How to Practice Self-Care as a Nurse with Free Printable Checklist!

Are you struggling with separating work and home? Are you feeling burnt-out or like burnout is right around the corner? When was the last time you practiced self-care after spending 40+ hours a week caring for someone else? Unfortunately, we nurses kinda suck at taking care of ourselves. Keep reading to learn how to practice self-care as a nurse and download your FREE printable self-care checklist!

How to Practice Self-Care as a Nurse

Whether you work days or nights, our 4 days off aren’t really 4 days off. They’re more like, catching up on sleep, cleaning up around the house, catching up on errands, meal prepping, and other things that make it so much more difficult to schedule self-care. I mean, we give our lives taking care of complete strangers as our job! That in itself can be exhausting, no matter how rewarding it can be. And does it help that it can be conceived as “selfish” to do something for ourselves every once in a while? Nope.

That’s why I’ve made it a mission to intentionally schedule self-care for myself so that I don’t burn out early in my career. Kind of like how we try to deal with chronic illness from the get-go in a prophylactic manner, we have to tackle these things head-on, even before the first signs and symptoms.

Stress shows up in your life in a multitude of ways. Then we compartmentalize it and convince ourselves that it’s “just life,” then we start noticing it affect the way we talk to our partners, our families, and god forbid our patients. But before it even gets to that point, I urge you to recognize it. Relax those shoulders, relax your jaw. Stop holding onto that tension. Find the root of what brings you stress before it manifests into something greater. Release it.

1. Exercise.

It doesn’t have to be complicated. It doesn’t have to be expensive. It doesn’t have to be “Instagrammable.” But it does have to be fulfilling for you. It does have to make you feel good (after). We all have 24 hours in a day. Some of us have other elements that make it harder to make the most out of those 24 hours - demanding work schedules, children’s needs, limited resources, etc. But these elements should be even better proof that you need a strong, able body first and foremost, not excuses. I encourage you to find a routine that works for you. It can be jumping rope for 20 minutes, 3 times a week. It can be going for a walk with your family after dinner instead of watching re-runs of a show you don’t even like. It can be doing a home workout 4x a week. Whatever it is, it should become a part of a your life - not a separate entity that is only fulfilled when you’re having a “good week.”

2. Find a support system among other nurses.

It’s not an unknown fact that our partners, families and friends who aren’t in the medical world don’t fully understand what goes on at work or how it affects us. And that’s not their fault. If you’re like my husband, you hate all things gory and can’t listen to stories with too much detail. But really, the people we usually confide in most don’t 100% understand what we do at work, so it can become frustrating for us when we need to get something off our chest and simply be understood. This is why I highly suggest finding a group of coworkers and/or friends who you can vent to/with regarding work, because they will understand. It doesn’t have to be a structured meeting like a book club, because can you imagine how impossible that would be with our crazy work schedules? It can just be a group text or even a brunch/dinner after work here and there just to hear that you’re not alone in your struggles.

3. Find a hobby.

You can’t think about work all the time. You need a release, or a distraction for lack of a better word. This hobby can be combined with your exercise! Maybe you love yoga and are working toward becoming an instructor. Maybe you love running and want to train for a half marathon. Or maybe you want to work on a new skill, such as learning a new language or learning how to cross stitch. Whatever it may be, let yourself enjoy that fully without thinking about what you did at work last night or how your patient from 1 week ago is doing.

4. Schedule it in.

Whether it be a workout, a weekend getaway, a couple’s massage, schedule that in just like you would a doctor’s appointment. Treat it as a priority, because it is! This way, you don’t have to stress about how long something will take, or how you have other things to get done. In this 1 hour or 3 day frame, you can fully give yourself that freedom to enjoy it.

5. Hold yourself accountable.

Most importantly, you need to hold yourself accountable to ensure that you’re letting yourself do these things without feeling guilty. Rather, you should feel accomplished after allowing yourself to take care of yourself. Print out this fun checklist and put it on your fridge or on your phone so that you can see that you are caring for yourself when you’re not caring for others.

Weekly Self-Care Checklist for Nurses

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It’s not selfish to take care of yourself. After all, the better you take care of yourself, the better you’ll be able to take care of others. Let’s put ourselves first so that we can be the best nurses, friends, and partners that we can be.