6 Ways to Care for Yourself This Summer

6 Ways to Care for Yourself This Summer

With summer comes lots of daylight, a little more time to enjoy the outdoors, and hopefully, some vacation time. Whether you’re spending two weeks away from work or trying to cobble together two days off in a row this summer, use this fleeting season to take care of you.

1.Enjoy the Harvest

Summer’s plentiful fruits and vegetables make eating healthier a breeze. Do your best to get a colorful array of produce into your diet, but don’t obsess over how much you’re getting. Look at your total intake over a week, not a couple of days. All those salads, bowls of watermelon, and stir fry dinners really add up. Even fresh strawberry shortcake holds promise!

2. Take in the Sun (Carefully)

Leaving winter’s darkness behind is a relief and all that extra daylight is a bonus for anyone who likes to be outside. But with more time in the sunshine comes a real need to be careful about getting too much sun. Even if you aren’t spending days at the beach, being out in the stronger sun while you’re running errands, driving on long road trips (or even to work), and just barbeque hopping can all add hours of unexpected exposure.

You might not even realize how much skin-damaging sun you’re getting. To be safe, put on a coat of sunscreen every morning. Don’t worry about smelling like a tropical island or being sticky with lotion—there are lots of regular body lotions with a built in sunscreen that won’t make you smell like coconuts.

3. Get Some Rest

The lazy days of summer can be a myth. There are lots of places to go, parties to attend, and friends and family stopping by. With all that activity, it might seem like you get less and less sleep during the summer months. Even if you’re staying up late for fun or getting up early to exercise with the sunrise, keep track of how your body feels. Nurses work hard and you need to get adequate rest to be your best at work and to feel good on your own time, too.

Eight hours of sleep might not be possible—no one will dispute that. So if you can’t get enough sleep every night, take advantage of down time to rest when you can. A 15-minute break to read, listen to music, or just close your eyes can do wonders for your health and your mood.

4. Get Out There

Summer brings more people into your life. You might meet new neighbors at a block party or new coworkers at a work event. Standing in an endless line for a rollercoaster gives you lots of time to chat with someone nearby, and so does a crowded beach.

Take the time to notice the people around you. Everyone has a story and learning about others is a great way to gain a new perspective on your life. You never know how one interesting encounter can lead to a new career opportunity, a new hobby, or a new turn in your path.

5. Move More

You don’t have to run your first marathon, but moving more in the summer just feels good. A new and ambitious exercise plan is ideal, but not many people can or are willing to stick with that. Just get out and stroll your downtown. Walk the dog in a new place. Stretch in the morning and at night. Lift a few weights while catching up on all those movies you’ve missed. Rollerblade or roller skate with the kids. Shoot some hoops in the driveway or at the local park. Swim. Just move a little more than you normally do.

6. Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

It’s much easier to live with what feels comfortable to you, but summer is a great time to try something new. Go to a concert that’s nothing like your regular playlist. Read a new genre or try reading different blogs. Learn enough of a new language to get by if you travel. Sign up for a class to get a new certification and connect with other nurses. Go to a seminar about one of your hobbies and talk to new people. Paint a room in your house a new color.

Part of making great summer memories is the things you do that give you unexpected joy.

Sleep Deprived Nursing Students Need Rest

Sleep Deprived Nursing Students Need Rest

Nursing students are well versed on the importance of good quality sleep. After all, they study body mechanics and know that no body can function at its best without proper rest.

But if you’re a sleep deprived nursing student, you’ll probably look at those same statistics and laugh. You know a typical nursing student is probably short on sleep to some extent and sees no real alternative.

But not getting enough sleep is serious business and even impacts patient safety. Here are a few statistics that might make you think again before you pull another all-nighter.

Sleep Makes You and Your Patients Safer

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), not getting enough sleep can hinder your decision-making process and slow your reaction times. That means sleep deprived nursing students who have to make a snap decision about a patient, compute fast medication math, assess vitals, or even react to a patient stumbling, won’t be operating at peak performance. That puts your, your colleagues, and your patients in a dangerous position.

Sleep Makes You a Better Nursing Student

If your brain isn’t properly rested, it’s just not going to remember everything it needs to. That’s why you can still fail a test that you crammed all night for. Your brain and your body just can’t plow past the lack of sleep and perform well. You won’t remember the facts you’re trying to memorize and you won’t comprehend trickier concepts.

Sleep Makes You Nicer

Ever gone for a few days of less and less sleep? How’s your mood when that happens? If you notice a marked turn toward grouchiness when you’re tired, imagine what being chronically short of sleep would do to your outlook. The NHBLI asserts that not sleeping enough can lead to irritability and a difficulty reading others’ social clues. Since a nurse depends on positive and successful interactions between people, this one is especially troublesome. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America says there’s a complex relationship between stress, anxiety, and sleep. Stress and anxiety can cause sleep problems, but the reverse is also true. Sleep problems can lead to anxiety and stress.

Sleep Makes You Healthier

Sleep helps your body process the day and that’s when a lot of your muscles repair themselves and your hormones regulate. That’s why rest is so important after injury. But a typically active day of a nursing student can add up to lots of little fixes your body needs to make while you’re sleeping. If it can’t repair, you could be looking at long-term issues like weight gain, chronic pain, and even diabetes.

Your body needs enough good-quality rest to perform properly. You might think you can sail through the week on four hours sleep each night, but studies show your body is paying for it in ways you might not notice right away. So do yourself a favor and consider those extra hours of sleep as necessary insurance for your health.

