Career advice

How to optimise your health and well-being

Nursing is all about looking after patients and relatives, but if you want a lengthy and rewarding career, you also have to learn how to look after yourself, writes health coach Mandy Day-Calder. 

Nursing is all about looking after patients and relatives, but if you want a lengthy and rewarding career, you also have to learn how to look after yourself, writes health coach Mandy Day-Calder 


Picture: iStock

Settling into student life is exciting, yet it can also be overwhelming for nursing students who have to juggle clinical placements with academic deadlines, and balance these with social, family and financial commitments.  

During your studies, you learn how to look after, and support patients and relatives. But nurses are not immune to physical or mental ill-health, and if you want to lay the foundations for a lengthy and rewarding career, you also need to look after yourself.

Identifying personal health

The trick to personal well-being is to recognise what you need to keep yourself as healthy as possible. Don’t fall into the trap of comparing yourself with others; some of your classmates may be able to burn the candle at both ends, for example, but if this leaves you stressed and exhausted then you need to do things differently so you get enough rest. 

Self-management is a skill you will be advocating to patients for years to come, so let’s look at some areas to consider to optimise your own heath: 

  • Increase your self-awareness: it’s easy to go through life not paying attention to your own needs, yet this can lead to unhappiness or illness, so start listening to what your body and mind are telling you.
  • Develop your resilience: nursing is a challenging profession, both physically and emotionally, so you need to find ways to cope with all that is thrown at you. The more you are able to switch off and bounce back from ‘bad days’, the easier it will be to return to the clinical environment feeling stronger.
  • Increase your confidence: be patient and kind to yourself, and remember you are not expected to know everything. Don’t think too far ahead, focus instead on your immediate learning outcomes and objectives. Trust the process and tell yourself that you can fulfil the demands of your course. 
  • Manage stress levels and expectations: setting realistic goals for yourself means you are more likely to succeed. Be honest with fellow students, nurses and tutors, and say if you don’t understand something or need extra time. Commit time and effort to managing your stress levels by practicing what works for you. 
  • Look after your basic health needs: shift work can play havoc with your lifestyle. Try to eat healthily and regularly, and watch your alcohol intake. Try to fit exercise into your week – as winter approaches, it is also important you get fresh air and daylight.
  • Ask for help: as well as maintaining a supportive network of colleagues and friends, make sure you know who and where to go for extra support if you are struggling. 
  • Have fun: life is all about balance, so remember to fit in time for hobbies and friends. 

Mandy Day-Calder is a freelance writer and life/health coach 
 

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