesome snacks, such as unsalted nuts and packets of chopped fruit.
5. Plan ahead for your mealtimes
To help you prepare the right food, set aside some time each week to plan ahead – you can’t make healthy meals if there’s no healthy food in the fridge! Plan ‘home’ and ‘work’ meals for the coming week and buy what you need accordingly. This not only encourages healthy eating but reduces waste too. Ordering groceries online can also help you buy only what you need, as you won’t be tempted by those sweet, sugary treats waiting by the checkout!
It really is the best medicine, reducing stress and blood pressure, boosting the immune system and even improving memory. As a nurse, your bedtime probably isn’t the same every night but, whatever time your shift finishes, follow the same routine. Avoid caffeine in the hours before sleep, have a warm bath and a milky drink and read a book. Switch off smartphones at least half an hour before you want to go to sleep and, if you have a TV in your bedroom, think about moving it out.
7. Move more
We talk about the benefits of weaving a 15-minute walk into your lunch break in our guide to work life balance, but fitness can be increased in all sorts of ways, such as vigorous gardening. Take time to stretch, which improves muscle health and strength and reduces risk of injury. If your role is mainly desk-based, try to get up every hour and move around for a few minutes.
Or at least be mindful of what’s happening now. If your workplace has a garden area or benches, sit outside in your break and observe the sound of birds and leaves rustling. If you don’t have the opportunity to grab a quiet five minutes at work, sit by an open window at home for 10 minutes when you wake or to wind down at the end of the day, focusing on the sounds outside.
For more news and tips on health and wellbeing at work, as well as seeing all the benefits of being a Richmond Nursing agency nurse, keep reading our Richmond Nursing blog!