The nursing profession is primarily based on long hours of hard work, dedication, and sacrifice. This can be especially challenging for nurses working full-time while pursuing their online advanced nursing degree. To ensure you get the most out of your online education and avoid burnout, it is important to practice self-care and make time for yourself.
What is self-care?
According to the World Health Organization, self-care is the ability of individuals, families, and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and cope with illness and disability. In a profession defined by care and compassion for others, advanced nursing students need to take the time to practice self-care.
While you may need to think of yourself at the bottom of your list, it’s important to ensure you’re taking care of yourself. The only way you can focus on your online nursing studies and career is to ensure your needs are holistically met.
What induces stress in online nursing students?
Many advanced nursing students find the transition from classroom learning to online courses difficult. Online courses can be tougher on many aspects of life, such as time management and communication with professors and peers. Again, there is often an increased sense of isolation when taking classes online, which can lead to feelings of stress or depression. Other stressors can include:
Achieving a time balance between school, family, and work can be difficult. Planning and time management are essential to a successful study plan.
Progressively demanding course load
As you progress into higher-level nursing courses, the workload can become increasingly demanding. It is important to understand your limits and make sure you are taking time for yourself. For instance, if you are enrolled in a nursing program in a state with full practice authority like Kansas, the coursework can be more demanding due to the additional in-depth topics.
The cost of an online advanced nursing degree can add up quickly, leading to stress. It is important to factor in the tuition costs and other expenses such as books and supplies. Many schools offer scholarships or grants, which help reduce the financial burden.
What are the benefits of practicing self-care?
Self-care comes with a variety of benefits to advanced nursing students. Some of these include:
- Reduced stress and anxiety
By taking time for yourself and prioritizing self-care, you can reduce the stress and anxiety that come with pursuing an online degree. This makes it easier to focus on your studies and achieve success.
- Improved mental health
Self-care also has a positive effect on your mental health. By taking time for yourself, you can reduce the symptoms of depression and other mental health issues associated with pursuing an online degree.
- Increased self-confidence
When you take the time to practice self-care, you are reinforcing positive thoughts and behaviors that will help boost your self-esteem and confidence. This can be beneficial in any profession, especially for advanced nursing students who must be confident and articulate when working with patients.
- Enhances productivity
Nursing students who take the time to practice self-care can also find that their productivity increases. Self-care helps you stay motivated and focused on your studies, which leads to greater academic success.
- Improved physical health
Physical health can be an often overlooked aspect of self-care, but it is just as important. As an advanced nursing student, you want to ensure you are taking care of yourself physically.
- Leads to better relationships
Self-care also helps you build better relationships with those around you. These relationships are especially important for online nursing students as you often have limited contact with peers and professors. Strong relationships help to elevate your sense of well-being and can be beneficial in both professional and personal settings.
Types of self-care for advanced nursing students
Many different types of self-care can be beneficial to advanced nursing students. Some examples include:
- Physical self-care
Caring for your body is important for any career, especially for nursing students. This can include exercise, proper nutrition, adequate sleep, and regular medical check-ups.
- Mental self-care
It’s important to take care of both your physical and mental health when pursuing an online degree. Mental self-care can include mindfulness, journaling, and creative outlets.
- Social self-care
Staying connected to those around you is an important part of self-care. This can include staying in touch with professors, classmates, and friends. You can also find social support groups or join online forums related to advanced nursing.
- Emotional self-care
To take care of your emotional health, practicing positive affirmations and recognizing your emotions without judgment can be beneficial. It’s also important to find healthy ways to express these emotions, such as talking to a trusted friend or professional.
How to make a self-care plan
Creating a self-care plan can help you stay on track as an advanced nursing student. It also allows you to stay organized and prioritize self-care. You can follow these steps to create your own self-care plan:
- Understand the different types of self-care
The journey of self-care can look different for everyone. It is important to understand the different types of self-care and how they can benefit you as an advanced nursing student. Take the time to explore what works for you.
- Identify your unique needs
Every person’s needs and goals are different. Think about what type of self-care is most important for you to practice as an advanced nursing student. Reflecting on your feelings and challenges can help you identify what works best for you.
- Understand your triggers
It’s important to be aware of what can trigger stress and negative thoughts. For example, if you tend to get overwhelmed by too much studying, set boundaries for yourself and practice self-care activities when needed. The focus here is to know when to take a break and recharge.
- Come up with an actionable plan
Once you have identified your needs and triggers, it’s time to develop an actionable plan. Make a list of activities you can do every day or week to practice self-care. Remember that this plan should be achievable and tailored specifically to you.
- Set clear goals
Creating goals can help motivate you and keep you focused as an advanced nursing student. Your goals should be realistic and achievable to ensure success. Make sure to break down your self-care plan into smaller tasks that are easier to accomplish.
Regularly evaluating your plan
It’s important to evaluate your self-care plan regularly to ensure it is still working for you. If needed, make changes or adjust the plan accordingly.
How to Implement Self-Care
Once you have a self-care plan, it’s time to start implementing it. Be consistent and practice self-care every day or week, even when it feels difficult. Here are a few tips on how to stay motivated and make the most of your self-care:
- Set realistic expectations: Remember that self-care is not a one-time thing. Ensure your expectations are realistic and achievable to stay consistent with your plan.
- Be mindful of time constraints: When practicing self-care activities, you should be aware of the time available. This can help you make the most of your time without feeling overwhelmed.
- Set reminders: Setting reminders can help you stay on track with your self-care plan. This is especially helpful for days when you don’t feel motivated to practice self-care.
- Be flexible: Don’t be afraid to adjust your self-care plan when necessary. This can help you stay focused and motivated to practice self-care.
