By Lindsay Jean Thomson
Taking care of yourself is particularly important for nurses, who are at greater risk for compassion fatigue and burnout than the general population. It's even more important for nurses to practice self-care during the busy holiday season, which often means more shifts, colleagues on holidays, and all of the extras that holidays can bring. Even the fun ones!
The last thing most of us need is more on our to do list, so here are simple ways you can practice self-care during the holidays.
1. Stick with the basics.
It's probably obvious, but if you're not feeling great then start with what you know you need: that means sleep, water, movement, and nutrition. If you're too busy to hydrate, set a reminder on your phone or watch.
2. Keep up your routines.
Whether that's working out a certain number of times a week, going to church every Sunday, or keeping a daily journal, stay committed to the practices that are already helping you feel your best. It can be tempting to try to fit in more, but be gentle with yourself. Try setting a range, which will give you give you some wiggle room. For example, your goal might be to exercise five times a week, but anything over three is still feels good. Find a range you're comfortable with and stick to it.
3. Rank your priorities.
Between life and work, there are endless pulls on your time and energy. What are you going to put first? Only you can prioritize your priorities. What are the things that are most important to you to do (or not do!) on a regular basis?
4. It's okay to say no.
"No, thank you" is a complete sentence. It can be tempting to justify why, but try stopping at no. You don't have to explain why you're not attending the party or why you will not be participating in the bake sale.
5. Ask for help holding up your priorities.
Rather than thinking of your "no" as turning someone down, think about how it can be an invitation for them to support you. For example, "thanks for the invite, but I'm committed to keeping up my yoga practice during the busy holiday season. Would you like to come?" Or: "I'm doing my best to keep to my self-care routine, can I text you for support? An accountability buddy would be really helpful." People love to be helpful. And when you model self-care, you encourage them to too. Win-win.
6. Be prepared.
We all know the saying: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Meal prep. Scheduling your workouts in advance. Blocking out a section of time to be with your family without your devices. Decision fatigue is real – if you pick one day to make your decisions about scheduling and priorities for the week, you'll have less decisions to make in the moment.
7. Rest is part of self-care.
Missed the walk you were "supposed" to take after dinner because you were watching Netflix? Maybe that's what you needed. Rest is important too. Maybe even the most important!
8. Spend less time on social media.
If you spend 30 minutes a day on social media, that's over 180 hours over the course of the year...which is about a month of work. Yes, really. Social media is designed to keep you engaged. If you find yourself scrolling without control, try setting a timer, downloading an app that restricts the amount of time you can spend in the apps, or put your phone in grayscale mode.
9. Any day is a good day to hit restart.
Let's say you set your range for one of your priorities and didn't meet it. Okay! It's just information. Reflect on whether the goal you set was serving you or if you want to make some adjustments. New day, new goal. Onward.
10. Make a list.
Feeling lost? When I'm especially overwhelmed, I'll make a list of the things that I know will make me feel better. Most of them are free or cheap and don't take much time. For example: go for a walk. Call a friend. Drink more water. As I check them off my list, I feel better for doing them and for following through on the commitment I made to myself.
11. Reconnect to your purpose.
At work and at home. The more engaged a nurse reports feeling with their work, the less likely they are to feel burnout. Feeling the pressure of making the perfect meal or buying the perfect present? What's your real purpose? It's probably to connect with the people you love. The rest is just extra. Ground yourself in what really matters to you, and you'll be on the right path.
Happy holidays from the team at Incredible Health! Wishing you and yours all the best.