Everyone at The Student Nurse Project understands that at times it is hard to remain positive, to be motivated, especially with most of us struggling to put ourselves first. With self-care being a concept that’s being discussed over and over again on social media we thought it would be a great idea to get the team together and come up with an ultimate list of self-care tips for nursing students. This is being published today inline with Day 14 of the NHS Horizons’ 30 Days Challenge – Self Care Tips.
Ewout Van Sabben (@Ewout1985)
So, what tips do I have for anyone struggling to find time for self-care? First of all, don’t compare yourself. It’s very easy to look at someone and think he or she has it right. Most of the time I’m very good at hiding my stress levels but I’m certain people could do without my anxiety being added on top of their own.
Here are some of my self-care top tips:
1. Pick one day a week, any day, and make it a ‘you day’! Even if it only ends up being one hour or even 5 minutes, that time is yours completely. Anyone familiar with Parks and Recreations? Well, ‘treat-yo-self’! And if you’re not familiar with this show, please watch it: it is so funny! An app like ‘Calm’ I would definitely recommend to train yourself to take time for you.
2. Find a hobby! I have several. Video games, movies, running and photography are my outlets. All four things bring me joy, provide an escape from the stressful job that we do and in the end they all make me feel better because I was able to switch off for a moment.
3. Spend time with friends and family. Although you might be very tired, seeing your friends and spending time with your family can actually give you energy. It is very easy to hide under a rock when you’ve had a rough week at work, and you’ll always be allowed to feel crappy about it, but don’t run away from the people that can make you run less far.
4. Spend some time outside your four walls. Go outside, sit in the sun, grab a coffee or a drink, go for a nice walk. Basically change your scenery.
5. Eat, drink, sleep – repeat. Don’t forget to look after your own body. Make sure your nutritional intake is healthy, as this will provide you with more energy, a healthy skin and eventually a more positive outlook on life. I’m not saying to ditch the sweets completely, but add some fruit and veg in to counter it.
6. In the end many things that work for me, might not work for you. But always remember: You Are Important!
Dann Gooding (@DannGooding)
I believe that self care is vital for our own developments. Unfortunately, throughout my course, I had ups and downs. At first, I struggled to take on board these self care tips, so here goes;
1) Be kind to yourself. Try not to stress out about not knowing how self care works. Let yourself off of the hook every once in a while.
2) Look after yourself. Eat a range of foods, go outside, drink plenty. For me personally, I believe that what we do with our time and what we consume has a big effect on how we are feeling.
3) Let people be there for you. I know it is so easy to lock ourselves away, to concentrate on essays, revision, tests, exams etc, and we often bottle up how we feel, but instead we should let people be there for us. Invite people round for a cup of tea, go and meet a friend in a public place. Talk with your friends and family. By letting people be there for you, you are also helping them by letting them be there for you.
4) And to echo Ewout’s last point; You Are Important. If these tips do not help, then keep looking and find something that does help. For a while, I had graphic up in my room of motivational quotes and reminders. This is what worked for me.
Claire Carmichael (@C_Carmichael83)
I definitely do not take enough time out for myself, I am guilty of doing far too much but when I do take time out, here are my top things I do to relax and recharge my batteries are:
1. A nice long bubble bath with Himalayan rock salt and lavender. This is really great for your muscles, circulation and to get a great night sleep.
2. Just to sit and be for a moment. Acknowledge I am doing too much and take a moment to sit quietly and listen to what your body is telling you.
3. Listen to some great music, this is great for lifting your mood! I also find listening to meditation music so peaceful and keeps me calm.
4. Spend quality time with your family and friends, make time for people and have fun! Life is too short.
5. Reading, I’m not a big reader but lately I have found comfort in sitting and reading books.
6. Find something you love that’s not nursing related. Something to completely take you away and distract you from your busy life for a short while.
Jess Sainsbury (@JessLSainsbury)
When I first became familiar with the term self care, I’m going to be honest here, I thought ‘how on Earth am I going to find time for that?!’. I’m a student nurse, I’m a mother, I’m a wife, I’m a part time worker, I’m an Academic Rep, and RCN SIO, I’m busy. Taking time out for me was not something I thought I could fit in. But you know what? It IS important, and now I’ve slowly started to do it I can see that it is having a positive impact not only on my mental health, but on all of these other little pies I have my fingers in! So, self care is very personal and individual to you; you may look at my list and none of it works for you. That’s ok – as I’m hoping that this post will make you start to think about what you like to do for your own self care. Here’s a few of mine:
• At least one night a week I step away from social media. Shock horror. No twitter, no Facebook, no Instagram. Nothing. I don’t announce it, I just step away. It helps.
• I go to the beach. The beach is my happy place. This is normally my last resort and if my husband didn’t know I was stressed before he sure knows when I announce I need to go to the beach! There’s just something calming about the sound of the waves and the feel of the sand between your toes.
• I talk to my friends on the phone, or in person. Talking for me is like therapy. It doesn’t have to be about anything in particular, just catching up on their lives and letting them know what’s going on with mine really helps.
• Walking. Walking home after taking the kids to school, walking the woofer, parking a bit further away from Uni and walking in. Clears the mind, cleanses the soul.
