Warning! This is a mega-post on taking care of yourself!

17 nurses have collaborated to share their stories, views and tips in prioritizing this long-lost art for nurses.

Self-Care… We know what it is, and we know we must do more of it. As nurse Anne Llewellyn explains: “Self-care only works when you listen to your body and do what you want without resistance.”

After all, we’re experts when it comes to directing our patients on ways to focus on their health, how to decrease stress, and how to achieve a balance in what may be a hectic, often difficult challenge.

Problem is, we often neglect some of the same advice we will to those in our care. We can also put the needs of others before our own, at the expense to our health, our personal goals and even our relationships as discussed by Nurse Kelly Payne on her blog at Mommy Baby Nurse.

When I first started the journey to nurse entrepreneurship, I tried to do everything… work full-time, volunteer my time, help others with their projects, complete project for others, work extra shifts, etc… all why trying to get my business off the ground.

Soon afterwards, I found it was going to be impossible to keep going at that rate, especially without any self-care practices in place when I first started, which eventually prompted me to create Wealth & Wellness LIVE, an event for nurses that focused on self-care and business startup strategies.

But, why do we struggle with incorporating self-care into our lives… our practice?

It may be the guilt about taking care of yourself. It may be a fear of disappointing others. Or, it may simply be the fear on missing out on things that may or may not help you move forward. But, as Spiritual Practice Nurse, Elizabeth Scala tells us: “Self-care is the most crucial piece to being a good nurse.”

So how do we begin to take the steps necessary to remedy our neglect?

Well… you must make a commitment to yourself and do the things required to take care of you. And here are 3 strategies to guide you in your self-care efforts.

Strategy #1 – Say ‘No’

Let’s try it.

You’re going to say “no” to someone else’s invitation for you to help them with their projects or goals or you’re going to say “no” to someone you’ve already said “yes” to.


A scary thought, I know. Especially if saying “no” isn’t part of your vocabulary. But, taking this first step is important in the process of taking care of yourself.

So, some steps to help you get started:

  1. Make a list of people, projects or events that you have said ‘yes’ to, but don’t want or don’t have time to do. Or simply, the people, projects or events that WON’T add value to your life in any way.
  2. Now pick only one thing on that list. Preferably the least exciting and/or most time consuming.
  3. Now, call them up and say ‘no.’ And of course it’s not always that easy, so I’ve included a few scripts that you can use word-for-word below. Or simply tailor them to your needs. But whatever you do, don’t get caught in the trap of giving reasons why you have to say ‘no.’

Sample Script – You’re asked to cover an extra shift.

“Hi Mary! I’m so sorry that you don’t have the coverage today. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to cover the shift. But good luck in finding a replacement.”

*See these reasons why Lorie Brown, RN, MN, JD would agree with this “No” over on her blog at Empowered Nurses.

Sample Script – Someone just asked you to help them with a project or volunteered you to do something without your permission.

“Hi Mary! I’m happy that you thought of me. Right now, I’m swamped with my own projects and won’t have time to dedicate to your [insert their request here]. But congratulations on starting this! I can’t wait to hear about your progress!”

Sample Script – How to Say “no” after you’ve already said “yes.”

“Hi Mary. Unfortunately, I have to make a change in plans. Due to another commitment (i.e., yourself), I won’t be able to [insert their request here] at this time. I feel terrible about it, but I know [their project] will be a success in any event. Please let me know how it goes.”

How to Handle Resistance:

Okay I know what you’re thinking…

“Marsha, it’s not that easy!”

Yes, you will get some resistance. Yes, you’ll be asked about your “other” commitments, and sometimes, you’ll even be made to feel guilty. And sometimes you may even be made to feel like you’re not a part of the team or not as committed to your nursing career as others.

These are concerns that Nurse Beth Boynton, MS, RN, feels could be addressed effectively in communication with leadership in her article concerning self-care as it relates to patient safety.

And if resistance happens. Simply state (or repeat):

“Mary. I am so sorry. I do feel horrible about it. But, at this time, I just won’t be able to.”

And leave it at that.

You really owe no explanation, especially if you’re giving enough notice (and I highly recommend as much notice as possible).

But caution: Don’t cancel a commitment at the last minute. Saying “no” also means being responsible about that decision as well. So don’t leave your friend (or your employer) in a tough position for something that’s on the schedule for the next day!

Want some expert tips on how to focus on “No” when it comes to prioritizing your self-care efforts? Read these articles by Nurse Joyce Fiodembo, RN of International Nurse Support and Nurse Eileen Spillane, Certified Integral Coach, at The Balanced Nurse Blog.

Strategy #2 – Reconnect by Disconnecting

The goal of this strategy: Disconnect from one major form of communication in order to pay more attention to you!

And we do this by starting slow!

Choose ONE of the following options to try out below.

Option 1:

Put your personal cell phone on “do not disturb” mode for 1 hour during a time when you’re most likely to check your text messages, notifications or phone calls.

