Caring for your health and wellbeing when you are taking on the difficult task of a degree and a full-time degree should be your number one priority. Unfortunately, it usually finds itself in sixth or seventh place in your list of priorities. Poor sleeping schedules, bad days at work, and long hours staring at one page and not understanding a thing on it are all seen as “common”, especially when you are tackling a complicated career like nursing with an equally challenging nursing degree.
It doesn’t have to be.
Staying calm and measured will help you succeed in both your job and in your study, and to achieve such a state of mind, you must improve your outlook, your health, and work to promote your mental health.
Believe Your Degree is Worthwhile
Before you begin changing your habits and getting into the thick of your degree, make sure it is worth it. Not only that but make sure you believe that it is worth it. Studying while working full-time is hard, and if you aren’t completely committed, you aren’t going to put in the effort you need to get the most out of your degree.
It can also feel demoralizing if it isn’t the last degree you want to go for. To avoid this demoralizing state research. Find that perfect degree that will help you achieve all of your goals, not just the most effective, but in the least amount of time.
Take nursing, for example. It’s one of the few careers that don’t just recommend higher education, but actually demand it for higher-level (and higher paid) positions. If you want to move beyond an RN, then you have no choice but to go for your MSN or DNP.
DNP is the highest level of nursing available and can actually be achieved directly after your BSN. With a tremendous online DNP like this, you don’t need to complete your MSN first, and then complete your DNP. You can opt for the integrated solution that will allow you to complete both at the same time, allowing you to reach the highest level of nursing in as little as three years.
When you find a degree like this that allows you to achieve your goals quickly, you can stay committed to the effort it takes to stay healthy and calm while you work and study nursing.
Caring for Your Physical Health
First things first, you must care for your physical health. Though the mind is far more complicated than simply caring for your physical needs, an unhealthy body does exacerbate many issues that may or may not be holding you back. As a nurse, you know this, but like every profession, it still seems to get pushed back.
To help you improve your physical health, so that you can stay alert throughout your workday and again during your coursework and individual study, use these tips:
Eating well is an obvious one. The body requires fuel, and not just any fuel, but a specific set of vitamins and nutrients to function at optimal levels. This even carries on to the brain, which requires a substantial amount of energy throughout the day.
When you want to improve your diet, you are going to find it rather challenging to keep on track when you have cookies and chips and chocolate right there in your home beckoning you to them in the middle of the night or when you are in the middle of a busy shift at the hospital. In fact, consider the hospital vending machine to be your worst enemy. Sugar offers a high energy return and a quick crash. You need a more sustainable energy solution.
It’s pretty easy to say no when you are full, but when you reach that “snacky” stage of the day, eating healthy is thrown out the window in favor of eating easily. Remove these easy and unhealthy temptations and replace them with healthy alternatives so you can at least get the vitamins and nutrients that your body needs.
Make Sauces and Soups from Scratch
Many sauces, soups, and other similar toppings contain sugar and a lot of it. If you want an easy way to enjoy delicious meals and be healthier at the same time, try to make as much of these foods at home as possible.
Sauces and soups are easy to make with some roasted vegetables and a blender and can be stored in the freezer until you need them for months. Not only will you be eating better, but you will also be saving money in the process.
Prep Food in Advance
To make it easy to enjoy healthy lunches and even dinners regularly, prep food in advance. The sauce is an excellent example of food prepping, but the concept doesn’t end there.
A thousand cups of coffee won’t wake your mind when you’ve had a night of inadequate sleep, it will only send your heart into hyperdrive. There is a reason why sometimes it doesn’t matter how much caffeine or stimulants you take; you don’t feel alert. As a nurse, this could put someone’s life in danger. You need deeper, better sleeps on a consistent schedule to be better at your work and still have the brainpower to study nursing afterward.
Importance of Sleep
While you can trudge through a day through sheer force of will, lack of sleep does catch up to you. Namely, when we don’t sleep well, our brain has a harder time forming and maintaining the pathways that help us learn and create new memories. This makes it harder for us to concentrate, harder to learn, and even dilutes our response time.
In short, a bad night’s sleep could very well mean any studying you do in the day will be wasted because you will either be staring at the same page for over an hour trying to actually process what you are reading, or you’ll just forget it.
How to Get a Better Night’s Sleep
To get a better night’s sleep, you need to first understand what makes us go to sleep, our circadian rhythm, and sleep-wake homeostasis.
