Nurses know about stress. Nursing is physically taxing, requires long shifts, and demands a great deal of emotional energy. And a recent meta-analysis found that compassion fatigue is a real phenomenon that affects nurse job satisfaction and performance.

It’s a lot to handle. So, it’s extremely important to take care of yourself! Self-care will keep you healthy, reduce your stress levels, and give your mood a lift. There’s no better season to unwind than the summer. Find some time try out the following tips. You’ll be glad you did!

Snooze

It’s widely believed good sleep hygiene is an essential part of self-care. Here’s how to do it right:

  1. Get enough sleep. The CDC recommends 7+ hours a night.
  2. Create a restful sleep environment. On a cool summer night, you might even crack a window and enjoy the breeze.
  3. Stash your cell in another room, or at least far from your bed. Recent research shows looking at your phone or another screen will keep you awake longer and worsen the overall quality of your sleep.

Hit the farmer’s market

Good nutrition improves your immune system, reduces your risk of developing major illnesses, and improves mood and wellbeing. Summer, with its awesome offerings of fresh fruits and vegetables, is the perfect time to get your fix.

  1. Add blueberries to a smoothie for an antioxidant boost.
  2. Replenish your iron stores with leafy greens like kale and spinach.
  3. Explore new fruits and veggies — you’ll diversify your nutrition and maybe find a new favorite!

Move your body — in a new way

We all know the benefits of exercising. You can get even more out of it by mixing up your routine.

Here are some ideas to give yourself a bit of a physical challenge:

  1. Try high-intensity interval training (HIIT). With bursts of maximum effort over a short period, you’ll get a fantastic cardio workout and really feel the burn.
  2. Join an outdoor yoga class. Experience the mind-body connection and build amazing strength. Yoga in Your Park can help you find classes that meet near you (in selected cities).
  3. Dance. It’s one of the most fun ways to work up a sweat and get your endorphins rushing. Bonus: you don’t need anything except music to get your groove on.

Be one with nature

Long indoor shifts can leave you craving the freedom of the great outdoors. Summer’s the perfect time to get out in nature and enjoy long days and warm temps. A few ideas:

  1. Take a hike. Stanford researchers recently found that people who walk in nature have less activity in a region of the brain associated with depression.
  2. Dive right in. Swim or lounge in a river or lake, or even better, find a natural hot spring near you.
  3. Go camping. Reserve America can help you find a campsite or cabin in a national park.

Pamper yourself

These pampering activities are considered classics of self-care for a reason! Splurge every once in awhile — you’ll thank yourself!

  1. Get a massage. Research strongly supports the idea that massage is beneficial to your health. It relieves anxiety, reduces muscle tension, and alleviates pain. Some medical insurance even covers massage.
  2. Get a pedicure. In the nursing profession, you’re on your feet for hours. Pedicures aren’t just about the fun of picking a nail polish shade or the relaxation of soaking. Done by an expert, they improve circulation and decrease the chance of infections, too.
  3. Buy yourself flowers. Summer is a great season for beautiful flowers. You don’t need to wait for a special occasion or for someone else to buy them for you — pick out a bouquet of your favorites to brighten up your home.

Strengthen your mental health

Your mind is a muscle. As a nurse, you’re used to making quick judgment calls, dealing with stressful situations, and retaining a lot of complex information. Take some time to stretch the parts of your brain that can balance that energy and create calm centeredness.

  1. Practice mindfulness. Research shows those who practice mindfulness and meditation have improved responses to stress and lower levels of cortisol. Meditation can even increase our compassion for others — a must for combating compassion fatigue. Find a book or app to guide you along the way.
  2. Keep a journal. Journaling can help you put away the troubles of the past, address present concerns, and motivate you toward future goals. Writing about gratitude can be particularly effective, as it rewires your brain to notice the positive.
  3. Read something funny or uplifting. It will promote empathy and help you de-stress. Check out these recommendations for perfect summer pleasure reads.

Connect

Humans are social animals. Make it a priority to carve out space and time to focus on connecting with other people.

  1. Start a summer game night. Try charades, Bananagrams, or Pictionary. They’ll make you laugh, improve your mood, and strengthen bonds.
  2. Attend a Meetup. From wine and painting nights to group motorcycle rides, Meetup has something for everyone. Find one in your new town and make some new buddies!

Clear your calendar

If there’s one universal truth about the modern era, it’s that we’re all busy, busy, busy. Look over your calendar and block off a day or two to spend however how you want. Some ideas to get the most out of your me-time:

  1. Declutter your house. You’ll feel refreshed and lightened by taking a minimalist approach — and packing will be that much easier when it’s time to move to your next assignment. See these ten tips for decluttering to get started.
  2. Take a day trip. Crank up the radio and set off wherever you want. Explore a new destination or visit an old favorite.
  3. Hang out. It’s your time. Go ahead — get on the couch, binge-watch that show you’ve been dying to see, call an old friend, order pizza. And don’t beat yourself up about it — relaxing just the way you want to is the best form of self-care there is!

Looking for more tips on taking care of yourself? Check out our article on how to create a great vacation — without breaking the bank.