Nurses Health and Self-care

February 2023

The new year of 2023 is here and so is our brand-new Newsletter for the AAFCN in conjunction with the NAD.  The “AAFCN Illuminator” is set to be launched in February 2023.  This quarterly newsletter will feature inspiring articles to enhance the lives of FCNs through providing pertinent information and thought-provoking subjects.  We praise God for the suggestion of developing this newsletter from our leaders and all the committed and creative staff that will be working hard to produce and keep us up to date with the latest, evidenced-based information.

For the month of February, we chose to focus on the health of FCNs in general and what it takes to keep us functioning optimally and to the best of our abilities.  The book of 3 John 1:2 says

Beloved I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in good health, even as your soul prospereth. 

We praise God for allowing us to be alive and to enter into the year 2023. We thank Him for how He has kept and led us in the past as we look to Him for guidance in the future.  In this first issue of our newsletter, we want to be intentional as we bring awareness to the health of FCNs as we work hand in hand with our pastors, our congregations, and the public. We want to be aware of our own health care needs and challenges to assure that we are remaining in as good of health as we possibly can.  FCNs are nurses, and human beings, requiring the same attention to their health as do others, however, because of the nature of our work, and work schedules, we might require more.  Therefore, it is paramount to prioritize our health.  We are aware that this requires effort on our part through dedication, commitment and perseverance.  The job of providing care to others can be daunting both physically and mentally draining.  The physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of health should be included in planning to address our healthcare needs. 

There are a few proven strategies that have been utilized and can be implemented to prioritize our health while being intentional. We should continue to educate ourselves, improve our self-efficacy, and explore with enthusiasm and confidence those things that will promote good health.  See the article: WHO guideline on self-care interventions for health and well-being, 2022 revision 

How Nurses Can Practice Self-Care

Nurses can engage in the following activities to preserve their mental, emotional, and physical well-being. 

Self-Care Activities for Nurses 

  • Rest. Everyone needs rest. Getting sufficient, high-quality sleep is necessary to be effective in a demanding job like nursing — yet great sleep can be hard to come by in a profession that requires long shifts at irregular intervals. 
  • Travel. Taking time off to experience a change of scenery can help nurses unwind and recharge. Traveling also can instill a renewed sense of wonder and appreciation for nature, food, history, culture, social connection, and other things that make life enjoyable. 
  • Creative expression. Engaging in artistic endeavors such as poetry, music, painting, storytelling, theater, and dance enables people to express and process emotions. To stave off burnout, nurses can pursue creative activities that honor their feelings (ranging from the grief of losing a patient to celebrating the healthy birth of a new baby). 
  • Exercise. Science shows that exercise enables the body to process stress, improving health and mood. Physical activity can take many forms, such as yoga, running, swimming, or muscle tensing/relaxing techniques. Nurses should choose the type of physical activity that works best for them. 
  • Social connection. Nurses can blow off steam with colleagues by laughing, hugging, and engaging in casual conversation. These social activities can contribute to a positive work environment for nurses. At a physiological level, social affirmation has been shown to reduce blood pressure and improve support systems that care professionals need to do their jobs well. 
  • Meditation. Simple, practical exercises for deep breathing can produce feelings of calm. Deep breathing techniques, from simple techniques to more complex breathing exercises developed in a meditation practice, can recenter busy nurses and promote feelings of calm 

When nurses engage in these activities, they receive the benefit and their patients do as well. 

Signs of Nurse Burnout 

Burnout manifests in many different ways among nurses. Common signs include: 

  • Anxiety. Burned-out nurses may feel acute worry and have difficulty managing negative emotions, both on and off the job. 
  • Depression. Prolonged periods of mood and energy decline, along with feelings of meaninglessness or numbness, may be the result of burnout. 
  • Emotional detachment. Nurses may begin to feel like they “aren’t there” at work and are unable to be fully present with patients. 
  • Exhaustion. Burnout can show up as chronic fatigue — an inability to feel rested or rejuvenated. 
  • Inability to focus. Nurses experiencing burnout may struggle to pay attention to details at work or forget basic information. 
  • Insomnia. Being unable to fall or stay asleep may indicate burnout. 
  • Frequent illness. Burnout may show up as psychosomatic symptoms, including heart palpitations, digestive issues, headaches, chest pain, and other illnesses, as the immune system weakens. 

By Jonathan Bennett, RN, BSN 

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