On every airline flight, a flight attendant gives directions to those on board so they know what to do in an emergency. One line always stands out: “If you are traveling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person.” I think this line speaks volumes about the importance of self-care. Because if we don’t care for ourselves, how can we care for others?
Today, most nurses are responsible for caring for their families, aging parents, patients, caregivers, other members of the healthcare team, and others, depending on their circumstances. As a result, self-care is often tossed out the window due to time restraints, work schedules, and responsibilities. Yet, most of us know that making room for our needs is critical to enabling us to care for others and keep going with calm and inner strength.
Self-care only works when you listen to your body and do what you want without resistance. I’ve learned to do things that allow me to step away from the challenges of my day-to-day routine and relax my mind and body. My routine changed a few months ago; I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. I was treated with aggressive chemotherapy, eradicating the tumor, but it left me with neuropathy and nerve damage in both legs. As a result, I have had to re-learn how to exercise and care for myself to continue to heal. Today, I swim, do water aerobics, write a Blog and spend time with my husband, family, and friends. These activities have allowed me to relax and focus on healing. I have a long way to go, but coping with a major medical illness has allowed me to refocus on everyday challenges.
Think about things that you like to do and make time for them. Don’t feel like you have to spend a lot of money on these things, but you do have to commit to taking care of yourself. Here are some things that you might want to consider adding to your to-do list that will allow you to improve your mind, body, and spirit:
- Get medical and dental checkups on a regular basis
- Find an exercise that you like to do and set time aside to do it. Schedule the time as an appointment and keep it!
- If you have fallen away from your religious affiliation, reconnect. Having a higher power, you can depend on, talk to, pray to, and believe in can provide strength during challenging times.
- Find a cause that means something to you and volunteer. Giving back allows you to focus on others rather than yourself.
- Continue to learn. Learning helps us learn new perspectives and opens up our minds. If you desire to return to school, make time for it. If you are interested in learning new things, look at your local community colleges, which often have self-improvement courses that you can take for reasonable costs.
- Take the time to have fun. Life is short. Take time off and enjoy yourself, your family, and your friends.
- Make a move. If you are not happy in your career, make a move. Nursing is rich with opportunities.
- Network with colleagues. Networking is an important part of your professional career.
So from one nurse to another, take care of yourself!