I could carry on with many other self care methods I use but I think you get the idea by now. It doesn’t matter what method you use, so long as you have a little toolbox full of your self care tools you can pull out regularly. Embrace it.
I’m a massive advocate of looking after myself and encouraging others to do the same. At the start of my degree, I had many bad habits and was overweight. One day it clicked and I decided that enough was enough…..fast forward to now I have lost over 4stone, stopped some of my habits and feel great. I find it especially important through stressful times such as assignment deadlines or traumatic days on placement, I find doing something focussing on me is so important. These are a few ways I try and look after myself.
• A form of exercise I love running, cycling or golf
• Do something you enjoy, such as blogging, cooking, even decorating (definitely not my favourite)
• Walk away from assignments for a few hours and do something completely different
• Spend time with your family and friends. If there is one thing that I have learnt through my degree….life is very precious enjoy, cherish and love every minute.
Lily Parham (@Lily_Parham)
Self care is something me and my whole family have struggled with! Especially when you’re in the business of caring about other people, it’s very hard to convince yourself to portion out time just for you. But it’s so important! I know you’ve probably heard it over and over now: if you don’t look after yourself, you can’t look after others. This may be a cliché, but it’s a cliché that bears repeating.
So, I am by no means saying that mastering self care is easy. But it’s an important part of being a grown up. Here are some humble tips from me that I hope will help you on your journey to finding what is right for you:
1. Don’t punish yourself for what you don’t know. Instead, try to congratulate yourself for how far you’ve come. This can be really hard. But, for example, if you keep a diary for each placement make sure you write as many achievements as you do set-backs. (I remember on my first placement I couldn’t do a drug round without my hands shaking! And now, on my final placement, I can do them with confidence and precision.)
2. Practise Mindfulness. Now this is by no means for everyone. And lots of people do it in very different ways. Some do it via an app, some go to classes, some do it peppered throughout their day. Personally, I’ve found mindfulness techniques a really useful way of staying grounded and feeling more in control of my mind and body. It roots me to the spot, and stops my mind running in 100 directions – which nurses are asked to do from time to time! I try to go to the free sessions run by my Trust’s chaplaincy. But if I can’t make those, I just practise it in small ways throughout the day. For example, every time I log in to a computer, I take a breath and really focus on the action of typing rather than what I’m going to do next, and after that, and after that…
3. Have hobbies outside of the course/job. I, for one – as well as being a member of the fantastic team that is the Student Nurse Project – am a member of a mental health themed cabaret troupe (?!). Even though this makes me busier, it actually boosts me up as I focus my energies into something completely different. It also gives me something interesting to say when patients ask, “So what do you do in your spare time…?”
4. Separate work and home. My desk is in my bedroom, which for a long time made it very difficult for me to switch off and go to sleep after working on an assignment. As simple an act as moving my ‘work-self’ into a different room really helped me relax at the end of the day.
5. Most importantly: Find what works for you! There are loads of activities out there just waiting to be enjoyed. Whether it’s rock climbing, video games, yoga, reading, watching movies… You deserve that time for yourself, and you deserve to enjoy it.
I would also recommend following Hannah Daisy (@makedaisychains) on instagram. Her inclusive, powerful and warm-hearted hand drawn images champion the importance of #boringselfcare, and advocate for the people for whom this can be a real challenge.
Debs Cooper (@DebsCooper131)
For me self care has always been important, it can often be the simplest of things but I know that without them I will not be at my best, professionally or personally. There’s always going to be an element of stress in a nursing job and to cope with that effectively you need to know how to look after yourself. My top tips for self care are
1. Know who you can vent to- sometimes if something is stressing you out or worrying you then being able to talk about it really helps. I often call my parents after a particularly trying shift, not to moan about how hard done by I am, but to try to process what’s happened and move on from it.
2. Eat well- this is coming from someone who has struggled with “disordered eating” in the past (never a formal diagnosis but very close), I know I need to have healthy & filling meals to take to work to fuel me for the shift ahead. And I also know that the odd takeaway or spot of baking is great for my well being too!
3. Have a hobby or activity that helps you unwind- I have recently taken up cross stitching again and have found it’s really helped me unwind, the repetitive movements, the fact I’m making something pretty… i think this helps me by distracting my conscious mind so my sub-conscious can process things, I definitely feel frazzled if I’ve not done any sewing or lacemaking for a while now I’ve taken it up again.
4. Make time for friends & family- as a student I would often get into a little university bubbe of studying, stress & worry. Sometimes now I feel I’m stuck on a treadmil of work, sleep, eat, repeat. By taking time out from that routine to see friends or go visit my parents I definitely feel better and come back to my tasks refreshed in mind and body
5. Exercise!!! You don’t have to run marathons (though if you do well done you!) but do something to keep yourself active. Not only will this give you stamina for long shifts at work but I also find it very soothing to do some pilates or that the act of going for a long walk or jumping on my cross trainer helps me sleep at night. And leading on from that…
6. Sleep is important- your body and your mind need rest. I am a dreaful insomniac at times so I know how hard it can be to simply go off to sleep, but practice good sleep hygiene and minimise screen time before you go to bed to try make sure you get as much rest as possible.