When you spend every day of your working life providing care, support and your undivided attention to patients and individuals in need, it can be easy to lose touch of your own physical and mental wellbeing. It isn’t uncommon for those working within the medical industry to begin feeling a sense of guilt when they opt for spending the time to care for themselves. Switching off from ‘work mode’ and starting to adapt your lifestyle to incorporate self-care can be fairly tricky.
With this in mind, we have devised our comprehensive guide to self-care including 7 super easy ways to look after yourself, even after the most stressful of days on the ward.
7 Ways To Look After Yourself
Individuals working in the healthcare industry take absolute pride in being independent, often opting to put their career and professional responsibilities ahead of their personal and health requirements. While there is no harm in striving to be the very best candidate possible in your chosen area of expertise, it is imperative to spend time caring for your own welfare. Doctors and nurses, in particular, boast a healthy lifestyle and spend their day providing patients with expert advice to improve the quality of their life, yet somewhat neglect their own.
We consistently hear the term ‘self-care’ used on beauty adverts to advertise the latest face mask or massage, yet deep down, self-care is so much more than merely pampering yourself once a month. Self-care, by definition, relates to any action that improves, develops, protects or maintains your overall health, wellbeing and wellness. Anything that makes you, as an individual, feel happier and healthier both physically and mentally falls under the category of self-care.
With a busy schedule, it can often feel impossible to delegate ‘me time’, however, you would be surprised how much even the smallest of lifestyle changes can contribute towards improving your overall wellbeing.
1. Self-Care Assessment
To begin your quest to improving your physical and mental wellbeing, reducing stress and increasing productivity, it is imperative to spend time carrying out a self-care assessment. Trying to force self-care into your lifestyle without a goal or an objective becomes relatively futile. If you do not drill down exactly why your body is crying out for a little extra TLC and make a plan of action, you most definitely will not reap the benefits.
Start with asking yourself the following questions:
- How much downtime do you have a week?
- What activities do you participate in outside of work?
- How often do you socialise with friends and family?
- Do you eat a balanced diet?
- How often do you book annual leave?
It is essential to be as honest with yourself as possible; there is no harm in admitting that you may not necessarily allow yourself enough downtime – it is the first step towards beginning your self-care journey. Although your professional life is based on providing care to others, your own wellness should remain at the top of your priority list.
Therapist Aid has put together a super easy to follow self-care assessment survey which is available to print through a PDF document. Here you will be able to get a clear understanding of the areas that you are lacking.
2. Yoga and Meditation
The modern world we live in is filled with distractions that, while they may allow us to switch off from ‘work mode’ temporarily, are incapable of truly relaxing the body and clearing the mind. Inner peace is something that we all seek, yet becomes incredibly tricky to achieve as our minds are always preoccupied with thoughts that we see as more important.
Yoga and meditation come hand in hand, and are proven to calm and control the mind; ultimately, enhancing your quality of life. Everyone is capable of practising successful yoga and meditation, even if it is merely for just ten minutes a day, whether this may be before your shifts begin or even when you arrive home.
The most significant benefit of yoga and meditation is that they both promote mindfulness; your mind’s ability to focus on the present moment in time, including your thoughts and feelings. Mindfulness is proven to effectively deal with stress and anxiety, therefore, allowing you to gain more control over your emotions.
While the most prominent distraction in the modern day remains to be mobile phones, they can, in fact, be used towards your advantage. There are now tonnes of different apps that help towards beginning your journey to mindfulness through yoga and meditation. Take a look at Marie Claire’s guide to the best yoga apps of the year for more information.
3. Make Good Food Choices
Working as a full-time or locum doctor, nurse or any other medical practitioner can often mean that food becomes low on the priority list. There will be days where you feel as if you are rushed off your feet and the only logical solution appears to be to skip meals; however, this should never be an option.
Always ensure that, even on the busiest of days, you always take your break and never opt for skipping meals. Skipping meals forces your body into ‘fasting mode’ meaning that your blood glucose levels will begin to drop. Your blood glucose levels are your brain’s main source of fuel; a lack of glucose will immediately start to impact your concentration levels, productivity and increase fatigue.
One of the most effective ways to ensure that you are never forced to skip meals is to prep your lunch break snack in advance. Spend time the evening before your shift putting together a tasty, nutritious meal that you can grab from the fridge on your way out the door. We love the fantastic package lunch ideas on The Nerdy Nurse – there is something for everyone!
