The Healing Power of Art

The Healing Power of Art

On the job, nurses are compassionate and focused during stressful work conditions. However, this kind of work can drain nurses’ emotional energy to care for themselves and put them at risk for burnout and compassion fatigue, according to an article by the Holistic Nursing Practice. During times like these, it’s easy to forget about creative pursuits, like art.the-healing-power-of-art

Engaging in art can actually make us happier and calmer. At the University of New Mexico (UNM) Hospital, nurses at work participated in the UNM’s Arts-In-Medicine program to practice creative activities such as poetry reading and creating paper flowers and gift cards for positive wellbeing. As a result, more nurses felt relaxed, peaceful, and ready to complete their assignments.

Although we can’t always make paper flowers at work, engaging in art can significantly release negative emotions and feel more centered.

How Creating Art Helps Mental Health

Art is a great way to decrease stress. Studies have shown that engaging in art decreases cortisol and leads to better memory, resilience, and self-esteem. Other benefits of art-making include healing from trauma and expressing creativity on a deeper level, which can decrease anxiety and depression.

Many people from different fields, including nurses, have found art to be a way to cope with difficult times and use it as a relaxation method. Art that involves different uses of the senses also helps with emotional regulation.  

In UNM’s arts-in-medicine program, hospital nurses who participated in art workshops like clay making, guided art walks, and other immersive experiences “learned to relax” and had greater self-awareness by paying attention to the shapes, colors, sounds, and textures of what they were making.

What Types of Art to Do

When we think of art, we might imagine painting a large canvas and getting intimidated in the process. However, art can also mean buying an adult coloring book with some markers or taking pictures of nature scenes on your phone. Our practice can be whatever we feel comfortable doing.  

Painting isn’t the only form of art; other types of art we can explore include:

  • Doodling, coloring, or scribbling
  • Writing or journaling
  • Sculpting (e.g., clay making)
  • Scrapbooking
  • Needlework crafts
  • Jewelry making
  • Dancing
  • Photography

It’s better to make the practice as low-stress as possible so that you’ll continue with it over time. If you find it hard to start an activity, think about what type of creative pursuit you’ve always wanted to try. Is it making an art college online or designing a vision board using magazine clippings?

Remember, you don’t have to frame your art when you’re done creating it. This can be for your eyes only. 

You can also buy a drawing prompt book to give you ideas for your creation. For those who want to try painting, you can find paint-by-number kits at your local craft store or online at mass-market retailers.

Using Art as a Tool for Self-care

Some art exercises are based on art therapy, which can help release lingering stress. Using art is also a unique way to get in touch with how you’re feeling. For example, drawing whatever comes to mind without making the lines look nice can help deal with perfectionism or a lack of control in life.

It’s important to note that if you want to try activities similar to art therapy, it’s best to find a certified art therapist to support you as you experience challenging emotions.

Many forms of art use therapeutic ways of relaxing, so consider the following art therapy-based ideas to help you become more expressive:

Use colors that calm you. What are some colors that calm you? Finding tones that help soothe you can be an easy way to feel more at peace.

Make a collage related to a quote you like. Maybe you have a quote you’d like to remember more when feeling anxious. Recreate aspects of the quote visually and turn the words into your inspiration. To create your collage, use stickers, newspaper clippings, paint, or other design elements to make the college stand out.

Or, collage your joy. If the last idea sounds too hard, consider what brings you joy (your pet, family, plants, etc). Then, find aspects of those things for gratitude the next time you feel lost.

Create a happiness jar. A jar is filled with moments of happiness, memories, or motivation for the future. This could be a good idea if gratitude doesn’t come easy. All you need is a jar, some scraps of paper, and a pen or pencil to write down your moments of joy.

Draw a place where you feel safe. Draw or paint a safe, peaceful, real, or imaginative place. Consider doing this practice and discussing how it felt with a trusted professional, such as a therapist.

When we’re busy in our careers, it’s easy to forget that we deserve to have fun and let loose once in a while. Picking up a brush or coloring pencil can be a great way to feel like a child again and discover our creativity.

