Frequently we think of healthy habits as activities relating to the physical realm and often time forget about our mental or psychological wellbeing, which is equally important. No matter how physically fit you are, your quality of life (QOL) will not be great without peace of mind. My ten healthy habits cover both physical and mental well being. They are guaranteed to make you a healthier nurse and improve your quality of life instantly. Try one each month so that you will have time to really focus on developing and incorporating these activities into your lifestyle.
- Quit Smoking
As a nurse, we are well aware that smoking is hazardous to one's health. Many smokers would love to give up this bad habit but it is sometimes easier said than done. I grew up with my mom as a chain smoker, for as long as I could remember she was always trying to quit. She finally gave up the habit when I entered nursing school and brought home stories of tobacco related illnesses. If the motivation to quit cannot come from within, find an external source (children, grandchildren) that can provide the impetus to quit. Then find a new habit such as kickboxing, running, or dancing, that will do your body good.
- Get more sleep
Shift work can wreak havoc on our circadian rhythm, making getting enough sleep a real challenge. For nurses who work the night shift, sleep deprivation can be a problem. To get more sleep, start by creating an iron clad sleep routine whether bedtime is during the day or night, which includes avoiding stimulants (caffeine, socializing, and aerobic type exercise) four to six hours before sleep time. If family or school schedule dictates only short blocks of sleep then try working one day on, one day off so that you will not be sleepless for extended periods.
- Stress less
Go easy on the cortisol. Everyday stressors will keep the circulating cortisol level high. Listen to soothing music and use calming scents like lavender to remind yourself not to" sweat the small stuff".
- Laugh more
Nurses can easily find humor in our daily life and environment. Illness is no laughing matter but a hearty laugh is sometimes just what the doctor ordered for dealing with serious stuff. Laugher is known to boost the immune system, improve blood pressure, and decrease stress hormone levels. Nurses, next time you complete your white board add a "Joke of the Day" for your patients and get them laughing too.
- Learn a yoga pose
Yoga is great for nurses because it is low intensity and slow pace, which balances with our high stress work environment. Basic yoga poses can be performed safely with minimal equipment and will improve your overall strength and flexibility.
- Get fit fast
Ditch the aerobic class and start weight training. When time is scarce, exercising with weights will be more productive. Building muscles will make you stronger to survive those aerobic classes and you will continue to incinerate fat long after the workout has ended.
- Drink more water
As busy nurses, sometimes at the end of the shift we realize our fluid intake is nowhere near the recommended six to eight glasses. The body is composed of 90% water and is necessary for every metabolic process. Hydrate every hour: your skin, bowels, and kidneys will thank you. You will also shed pounds by avoiding sweetened beverages.
- Floss more
That's what I hear from my dentist every visit. Good oral hygiene is often overlooked by nurses as well as 50% of the population. Brushing is essential but flossing adds the detailing to complete oral care. Daily flossing helps to prevent tartar build up that can lead to tooth decay. It cost a lot less time and money to floss than to replace damaged teeth.
- Grow a plant
Having plants around will increase the oxygen carbon dioxide exchange, making the air around you more pleasant to breath. No green thumb needed. Start with a plant that suits your personality. If you are not the type to give abundant attention to projects, perhaps start with a flowering cactus, which is beautiful and energizing but won't die if you forget to water it for a few days. A flower garden will thrive outdoors or in pots that can be moved when the weather changes. There are so many options; it is difficult to go wrong. The joy of creating new life is priceless.
- DIY organic
I know that nurses have no time for large scale farming, I promise this is easy. Plant an item that you can actually eat, that’s as organic as it gets. Years ago a colleague introduced me to pineapple cultivation. It is as easy as cutting the top (leafy area) and planting it in a large planter. Add TLC, H2O, and patience and you will reap heaps of pleasure as you enjoy the fruits of your labor. Other great ideas are peppermint, herbs, tomatoes, and peppers; all are easy to grow in pots outdoor or indoor.