Nurse Health: How to Make 2023 Your Healthiest Year Yet
As you ring in the new year, you may be making some New Year's resolutions. If improving your health in 2023 is on that list, we may be able to help you with some suggestions and encouragement. It all boils down to starting and maintaining some healthy habits.
In fact, don't wait. Go ahead and get started on your resolutions to be the healthiest nurse you can be. This year, the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) is embracing a "Start Now" theme, and you can take a cue from that.
"The antidote to the despair we feel following these difficult pandemic years is action," says Amanda Bettencourt, PhD, APRN, CCRN-K, AACNS-P, the 2022-2023 President of the AACN Board of Directors."
"Sometimes it can be overwhelming to get from where we are to where we want to be, but if we just focus on doing the next right thing, and then the next right thing after that one, the future we want for ourselves will become a reality."
6 Healthy Habits for Nurses in 2023
Give yourself credit
Before moving forward, take a moment to give yourself credit for all that you do. "I suggest nurses take a step back and acknowledge the amazing impact you have had on the lives of so many," says Bryan Sisk, DNP, MPH, RN, NE-BC, CENP, Senior Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer at Memorial Hermann Health System.
Don't Discount Your Own Needs
If you're suffering from nurse burnout, you're not alone. And it may have come from prioritizing everyone else before yourself. Many nurses have internalized a mindset that they must "be a good, nice, acceptable person", says Ann Becks, MSN, a nurse practitioner who retired so she could spend some time reconnecting with herself and mentoring others.
"When people learn the skills and tools to unhook from this conditioned way of responding and feel the groundedness of their own truth, everything changes."
So, don't discount your own needs physical and emotional. You'll do a better job of caring for others, too, if you're taking care of yourself.
Even the small stuff counts. "It sounds cliche to say 'go take a walk' or 'build a Lego tower with your children' or 'read something you enjoy' or 'find a few minutes to gather with friends,' but these small things truly make a big difference in your overall well-being," says Sisk.
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Eat a healthier diet
As a nurse, you probably often remind patients how important it is to eat a healthy diet--one rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein. If you're not taking your own professional advice, though, now is a great time to recommit to some healthier eating habits.
Pressed for time, like many nurses are?
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, these strategies may help you:
- Use a meal kit or meal delivery service. These are convenient when you don't have the time or energy to come up with a meal to prepare. All you have to do is follow the instructions.
- Order lighter fare at restaurants and fast food restaurants. Vegetable-based entrees, as well as grilled chicken or baked or broiled fish, can be good options.
- Watch your portion sizes. You can still indulge. Just do it in smaller amounts.
Read also: Is Junk Food Slowing You Down?
Yes, you are on your feet a lot at work. But you need to make some time to exercise so you can experience the many benefits that will improve your life. Research suggests that regular exercise will help you lose weight or maintain weight loss, sleep better at night, decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease, build bone and muscle strength, and improve your mood.
The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderately-intense exercise to get your heart pumping per week. And yes, you can break it up into manageable chunks of time, to make it fit better into your busy schedule.
A Few Things to Try
- Brisk walking
- Water aerobics
Check with your employer, too, to see if you get any relevant benefits. Sisk noted that Memorial Hermann offers on-site gym facilities and organizes competitive activities, such as weight loss and walking competitions, to motivate employees to incorporate more exercise into their lives.
Nurture your nursing career
Another way to have a healthier 2023? Nurture your professional aspirations. "Go for the degree," says Bob Bachelor, DNP, CFRN, CCRN, managing director for Flying Angels, Inc., a non-emergency medical transport company. Bachelor obtained an associate's degree in 1993 but kept his eye on the long term. He received his master's degree in 2003 followed by his doctor of nursing practice degree in 2021.
"A nursing career is a marathon and not a sprint," he adds. "Nurses need to pace themselves and not think (just) in terms of the next schedule cycle, or next assignment, but in terms of the next 10 years."
Having that extra education can give you more options, which can help you professionally and mentally, as you review your career path and your own personal needs.
Whatever you choose to do to improve your own health, be intentional about it. In fact, you might even replace your New Year's resolutions with intentions to help you maintain a positive attitude and make positive changes to your life.
"An intention focuses on your core values, rather than some hard-to-attain goal," says Teri Dreher, RN, founder of NShore Patient Advocates, based in Chicago. "It can be a powerful tool for change because it is forgiving and gives you room to explore and grow."
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