Wellness Off the Clock: How Nurses Can Stay Active and Eat Right

Wellness Off the Clock: How Nurses Can Stay Active and Eat Right

As a nurse, you provide an incredible service for your patients. However, while caring for others, it’s too easy to forget to care for yourself. If you’re in that situation, it’s time to make a change. You may be more susceptible to health issues than others, so you must prioritize your wellness, which you can do during your off-time and at work. Here is some advice for why your health is so important and how to stay active and eat right during your busy life.wellness-off-the-clock-how-minority-nurses-can-stay-active-and-eat-right

Why Wellness And Nursing Must Go Hand-In-Hand

Although most nurses spend a lot of time moving from place to place, it’s still a sad fact that obesity is more common in the nursing field than many may think. The reasons are numerous. 

While nursing is rewarding, it can also be stressful, as you have to ensure that your job is performed correctly, or the patients may have complications. Nursing burnout is a very real thing. Working in stressful environments can cause chronic stress, which can disrupt your hormonal cycle and lead to overeating. Nursing also requires long hours, which can reduce the chances of getting enough sleep at night, and a lack of sleep can affect your metabolism. 

The obesity epidemic is often more dangerous for African Americans. Studies show that African American women have the highest rates of obesity when compared to other groups in the U.S. That’s bad because people who are overweight are also more likely to suffer from different physical ailments, including high blood pressure and potential blood clots. 

There’s also an anxiety component to consider. Worrying that you’re doing what’s right one hundred percent of the time can be very stressful, and an unhealthy diet can compound those issues. Staying healthy, exercising, and being kind and helpful to others can help you stay level and mentally stable during a high-pressure job.

Exercise When You Can

When you have a busy schedule, you need to fit in some form of exercise whenever possible. Luckily, there are ways to squeeze in fitness throughout the day, starting in the morning. If you’re crunched for time and cannot go to the gym, but you have a garage at home, try doing a short workout there. 

You can maximize your garage workouts by doing quick exercises that require little to no equipment. Various programs include 15-minute core workouts, push-up variations and routines, and many beginner exercises that use no equipment. Another idea is to invest in a recumbent or upright stationary bike and put it in the garage. Then, you can work out while reviewing work and job reports to prepare for the day.

Making small adjustments in your routine when you’re at work and at home can help you perform many exercises, including ways to get more cardio. Park further away in the parking lot, take the stairs instead of the elevator, do calf raises, and stand instead of sitting whenever possible, and you’ll likely notice great results over time.

There are also opportunities to exercise if you work the night shift. Like in the day, you can count your steps and walk more during your shift or practice push-ups or sit-ups during lunch. It can be hard to stick to your workout regime when you’re alone, so get your other nurses involved by having a group workout or yoga routine at some point during the night after the patient’s needs are met. You’ll be more likely to follow your exercise regime if you do it with others.

Nutrition Is Key

As a nurse constantly on the go, stopping for a healthy meal is likely challenging. Instead, you may be tempted to get a quick treat from the vending machine or fast food so you can eat and go. However, while food like that may temporarily fill you, many of those items include trans fats, which can make you feel sluggish and are also bad for your overall physical health..

What you need is a plan. You must have your fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, fish, and berries whenever possible. In addition to being the building blocks of a healthy body, many of these food groups can also give you energy to help you stay alert and active when you get to work. 

Most people need a proper routine to fit this food into their lives, so start one. Think about what you want to eat, then go to the grocery store and pack your lunch for work each day—that way, you know that you have healthy food that you can turn to throughout your shift. That way, you know that you have healthy food that you can turn to throughout your shift. It would help if you also packed your lunch with healthy snacks that you can fit in your pocket. A bag of almonds will be tasty while giving you a boost of energy. Granola bars and roasted chickpeas will do the same.

As you likely tell your patients, it’s also vital that you drink enough water throughout the day. At least 8-12 cups. Bring a reusable water bottle with you or keep it at the nurse’s station so you can be reminded to drink, stay healthy, and avoid dehydration. 


As a minority nurse trying to make a difference in your patient’s lives, you must take care of yourself in your off-time to stay strong throughout the day. Finding ways to stay active and eat right will make a big difference.

Making Self-care a Priority

Making Self-care a Priority

As a nurse, youre empathetic and compassionate and go out of your way to ensure you provide your patients with the best possible care. But when it comes to looking after yourself, self-care may get prioritized far down the list – or not at all.making-self-care-a-priority

Such a mindset may be harmful to you and, ultimately, your patients. Nurses are great patient advocates, but “we do need to start advocating for ourselves because you can’t keep helping everyone. Then you dont have anything left in your reserves,” said Linda Roney, EdD, RN-BC, FAAN, associate professor, Egan School of Nursing and Health Studies, Fairfield University.

