Cynthia Haughey, MSN, RN By Cynthia Haughey, MSN, RN • May 1, 2022

Why Self-Care is Essential for Nurses and How to Practice It

Each year, the American Nurses Association (ANA) commemorates National Nurses Month in May to honor the varying roles of nurses and their unwavering commitment to patients, their communities and our healthcare systems. For 2022, the ANA has selected the tagline Nurses Make a Difference, with each week of the month-long nursing recognition focusing on the themes of self-care, recognition of fellow nurses, professional development and community engagement. To promote these themes, join us for a month-long TESU Blog series contributed by our nursing course mentors. Week 1 looks at self-care and cultivating and maintaining optimal mental health and physical well-being.

Self-care is one of the biggest gifts you can give to yourself. If used regularly – daily if possible – self-care can foster good health, wellbeing and longevity.

The day-to-day stresses we encounter as nurses, coupled with that of the world and our own personal lives, coping in a healthy way is essential to our quality of life. Practicing good self-care and prioritizing your own mental health and well-being directly improves the quality of care you give your patients.

What is Self-Care?

First off, self-care does not equate to being selfish. Self-care means recognizing and meeting our own needs with compassion. We can’t care for others if we don’t care for ourselves.

While some people may feel guilty taking time for themselves, the payoffs are well worth it. When we take as little as 10 minutes every day to practice self-care, we can better manage our stress and feel more balanced and focused. And most importantly, we are better able to care for others.

How You Can Practice Self-Care

A plan is key. Establish a self-care routine that you can incorporate into your life and reasonably do every day or every few days. Select activities that you enjoy so that you are more successful in sticking to your plan.

In considering activities for self-care, consider ones that promote physical, emotional, mental and/or spiritual health. That may include stress management techniques such as deep breathing, mindfulness meditation, journaling, yoga, listening to music and being in nature. Lifestyle changes can also help in your self-care journey, such as maintaining a healthy diet, exercising, getting quality sleep, limiting use of electronics and connecting with others. Meanwhile, hobbies and creative activities can also stimulate your mind and deliver a much-needed sense of enjoyment.

The next step in a self-care plan is to put the date/time and activity into your calendar so you don’t forget to do it. If you get off track, try not to judge yourself, just begin again the next day. Self-care is a process, but you will notice the positive impact it has on your health and well-being as each day goes by.

When you incorporate self-care as a daily routine, you make a worthwhile commitment to your health and overall quality of life. After all, you deserve to make yourself a priority and take the time you need to be the best version of you.

Cynthia Haughey, MSN, RN

Written by Cynthia Haughey, MSN, RN

Cynthia Haughey, MSN, RN, is a mentor in the W. Cary Edwards School of Nursing and Health Professions and focuses on community health nursing in the RN-BSN program. She has more than 30 years of experience as a nursing subject-matter expert, lecturer and consultant. She has a bachelor’s degree from Millersville University of Pennsylvania and a master’s degree in adult health and illness from the University of Pennsylvania.

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