Nursing is a rewarding yet stressful profession. Many nurses feel pressed for time on their work days and exhausted on their days off. In 2021, a Nursing Central survey found that 95% of nurses felt some form of burnout in the last three years, leading 47.9% to consider leaving nursing for a less stressful job. A regular self-care regimen is the best way to fight stress and burnout. Self-care could be as simple as always wearing the most comfortable medical scrubs on your shift, meditating, enjoying hobbies, and maintaining a healthy diet. Here are six tips you can follow to care for yourself as well as you care for your patients. 1. Eat and Sleep Well Working long, busy shifts can disrupt your eating and sleeping cycles. Studies have found that nurses are at a higher risk for sleep disorders, with 49% of nurses surveyed reporting that they slept less than seven hours per night, resulting in chronic insomnia and daytime sleepiness. Many nurses must eat quickly before and during their shifts, leaving little time to prepare healthy, balanced meals. Part of self-care is eating and sleeping well. Ensure that you go to bed at the same time of day when possible. Create a regular sleep routine to help signal to your body that it is time to rest. This could include taking a shower, brushing your teeth, stretching, and reading a chapter of a book. You can also invest in a smartwatch or device that tracks your sleep cycle and features an alarm that wakes you at the lightest stage of sleep. This helps you avoid grogginess upon waking and reduces the risk of daytime fatigue. Eating three healthy meals a day full of fruits, vegetables, and healthy low-fat proteins like almonds, eggs, cheese, chicken, or fish is also essential. If you struggle to find the time to cook healthy meals each day, consider meal prepping on the weekend, so you have balanced meals ready to grab and go from your fridge. It’s also a good idea to switch your morning coffee to green tea. Green tea contains L-theanine to reduce stress hormone cortisol levels and has a lower caffeine content than coffee, which is better for your sleep cycle. 2. Breathwork and Meditation Meditation and breathwork are some of the best ways to easily reduce stress and care for your mental health. Meditation and breathwork have been proven to lower the heart rate, decrease oxygen consumption by up to 20%, produce relaxing alpha waves in the brain, and reduce the amount of stress-inducing lactate in the bloodstream. Find a quiet place to sit, lie down, or even stand in a comfortable position. Focus on slowing your breath. Some find repeating a phrase or mantra helpful; others prefer to concentrate on something calming like a single flickering candle or soothing music. To practice deep breathing, inhale through your nose from your diaphragm for five seconds, inflating your stomach. Hold your breath for five seconds, then exhale forcefully for five seconds. Hold your breath again for five seconds, then repeat the cycle. You can also stream podcasts or YouTube videos with short guided meditations that are ideal for relaxing in the break room or calming down before sleep. 3. Live an Active Life Living an active life outside work is one of the best ways to care for your physical and mental health. Taking up hobbies like yoga, tai chi, or Pilates gives you all the benefits of meditation while adding a physical component that will strengthen your body. Hiking and spending time in nature can be very calming. Many cultures promote a practice called “forest bathing.” Forest bathing is spending time in nature and green spaces and has been proven to lower stress hormone levels and reduce anxiety. Team sports or communal activities can also lower stress hormones and promote greater life satisfaction while strengthening the body and promoting better sleep patterns. 4. Digital Detox, Read, and Journal Our digital world moves fast, and the constant dopamine hit from social media apps can be draining. Taking time away from technology can help reset your dopamine levels and help you reconnect with those around you. Try installing digital detox apps like “minimalist phone” or Offscreen. These can help you unplug and manage your screen time. Focus on enjoying non-screen-related activities. Reading can help you improve your focus, broaden your mind, and put your own troubles in perspective. Journaling can also help you identify what stresses you out and take steps to correct it, track your personal goals, and keep an interesting record of your daily life. 5. Dress for Success One of the best ways to care for yourself is to dress confidently. Wearing a pair of high-quality men’s or women’s scrubs while on your shift will help you look professional and feel good. They also have features like breathable fabrics and a functional design to enhance your range of motion and ensure you are comfortable throughout your shift. Wearing lab coats can help you feel more confident in your professional abilities while keeping your clothes safe from spills or wear during your shift. Dress in a way that expresses your personality while remaining professional. This will help you feel more like your authentic self and give you more pride in your appearance and job role. 6. Practice Gratitude Nursing is a selfless profession but, unfortunately, it is often a difficult, thankless job. One way to care for yourself is to practice gratitude in your life, even when others are unthankful or disrespectful toward you. Gratitude fosters closer, more meaningful connections to other people and helps you express your love toward those close to you or who have impacted your life. It helps you build your humility and increase your selflessness. A great way to practice gratitude is to write down everything we are thankful for daily. You could write in a dedicated notebook at the end of the day or jot down your thoughts in memos on your phone throughout the day. Many people find it inspiring to start their day by writing down a list of everything they are grateful for that day, beginning their day in a positive, humble mood. You can record acts and people who have helped you during your shift, and you can even record instances where people were mean or disrespectful and write how you can learn from their bad example. Care for yourself by keeping the good things in your life close to your heart. Self-Care for a Successful Career The key to success in a nursing career is taking care of yourself every day. Find ways to help you relax in your free time and focus at work while ensuring you care for your mental and physical health.