“I think you have to be selfish, which is hard in a selfless profession to balance, but I think that is one of the ways that we can keep ourselves healthy. You have to prioritize yourself,” said Crystal Smith, DNP, RN, NE-BC, director of the medical-surgical unit at Childrens Nebraska.

As healthcare professionals and organizations celebrate Nurses Week with its theme of Nurses Make the Difference,” now is a perfect time to assess your attention to self-care. In this article, well offer practical strategies to help you care for yourself.

No Perfect Time

When it comes to self-care, one of the biggest lessons for me is that self-care is not a one-size-fits-all,” said Roney. Nurses need to be aware of their unique needs.

Another awareness is not to wait for the perfect time for self-care. Roney said you can work on small, incremental changes” for five or ten minutes that can accumulate over a day. You might try habit stacking”: combining a potentially burdensome task with something enjoyable, notes Roney.

Days Off and Zen Dens”

Smith meets with her new nurses at Childrens Nebraska in Omaha to discuss a self-care plan. If a nurse is struggling, Smith can consult the nurses plan and see the measures that might help that person.

One self-care policy at Childrens Nebraska allows nurses to take a day off if they need to recharge—if your tank isnt full enough to come in and give all of yourself that day,” said Smith. There are no negative repercussions should a nurse choose to do so.

Nurses are also encouraged to disconnect completely when they need a break. Its very hard to get away from the work when youre at work,” Smith explained. Nurses are encouraged not to take their work phones on break but to trust that the staff can handle the patients while away.

Another self-care tactic involves Zen dens.” When the hospital opened a new tower two years ago, these rooms were built into each unit. Zen dens have a lock, a massage chair, essential oil diffusers, books, and low lighting. A nurse can connect a phone to a speaker to play quiet music. You can go in there and decompress how you need,” said Smith. 

Smith noted that accessibility of these Zen dens is key. We as organizations have always had places for people to do that, but never right on the unit. It’s tough to get a nurse or even a doctor to leave the unit where their patients are without any way to communicate with them.”

Added to these measures is a Thrive” team, a department dedicated to employee wellness, noted Smith. Two members of Thrive are Howie, a golden retriever, and his handler, David. They may, for instance, join the staff for a debriefing after a difficult patient or family situation. Besides Howie and David, Thrive has a team of trained peer supporters and group facilitators available 24/7 for clinical and non-clinical team members.


Howie, the golden retriever, and his handler, David, make their rounds

Whats more, staff are encouraged to go home after a death in the facility. Death in general is very hard, noted Smith, but I would say especially in pediatrics, its usually very traumatic. To expect the nurse who just went through that with a family and a patient to turn around then and take an entirely new patient, the mental load of that is really heavy. And so, to the best of our ability, we try to give them the option to go home.” At the same time, the facility understands that a nurse may want to stay at work instead of going home as a way of coping.

Back to Basics

As a nurse, you also need to take to heart the common-sense advice you probably give to patients about self-care, such as the following:

  • Sleep and downtime. You may want to spend some downtime on your phone, but be wary of it, noted Roney. You feel as if you are relaxing and having a positive experience. But all this time is going on, cutting into your sleep/wake cycle.”
  • Nutrition and hydration. If you talk to any nurse, most of us would agree we would put our needs after our patient, so there are many times we might miss a lunch break, or we may eat several hours later than we usually do because there might be something going on with our patient and we need to put their needs first,” said Roney. As a solution, really be intentional and plan on bringing your meals and snacks to work.” Stay hydrated throughout your shift, noted Roney.

Simple measures such as making sure to take your breaks, eat your meals, and use the bathroom regularly while on shift are a start for self-care, according to Sarah K. Wells, MSN, RN, CEN, CNL, clinical practice specialist, practice excellence team, American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN). Next, prioritize quiet times and activities that bring you joy each day.

Moments of Gratitude

Practicing gratitude can also help with self-care. In talking to an experienced nurse who was struggling, Smith told her, You guys have to remember that the tiniest things you do make the biggest difference.”

Smith says, Sometimes we must find and center ourselves around those tiny moments of gratitude. Its easy to leave work and feel like your entire day was terrible. But really, you probably did many good things throughout the day.”