And, don’t text or make phone calls within that hour as well. In fact, don’t even look at the phone. It may help to place it in another room or tuck it away if you’re out.

The goal is to realize that every contact doesn’t require an immediate response, and every phone call is not an emergency.

After the hour, give yourself permission to check it.

Are there any messages that needed attention ASAP? Was it okay for those messages to not get a response until after an hour later?

If you’re up for a bigger challenge, see if you can add another hour.

And for those of you who decided to give me some resistance with this (i.e., I can’t turn off my phone, I have children!), try the second option.

Option 2:

If you have a smartphone, delete a social media app for 24 hours.

Horrors, right?!

Yes, it’s a challenge, but it’s not impossible. Plus, when you want the app again, you’ll find out how easy it is to go into the app store and regain access. Sometimes, when the app is deleted and then added back, it will automatically log you back in.

So choose one: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+… you name it.

Want an even bigger challenge? Delete the one app that you use the most.

Then, when the 24 hours are up, feel free to add the app back onto your phone. For you brave souls, try 2 or 3 days without the app. And then take note. Did anything bad happen?

Again, if you’re prone to give me resistance with this (i.e., I need my apps! They’re required for my job. Or… I have children, I can’t delete my apps!), try the third option.

Option 3:

Email. For those of you who check your personal email every few hours, don’t check it for 4. If you check your emails twice a day, only check it once. Or, if you check it once daily, leave it alone for 1 day.

Emails are perfect for being in a non-urgent space. And Co-Founder of RNFM Radio, Kevin Ross, BSN, RN, agrees in his post, Getting Good with Yourself.

Often, others aren’t waiting for an immediate response, unless you’re known to be at a desk all day. So unless you open or answer the email, most people won’t think you’re reading it immediately after they sent it to you.

Think about it this way… some people use email just because it doesn’t require an immediate response. So, try going without it for a few hours, if not the whole day.

If you have resistance to all three options:

It may mean that you’re putting someone else’s needs and goals ahead of yours. It could be your employer, your friends, or even a project that doesn’t even improve your life in any way. So, consider those things, and then try the options again.

And note: When you train yourself to disconnect from those things that aren’t important, you train others that your time is important.

You train them how you want them to treat you (and contact you). And they’ll find that those calls, text messages or emails that they send you won’t be so ‘urgent’ after all.

Strategy #3 – Make Time for Fun

Although the first two strategies may prove to be painful for some, the third should be a pleasure at the least.

Make a list of 2-3 activities that you’ve been wanting to try but never got around to it.

The activity must be something that you think you’d enjoy. If it’s scheduling a workout, and you hate exercise, that won’t work. However, there are ways you can enjoy Health and Fitness as nurse Caroline Thomas of EmpoweRN shows in her YouTube videos.

But in any event, make sure it’s something you would look forward to.

Some examples include:

  • Salsa
  • Hiking
  • Trapeze
  • Painting Class
  • Voice Lessons
  • Wine tasting
  • Hip-Hop Dance Class
  • Fishing on the lake
  • Free outdoor concert or summer theater
  • Or try this list as nurse Dr. Donna Maheady suggests over on her blog Exceptional Nurse

There are even ways to incorporate self-care in your place of employment that could benefit a greater number of nurses (and in turn, their patients) as YogaNurse Annette Tersigni gives tips on how to get buy-in from nursing leadership.

So back to your list…

Now, spend 15 minutes (set your timer) on finding a class online, and schedule to go to it within the next 1-3 days. Put it in your calendar!

If you schedule it too far off, say in the next week or the next 2 weeks, it’s much easier to cancel it.

When I first scheduled my first Reiki session and one of my acupuncture sessions, I scheduled it the day before I actually had my appointment. That way, I would lose money if I missed it and it practically forced me to go because I would feel horrible if I canceled at the last minute.

Remember part of Strategy #1 – Be responsible in your “No.”

If money is an issue, you may be able to find that some classes have one-off drop-in rates. I’ve seen some as low as $10. Or, you can try something like Groupon in your area. Or possibly a Goggle search for “free [class you’d like] in [your city].”

Finally, tell someone, 2 or 3 people or more…

Tip: share it on social media that you’ve scheduled an activity. It keeps you accountable, and you’re less likely to cancel it because your friends will ask, ‘Hey, how did that Trapeze class go?’

So those are 3 Strategies to help you in your self-care efforts!

Need a few more? Take a gander at the following articles to help give you some relief.

  • John Keith, MSNA, CRNA of CRNA Career Pro and Joan Spitrey, RN, MSN, CCRN of The Nurse Teacher gives their best tips in self-care and how to deal with stress. And although the posts address stressors with nursing students, you’ll find that these tips can apply to any profession and field of nursing.

So what do you think? Which one of the 3 strategies can you implement immediately in your self-care efforts? Please comment below and then share this mega-post on social media with others nurses by clicking on the links to your left.

More posts on this topic can be found at https://thebossynurse.com

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