5 Winter Time Sleep Tips

5 Winter Time Sleep Tips

Sleepiness can be a big problem in the winter, especially for nurses.  Dreary weather combined with late night shifts or erratic on-call schedules can often lead to tired, drowsy days.  One of the best ways to fight this sluggishness is to make sure you get a good night’s sleep.  Here are five tips you can use now to rest well and wake up alert on winter mornings.

1. Ease up on the heat
It’s tempting to turn up the thermostat before heading to bed on a cold winter night.  However, according to the National Sleep Foundation, your bedroom should be relatively cool–between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit–for the best comfort.

2. Pay attention to diet and exercise
Don’t go to bed too hungry or too full at night.  The discomfort from either could make it hard to fall asleep.  In addition, avoid stimulants like caffeine right before bedtime.  They could take several hours to wear off, which would make it difficult for your body to settle down and rest.

 3. Create a bedtime routine
Have a pleasant and relaxing night time ritual to help you wind down in the evening.  Try reading or listening to soft music in dim light.  These activities help signal to your brain that it’s time to shift from active mode to sleep time.

Once you are in bed, avoid distractions such as the TV, laptop, smart phone and other devices, which could cause you to stay stimulated and awake.  If necessary, consider using sleep aids such as “white noise machines”, blackout curtains and (if you have a snoring partner) ear plugs.  Also, consider using a humidifier if the winter air is uncomfortably dry in your room.

This time of year, less sunlight could affect your circadian rhythm and make it harder for you to fully wake up in the morning. A lighted alarm clock could help brighten your bedroom when it’s time to rise.

Regardless of what you choose for your routine, keep it consistent. Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each morning and night, even on the weekends.

4. Inspect your bedding
The average mattress life is eight to ten years.  If you’ve noticed that you sleep uncomrtably on your existing mattress and pillow, it may be time to replace them.  If you suffer from allergies, make sure your linen is washed regularly in water that is hot enough to kill the allergens.

5. Learn more about sleep issues
Take this interactive quiz from the National Institutes of Health to see how much you know about sleep problems.  If you think you may have a sleep disorder, be sure to see your doctor.

Nights are longer this time of year, but it can still be difficult for nurses to feel well-rested and alert on winter mornings.  By following these suggestions, you can help your body wind down at night, feel comfortable and get the rest it needs.


Leave Job Stress At Work

Leave Job Stress At Work

Are you taking job-related stress home to your loved ones? Nurses are expected to be engaged, enthused and active at work. But meeting job demands without proper support and resources can lead to high levels of stress, which can follow you home and effect the relationships with your loved ones.

Learning how to reduce on-the-job stress can help you be a better parent.

The first step is to understand the source of your anxiety in your workplace. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) defines job stress as “the harmful physical and emotional responses that occur when the requirements of the job do not match the capabilities, resources or needs of the worker.”

Identify and list excessive job pressures and demands. Discuss your concerns with the appropriate parties. Hopefully, some critical changes will be made. But if these changes are not possible, and a new position is not a reality anytime soon, consider taking these steps to help you unwind and be a less stressed-out parent at the end of each work day:

■ Imagine leaving your work problems on the job when you walk out the door. Mentally picture yourself boxing up all of the job-related issues and leaving them behind.

■ Create an “at home ritual” that gives you permission to unwind. It could be a bubble bath, listening to your favorite music or playing a game with your child.

■ Ask your family for help with meals, from planning the menu and cutting up ingredients to establishing fun theme nights, such as Mexican Monday or Fun Foods Friday. Infuse creativity and entertainment into daily chores.

■ Exercise to alleviate tension. Better yet, go on a family walk or hold workout sessions indoors while playing your family’s favorite songs. Make sweating a fun, family affair.

■ Avoid getting into the habit of drinking excessive alcohol and caffeine.

■ Seek help from friends, family and neighbors if you feel overwhelmed with meeting the needs of your children or spouse.

■ Schedule adequate time for sleep to recharge your batteries. Consult a doctor if you have difficulty sleeping.

■ Reflect on the positives in your life.

Job stress has far reaching consequences. Learn how to manage it, at work and home, to take better care of your family.

Nursing + Stress + Less Sleep = Weight Gain?

Nursing + Stress + Less Sleep = Weight Gain?

It can be a struggle to embrace healthy habits after an exhausting day at work. The reasons are all too familiar: erratic hours, high stress levels, skipped meals, and, lack of motivation. Throw caring for a family into the mix, and it may feel like all bets are off as far as finding the time to work out, eat balanced meals and get enough sleep.

And so you find yourself overweight with plenty of company at work.

A study last year found the work schedule and general stresses of nursing can contribute to extra pounds, especially for females who work long shifts. The common 12-hour shift interrupts sleep patterns and lack of sleep can cause weight gain.

Researchers from the University of Maryland School of Nursing surveyed about 2,100 female nurses and found that about 55% of them were obese. Published in The Journal of Nursing Administration, the findings support changing long nursing shifts.  But until that happens, you can make small changes to live a healthier lifestyle and lose weight. 

To adopt a healthier approach to meals, exercise and sleep, get PREPARED:

Pass on seconds and prepare snacks for work to avoid vending machines. 

Resist eating while watching TV or when feeling stressed or bored. 

Exercise in 10-minute chunks if a longer block of time is unavailable.

Plan your meals, exercise and sleep schedules ahead of time.

Ask colleagues, family and friends to help you stay focused on healthy goals. 

Realize it took time to gain it and it will take time to lose it. Stay focused.

Eliminate 500 calories a day to lose a pound a week. 

Decide that protecting your health is something you will work on daily.

Remember, small changes can make a huge difference. Also, working toward your fitness goals benefits more than just you. Adopting a healthy lifestyle makes you a role model for your patients.