A Healthy Nurse is a Happy Nurse. Only… We’re not All Healthy. Why?
Nurses are healthy because they work in the health field and see people at their worst. They are educated on the dos and don’ts about health and wellness so they stay away from bad habits. That’s what you would assume at least, isn’t it? Unfortunately that’s not always, or even often, true. Nursing is a very stressful job, we literally hold the lives of our patient’s in our hands and strain under the weight of their family’s love hope and concern on our shoulders every day. Frequently that leads to many of us forgetting the cardinal rule. If we don not take care of ourselves, how can we take care of others? We so often remind family members of this, but don’t always abide by it with our own health in mind. I’ve been guilty of this too. These are a couple practices I now follow and want to share them with everyone in hopes of motivating others to make a change. These changes will work for everyone, not only nurses.
Stay away from takeout and processed foods. Make the food you bring into work.
This is a big one. Especially for you nurses out there working night shift like I do. I’ve noticed in the various hospitals and floors that I’ve worked on, night shift nurses in particular will frequently order takeout and have it delivered. Or, eat frozen processed foods. Of course, I understand the reasoning behind this. We work 12 hour shifts and go to sleep when we get home because we’re exhausted! Who has time to make their own food right? I’d argue that we all do. Even if you work a lot of overtime, you’re at least going to have 2-3 days off a week. I’m a huge fan of making big meals that I can portion out as my meals for the week. “Meal prep” as it’s called, is all the rage these days in the fitness industry. Take one of those days you have off and do some cooking. Then when the food’s done, portion it into some Tupperware and set out your meals for the week in the fridge. Include some veggies! (Something you’re never going to get ordering take out) and boom you’ve got your meals for the entire week. All you need to do is throw that in your lunchbox after you roll out of bed and hop in the shower, then you’ll be on your way to work in no time at all. I’m a huge fan of the crock pot for this. Throw some ingredients in before going to sleep or before you go to work, set it on low, and 6-12 hours later it’s ready to eat! Making your food also saves a significant amount of money. $10-15 for takeout or even $5-7 for a frozen meal every day adds up quick.
Drink less coffee, more water.
Nurses are notorious coffee drinkers. I’ve seen certain coworkers drink as many as 5-6 cups a night. Or 5-6 sodas a night if they are not a “coffee person”. Coffee, soda, tea, any caffeinated drink is a diuretic which you know does not hydrate you. It does the exact opposite. Nursing is a very active job and you need to by hydrating not dehydrating! I’m well known everywhere I work for drinking my 3 liters of water every shift. Especially at hospitals where I borrow those big pink patient water jugs. Kind of hard not to stand out when you’re always walking around with that pink pitcher and sipping from it. Drinking at least 3 liters of water a day (or a shift) not only keeps you hydrated, but has additional benefits. It makes you feel fuller so you’re not tempted to snack. Moreover, in several studies drinking 3 liters of water a day has been shown to actually increase fat loss when paired with a moderate amount of exercise. How many of us out there don’t want to lose a couple extra pounds? I know I do! My first year working as a nurse after college I lost 40lbs and a lot of people would ask me how I did it. My first recommendation was “drink more water!” It really worked wonders for me.
Stay away from snacks.
This has always been the hardest one for me to abide by. I have an awful sweet tooth, especially when it comes to baked goods. And unfortunately for me, one of the ways patient family’s like to show their appreciation for the work we do is bringing in large amounts of cookies, brownies, muffins, and all manner of sweets. It’s both my nightmare and my heaven! Going back to my last points I’m just going to say that filling up on water and fibrous veggies will go a long way to cutting down on hunger and curbing those cravings for sweats. Another practice I have been following to curb those cravings is that for 6 of the seven days a week I try my hardest to abide by a strict healthy diet. The seventh day of the week is my “cheat day” where I indulge in all those foods I’ve been craving all week. This has many benefits but I won’t get into right now.
For God’s sake stop smoking!
It absolutely amazes me the number of nurses I see who smoke. And not just one a day but several times in a 12 hour shift! You have seen the pictures of smoker’s lungs. You have seen the effects smoking has on the lungs and hearts of your patients. You’ve seen the patient who comes in and tells you they need to be on 3 liters of oxygen at all times to breathe because they have been smoking for 40 years. Do you really want to be one of those people walking around with on oxygen tank everywhere you go? Not to mention the drastic increase the chances you will have a heart attack or stroke. Smoking a pack per day approximately doubles your chance of having a stroke or heart attack. If you work at a hospital, almost all hospitals, and your health insurance plan, provide smoking cessation assistance free of charge. Stop smoking! Your heart and lungs will thank you for it.
We lift, pull, turn and hold patients more times than I can count in a shift. And frequently they are not exactly light. All of those motions are very intensive and use all your large muscle groups. As evidenced by all the back injuries nurses get. More of us should really go to greater lengths to strengthen those back muscles if nothing else. Lifting is going to be the best way do that. If you can’t or don’t feel up to exploring the world of lifting (girls lift too ladies! It’s very popular these days.) There are plenty of other options to strengthen those muscles. Running strengthens both your core and your back in addition to your legs. Even just some strenuous walking, or hiking, anything that makes you move a bit more than at a normal sedate rate will strengthen those muscles. Other options include things like Yoga and Pilates, both options which have become extremely popular in recent years. Find a way to strengthen those back and core muscles, for your own sake. Hurting your back is one of the most painful and irritating areas to be injured.
If you don’t already do some, or all of these things, I hope this has at least given you something to think about. That’s the first step!
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