Self-care activities for advanced nursing students
When it comes to self-care activities, it’s essential to find something that works for you. Here are some ideas of activities that can help you as an advanced nursing student:
- Physical fitness
One way of taking care of yourself is by taking regular physical activity. This can help you boost your energy levels and relieve stress. Make it a priority to exercise at least three times a week. Physical fitness is one of the essential attributes of a nurse, as the profession requires a lot of physical activity.
- Creative outlets
Finding creative outlets for self-expression is important for advanced nursing students. This can include drawing, writing, playing an instrument, or even having an engaging discussion with a friend. Creative outlets are great for relieving stress and improving your mental health.
- Connecting with friends and family
Spending time with your friends and family can help you feel more connected and supported. Connecting with loved ones can help you stay positive and motivated while pursuing an online advanced nursing degree.
- Taking breaks
It’s important to take regular breaks from studying. Breaks are essential for refocusing, boosting creativity, and improving overall productivity. Make sure to take at least a few minutes each day for yourself.
- Getting enough sleep
Getting enough sleep is vital for maintaining good mental and physical health. Try to stick to a consistent sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up around the same time every day. This will help you stay energized and focused while studying.
- Reading a book
Reading is a great way to relax and escape from stress. Pick up a book that interests you and let yourself discover something new. The book can be completely unrelated to your studies, as the focus of this is to relax and refresh the mind from studying.
- Mindful meditation
Practicing mindful meditation can help you manage stress and stay centered. Take time each day to sit in silence and focus on your breathing. This will help you relax, reduce anxiety, and find inner peace.
- Prepare healthy meals
Eating healthy meals is important for maintaining good physical and mental health. Make it a priority to prepare nutritious meals packed with essential nutrients, fiber, and vitamins. This will help you stay energized while studying.
- Taking nature walks
Getting out in nature can help you reduce stress and improve your mental health. Take a walk outside and enjoy the fresh air, sunshine, and calming sounds of nature. This is a great way to stay grounded and give yourself some well-deserved time for self-care.
- Indulging in hobbies
A hobby can help you stay creative and passionate while pursuing your advanced nursing degree. Take time each day to do something you love and enjoy, whether it’s playing video games, cooking, gardening, or anything else that interests you.
Volunteering is another great way to practice self-care. Volunteering can help you stay connected to your community and give back in a meaningful way. It is a great way to meet new people and build relationships. Nursing is compassionate work, and volunteering can help you feel connected to that mission and fulfill you outside of work.
- Traveling to new places
Traveling to new places can help you stay motivated and inspired while studying. Find a place that interests you, book a trip, and explore the area. While it helps to have time to travel and explore, even taking a day or two off to visit someplace new can help you recharge and stay energized.
When to know you need a self-care break
It’s important to know when you need a self-care break. Common signs of needing a break include:
If you’re feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, it may be time to take a break. Ignoring the signs of burnout can lead to mental health issues that will make it harder for you to succeed in your studies.
Sudden apathy or lack of motivation can signal that you need to step back and take some time for yourself. When studying gets tough, it’s easy to start feeling unmotivated. Taking time to practice self-care can help you get back on track and stay motivated in your studies.
- Anxiety or stress
Persistent feelings of anxiety or stress can be a sign that you need to take a break. Stress can derail your studies if left unchecked, so it is important to take steps to manage your stress and practice self-care.
- Poor physical health
If your physical health is suffering due to a lack of sleep, proper nutrition, and exercise, it’s important to take a break and focus on your well-being. Taking care of yourself is key to staying focused while studying for an advanced nursing degree.
- Reduced productivity
Reduced productivity is another sign you need to take a break. If your work has become unproductive or sloppy, it’s time to step back and refocus on self-care. Taking time for yourself can help you regain focus and stay productive in your studies.
- Concentration loss
If you’re having trouble concentrating, it’s important to take a break. Concentration loss can lead to poor performance in your studies if left unchecked. Taking the time to practice self-care can help you stay focused and improve concentration.
What to do if your self-care routine is not working
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, self-care routines are not enough to keep you motivated and energized. These are some tips that may help if you feel like your self-care routine is not working:
- Readjust your routine: You may need to readjust your routine if it’s not working. Try new activities or find ways to make them more enjoyable.
- Take a break from technology: Technology can sometimes be a source of stress and distraction, so try taking a break from your devices and focus on self-care instead.
- Seek professional help: If your self-care routine is not working, it may be time to seek professional help. A therapist or mental health professional can help you find ways to manage stress and stay motivated in your studies.
When to get professional help
It’s important to know when it’s time to get professional help. If you’re struggling with your mental health, don’t hesitate to seek help. If you notice these signs, even after trying self-care techniques, it’s time to get professional help:
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with anxiety or fear, it’s important to talk to your doctor. Severe anxiety can be a sign of a mental health disorder and needs professional help.
Persistent feelings of depression or hopelessness are not normal and could be a sign of an underlying condition that requires professional help. If you’re feeling depressed, it’s important to talk to your doctor.
If you’re having suicidal thoughts, it’s important to seek help immediately. It is never too late to get professional help. Your doctor can connect you with resources to help you cope with suicidal thoughts and keep you safe.
Severe physical health issues
If you’re experiencing severe physical health issues, it’s important to talk to your doctor. Severe physical symptoms can indicate an underlying medical condition and require professional help.
Serious concentration problems
Consistent difficulty concentrating can be a sign of an underlying mental health disorder such as ADHD or depression. Talking to your doctor can help you determine the cause of your concentration problems and get the help you need.
If you’re having trouble with your studies despite trying self-care techniques, it may be time to get professional help. Talking with your counseling or student services department can help you get the resources and support you need to get back on track or improve your grades.
Self-care is crucial when you’re studying for an online advanced nursing degree. If your self-care routine isn’t working or you notice any of the signs mentioned above, it’s important to seek professional help.