Nurses provide care for their patients but also need to be aware of their own long term wellness in order to maintain longevity within a career in nursing. Wellness centers, counselors, and other experts have identified six key areas of wellness called a “wellness wheel” that we all should pay more attention to, but especially nurses who make other people’s health a top priority. When all six areas of wellness are in balance, health is optimized. It is important to look at the areas that could use a little extra care for sustained professional stamina. Consider the following areas of wellness to optimize your own sense of overall well being.
Not only is eating a balanced diet with plenty of green veggies and fresh fruits an important part of physical wellness, so is exercising. Stretching is just as important to the body as walking or other cardio activity. With the repetitive motion necessary to complete work tasks, muscles need stretching and other counterbalancing movements. Yoga, swimming, fun group exercise classes and team games are all ways to combine aerobic exercise, stretching, fun, and stress relief to help support the holistic health of your physical body.
Connecting to the beauty of the outside world though hiking, walking, or visiting a museum is one way to connect spiritually. Though one can feel spiritual in a religious place, a deep sense of spirituality connects you to a quiet calm balanced place deep inside your core where your breath flows deeply and you can feel your wellness as a still place where all the details of your working life are put aside. Spiritual connection allows you to feel your life force as a celebrated and palpable energy feeding your entire being. Spiritual awareness helps to build empathy and appreciation for others across all walks of life.
As a nurse you are around people all day long, but to truly reach holistic wellness you need to be sure to make time to connect socially to others outside of work. If you are a travel nurse and do not know that many people, consider local Audubon or nature conservancy groups that get together for bird watching and hiking. Wine aficionado groups and other hobby-related groups often have websites with local meeting information. Local papers with a special weekend section can also provide opportunities for you to check out local music or socialize with others based on your interests. Bulletin boards and interest groups who meet at local libraries are also great ideas for connecting with the purpose of having fun, being light hearted and relieving stress.
Any care-giving profession can be emotionally draining. Some healthcare environments do a better job than others at making nurses feel appreciated, so it is important to find ways to replenish your emotional storehouse. Taking time to watch a good funny movie, get a massage, or read a novel are all ways you can engage actively in your own emotional wellbeing. Taking time to allow your body to check in, acknowledge, and work through emotions is an important part of wellness. Visiting regularly with a counselor or social worker can be an important tool for maintaining long term emotional health if you are a person prone to holding emotions deep inside. A positive relationship with emotions creates a positive outlook on life and helps a nurse approach challenges with greater finesse. Emotional stability and health permeates all other areas of health.
By nature humans are curious creatures. If you are feeling like everything in your life has become schedule-driven and routine, it may be time to mix it up a little bit. Many community colleges, libraries, or parks and recreation centers offer inexpensive classes in everything from pottery to stamp collecting and photography to taxidermy. Many nurses enroll in online courses for continuing education, but don’t forget the fun classes that are out there, too. Maybe it is time to take up an instrument or learn to sing. Intellectual stimulation improves memory, intensifies all other aspects of wellness, and gives us something interesting to talk about at lunch.
Last but not least, your environmental well being is like the house that holds all the rest of your wellness. Is your work environment conducive to life-long health? What about your home environment? There are many places to work and live. Sometimes changing our physical environment is the missing piece of the puzzle when it comes to holistic wellness. Examining your physical surroundings, removing clutter, simplifying your environment and even practicing good earth stewardship like recycling and buying local can make you feel more connected to your environment. At work you should feel a connection to the place and enjoy the physical space or at least parts of it. The physical environment should have proper lighting, air flow, temperature control, etc. to support overall wellness. Often an adjustment in a physical space or environment can get the ball rolling toward wellness in other areas.
Nurses have one of the most consuming jobs, yet little time is spent in formal education helping you understand what is needed to build and maintain health for professional longevity. Taking time to explore the six dimensions of a wellness wheel can give you positive feedback about which areas of wellness you should pay close attention to as you examine overall wellness. Connecting with other professionals and supporting one another in wellness initiatives is an important way to remember that while caring for others is important, nurses must also value, protect, and support personal wellness in order to remain effective caregivers for many years to come.