Undertaking a nursing degree is all-consuming; it is without question physically, emotionally and mentally challenging, which is why self-care and mental health support is so essential. A nursing degree isn’t like a standard degree at university. On top of all our academic work, we must complete 2300 clinical practice hours on placement so that we can join the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) register.
Due to this, we do not have the long summers off that other courses do. The majority of student nurses have to work additional hours on top of placements to manage financially. In Scotland, we may still have the NHS funded nursing bursary, which helps; but it is only a token amount, not a sustainable living wage. Also, many nursing students are completing their studies while raising and supporting a family. I take my hat off to these incredible parents. I am in awe and think it is so inspirational for your children to see you working towards a degree; because we all know you are working hard.
Back to self-care: with university, placements, assignments, exams, work, oh, and raising a family, where do people find the time? There are three things I try to do; maybe they will work for you.
Anyone who knows me will tell you how much I love to sleep. My bed is, without a doubt, one of my favourite places in the world. The importance of a good night’s sleep should not be overlooked. Good sleep health helps reduce stress levels, and it allows our brain time to process all we are learning, both in class and on placement – because we are learning a lot. I don’t know about you, but my brain continually feels fried. We should all try and aim to get between 7-9 hours a night to function at our best. I know that can be challenging and may not always be possible, which is where my other favourite comes in – naps! I love a Grampa nap. Most days, when I come in from university or placement, I will have a nap. Then I’ll get up and get on with the work I have to do. Napping helps me to freshen up and resets my factory settings. Without it, I wouldn’t be able to focus. I know finding time for a nap may be difficult, particularly for those with families. However, research done by NASA shows the optimal nap length to be 25 minutes. Can you find 25 minutes?
Family and friends:
Spend time with your loved ones, please. The demands of our course and chosen profession means we can be guilty of neglecting them. I know I am, and this is a public apology to my wonderfully supportive partner and family, who probably wish I focussed a little more energy on them and a little less on my course and other extracurricular pursuits – please know I love and appreciate you so much. Our loved ones are a big reason why we are all doing this, right? To have a better life – for them or with them? I know that I always feel so much better when I switch off from it all and focus my energy on them – and I mean switch off, as in: “Turn of your phone Craig!”. Life is too short. Yes, our studies are important, but so are our loved ones.
I love film and TV. More than anything, I love finding an excellent series on Netflix, Amazon or Sky and just binge-watching away. Recent binges have included: Queer Eye, Ru Paul’s Drag Race, 13 Reasons Why, Damages, The Killing, Homeland, and Stranger Things. Please feel free to suggest some more for me to watch in the comments section below. I love the escapism that comes with getting involved in a good series. If you can’t watch it all in a binge, then find a series you like and ration the episodes. You still get the benefit of forgetting you are a student nurse for 45-60 minutes and becoming an enraptured viewer. To avoid the procrastination guilt, you could even treat yourself to an episode every time you get a piece of work done. Might have to start trying that one myself.
So, there are my three self-care ideas. In no way do I profess to be a self-help guru. I can’t wait to read all of yours. Please leave some ideas in the comments below.