Last, but not least, do not forget to treat yourself to food that makes you feel good. While, of course, it is important to stay healthy, be realistic. If that delicious piece of chocolate fudge cake in the canteen is staring you in the eye, go for it!
4. Talk To Colleagues
Never feel as if you are going it alone. If tasks are beginning to build up, stress levels are rising, and you are starting to crack, do not keep it to yourself. There is a tremendous strain on the medical industry with an ever-growing demand for those working within, which means that we can almost guarantee that there will be colleagues feeling the same as you. Talking with others is one of the best forms of medicine, and we promise that it will help to lift a weight off your shoulders.
Particularly when working in a fast-paced sector of the medical industry such as A&E, do not be afraid to delegate tasks to colleagues. If you feel as if you are faced with too many tasks to juggle, there will be someone who will be able to help you out and ease the stress.
5. Find A Hobby You Love
While you may not feel as if you currently have a hobby, it is never too late to begin experimenting with different activities. Spending your free time participating in your favourite out-of-work pastime is the perfect example of self-care. It allows you to get caught up in something you genuinely enjoy, clearing your mind of all negative stress and begin to refocus your mind to promote positivity.
Many assume that a hobby must be a physical activity; however, this is most definitely not the case. By definition, a hobby is an ‘activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure‘ which means a hobby really can be anything that you desire. Whether you are a bookworm and love nothing better than relaxing with a good read or are an adventure seeker who is always up for a challenge, your hobby can be anything capable of completely switching off from ‘work mode’. Bustle has an incredibly helpful article on how to find a hobby as an adult which is perfect if you are stuck for inspiration.
6. Stay Hydrated
Although we are all more than aware of the importance of drinking water, we have all fallen guilty of going hours on end without any form on hydration. When your sole focus is on an important task, it does become easy to forget your body’s needs – however, there is no better time than now for this to change!
Nearly two-thirds of your body is water, which means that it is a vital source of energy to survive. The average human requires around two litres of water a day to remain healthy and prevent dehydration, although when working on a busy ward, this can prove somewhat tricky. There are many different ways in which you can encourage yourself to drink more water each day, including the following:
- Use a marked water bottle: A marked water bottle is ideal for visually keeping track of how much water you have drunk throughout the day. Bottles are printed with each hour of the day to mark your progress. HydrateM8 has a fantastic collection of hydration tracker bottles.
- Download an app: There are now tonnes of different free apps that send notifications to your mobile to remind you to drink water. They also allow you to log how many glasses of water you drink each time to ensure that you reach your daily target. The Quench has a guide to the 10 best apps.
- Add flavour to your water: If you’re less keen on the thought of drinking fresh water, there is no harm in adding a fruity twist. Lemon, berries and grapefruit are all ideal for adding flavour to your water. You could even consider purchasing a fruit infuser water bottle from retailers such as Infusion Pro.
- Experiment with herbal tea: If you are a lover of hot drinks and find yourself reaching over to the kettle every few hours, a great way to up your water intake is to begin drinking herbal tea. Experiment with swapping your mid-morning coffee for a fruity or peppermint tea. Tea Pigs has a wide variety of different herbal tea in stock in just about every flavour!
7. Take Time Out
Failing to book annual leave throughout the year is not going to make you appear to be a harder worker or more dedicated to your role. Instead, it will force you to burn out and significantly affect both your physical and mental health. Everyone is allocated annual leave from their job role for a reason – you need time to relax, unwind and take care of yourself.
Always ensure that you use up all of your annual leave each working year, even if you have nothing planned and intend to simply spend the day binge-watching your favourite series. You need to take time out to focus on yourself and recuperate; it will help you to stay motivated, productive and focused throughout the year. Use the time to catch up with a long lost friend or spend quality time with your loved ones – you deserve it!
Take Care Of Your Physical And Mental Wellbeing!
There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking time away from your role to focus on your physical and mental wellbeing. Aiming to begin incorporating our seven small lifestyle changes are guaranteed to begin promoting positive thinking, reduce stress and enhance your professional and personal life.
For those who are beginning their first steps in the medical industry, aiming to integrate the tips mentioned in our article is perfect for kickstarting your career on a positive note. Alternatively, if you are searching for doctor jobs or nursing recruitment, then our team would be happy also to provide their expertise in the sector.
We hope that our article has given you the inspiration to begin your self-care journey, if so, why not share with family and friends on social media?