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Work-Life Balance for Nurses: 6 tips for a Healthier Body, Mind, and Soul

Work-life balance isn’t achieved by a quick fix solution. Work-life balance takes planning and effort.

Is work-life balance possible 100% of the time? Of course not. But there are steps you can take to start moving in the direction of a more balanced work-home relationship. As with any positive change, it takes intentional effort and lots of grace – you’ll need to forgive yourself when you fail. But it will be worth it!

Here are 6 tips for nurses who desire a better work-life balance.

Create Boundaries

True work-life balance involves intentionally separating your work and home lives and not allowing one to affect the other. In other words, creating boundaries.

  • Intentionally give yourself time to shift from a family/home mindset to a work mindset by arriving at work in plenty of time to settle in without feeling rushed. 
  • At home, prioritize your daily tasks to get the most important chores out of the way first. You’ll feel accomplished and can move on to fun experiences with the family. 
  • Make a family schedule to help compartmentalize chores vs family activities so that chores don’t accidentally flow over into family time. 
  • Be honest with your boss or recruiter about your scheduling needs. You may be surprised to find that many facilities are willing to work around your schedule.
  • Write out a schedule for your family so that they know when you will be home, sleeping, and at work. Make sure the family knows when they can call you and when they can’t. 

Align Your Shifts 

Talk with your employer about switching to a shift that works better with your family’s schedule.

For example, if you have young children, you may prefer to work the night shift so that you can be available for your kids during the day. If your children are in school, you may want to work a shift that allows you to be home in time for after-school activities and to help with homework. 

If you are a travel nurse, find a recruiter who has good relationships with their facilities. They should want to be an advocate for you and help find a position that aligns with your family’s schedule. 

Take Breaks and Plan for Self-Care 

As a travel nurse, consider taking time off between assignments. Even a week or two can allow you to recharge and spend precious time with family. 

Travel nurses can even ask for time off during a contract. If you have a vacation or a long girls-only weekend planned, most facilities will approve a request for a week or less off work.

Pencil in some self-care time on the calendar. Consider activities that relax, rejuvenate, and refresh your body, mind, and soul. 

  • Take a bubble bath.
  • Get a pedicure.
  • Take a hike in the woods.
  • Read a good book.
  • Exercise (yoga, anyone?).
  • Schedule time with friends.

Twelve hours is a long shift. Don’t be the nurse who never takes a break and works through lunch. Make sure you have something left in your tank at the end of the shift. 

  • Walk during break time.
  • Get some fresh air and sunlight, if you can. Both are mood boosters.

Make Rest a Priority 

It can be hard to get enough sleep when you’re working 12-hour shifts, but here are a few tips that might help:

  • If you have children, consider hiring a babysitter, even when you’re at home so you can rest. 
  • Sleep when your kids are sleeping.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask family or friends to help with household chores so that you can get enough sleep AND spend quality time with your family.

Eat Healthily

It may be tempting to fuel yourself with breakroom brownies, but sugar- and simple carb-laden goodies will only lead to a crash later. To be at your best at work and home, be intentional in your food choices and in planning your meals. 

  • Plan meals
    • Consider food shopping and meal prepping on your days off.
    • Try a meal delivery service. 
    • Pack food for work so you aren’t tempted by those brownies or junk food from the vending machine. Pack healthy snacks, like fruit or nuts, for times that you don’t have time to sit down to eat.
  • Be careful with caffeine – excess caffeine, like sugar, can cause you to crash, contributing to mood swings and mindless munching.
  • Stay hydrated – it’s easy to get busy at work and forget to drink enough water, but dehydration can lead to headaches and fatigue.

Care For Your Mental Health

Are you still having trouble finding a good work-life balance? If you’re feeling rundown, they’re are plenty of options available to you. Don’t shy away from using your resources. 

  • Take advantage of your medical benefits. Does your medical plan offer a certain number of free counseling sessions? Just being able to talk about your concerns with someone can help you cope better. 
  • Reach out to your recruiter for help. Is your schedule unrealistic? Your recruiter may be able to intervene on your behalf if the job is taking a toll on your mental health. 
  • If you’re a staff nurse, have a conversation with your manager. Managers are responsible for staffing each shift, but they also know the value of healthy employees.  

Work-life balance isn’t all or nothing, and it may look different during different seasons of your life. Consider work-life balance a process, not an end-point, sort of like yoga practice. The more you practice, the better you get. 

Photo Credit: Canva


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