The circadian rhythm is our body’s internal clock. It uses a variety of environmental factors and regular patterns to decide when you should wake up, and when you should sleep. One of the ways it does this is through blue-white light. Before the modern era, the only blue-white light we saw was daylight. Our bodies were attuned to this daylight, so we woke with the dawn and became drowsier after sunset.
Now we have phones and televisions and phone screens. Unless you have the night mode on, these screens emit a blue-white light that can disrupt our internal sleep schedules and make it harder to sleep when we want to sleep.
Avoiding electronic screens after sunset can help with this problem immensely.
The second factor to consider, the homeostatic sleep drive, keeps track of when we need to sleep. The drive is felt more deeply the longer you are awake, and it is why you sleep longer and more intensely after being sleep deprived. Light, genetics, and hormones all affect this sleep-wake cycle.
- Regular Sleep Schedule
A great way to start getting not just a better night’s sleep, but a more consistent level of sleep, is to schedule it. Even on weekends, try to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning.
Our body’s internal clocks will adjust to this new schedule to the point where you’ll start to feel tired around bedtime and wake up naturally without an alarm clock. Not only will you find you can go to sleep faster and wake up fresher, but your entire sleep cycle will also adjust as well. Overall, you will enjoy a deeper, more enjoyable sleep.
- Light Therapy
As mentioned, the blue-white light is tied to our waking hours. Ensure there is no blue-white light in your home after sunset by changing the settings or even just changing your routines so that you enjoy a screen-free evening before bed.
- Wind-Down Routine Ideas
If you do specific actions every time before bed, the actions will actually have a hypnotic effect on the brain. Treat yourself to a comprehensive beauty routine again and again before sleep, and you’ll find yourself become drowsy by the time you are finished.
- Improve Your Bedroom
If the reason you are not sleeping well is due to physical discomfort, however, then the only thing to do is to invest in a better bedroom. A new mattress and pillow set will do wonders when it comes to waking up feeling refreshed. Your spine, in particular, should be supported during your sleep so that you don’t wake up with pinched nerves or aching pains.
The most important thing is that you stay active. If you enjoy going to the gym, high. If you don’t, then don’t worry about it. You can go for walks, runs, bike rides, dance around your room, do handstands or anything else instead. The only thing you need to try to do is to be active at least 30 minutes a day and to ideally get your heart rate up for a consistent 15 minutes a day.
If you have a job on your feet, like in our nursing example, then you probably won’t even need to worry about getting your exercise in, because you fill your daily quota several times over during your shifts.
Caring for Your Mental Health and Wellbeing
Your physical health will help you feel good and can help give you the energy you need to finish your work and then continue to study nursing without feeling stung out or stressed. Your mental health and wellbeing, however, will make it
Have a Place Where You Study
If you have a home office, study nursing there. If you don’t, either set up space in your home or find a place to work outside. This could be a co-working hot desk you rent out, or it could be a cafe or even the library.
By keeping where you study nursing consistently, you can get in the zone much faster.
We cannot work non-stop. To avoid burnout, you should aim to take a break every hour or so and have fun on that break. It’s essential if you want to work for two or more hours and pushing through will only serve to handicap your efforts.
Work with Other Students to Lighten the Workload
You will have other students in the same boat as you, so work with them. You can each aim to make study notes based on a chapter of your textbook and then share it with one another so that you can read and learn on your own time, but don’t have to go through the extra effort of writing up notes for it.
Use Your University’s Resources
Your university will have library access, student advisors, mental health advocates, and so much more. Know what they offer and make use of its resources to succeed.
Seek Out Professional Help If and When Necessary
Staying stress-free is one thing. Tackling a mental illness on your own is another. If all the healthy eating, living, and study tips do absolutely nothing, then it is time to seek out professional help. You don’t have to wait until it feels like there’s no way out to get help. If you feel like your mind is rebelling against you and you’ve eliminated all normal causes, then the issue could be in your brain.
Mental illness is caused by a variety of factors, from genetic, to hormonal, to even situational. Seeking out professional help and getting diagnosed is the most critical first step, as it can help you understand what is happening to you and give you better tools to cope.
Remember: Routine is Where You Will Find Success
Once you have your routine behind you, backing you every day, you can start taking on the dual challenge of work and study nursing. Use all the tips and tricks to stay calm and stress-free, and you can continue to succeed in your career and pass all your requirements of your degree with flying colors.
The best part is that these new habits will help you in all of your future goals, so start today and take your potential in your hands.