It’s no surprise that student nurses in RN-BSN programs deal with a lot of stress getting through school. Studies have even suggested that the stress levels in nursing are not only higher than they are in other academic programs, but also higher than their counterparts in medical school, pharmacology, and social work programs.
A nursing student has to juggle academic studies and clinical practice on top of work and their personal lives. This is often more difficult than it sounds because many nursing students are in the middle of changing or advancing in their careers. They tend to be older and more mature, dealing with their own children, aging parents, and personal predicaments.
We may have heard this all before, but in this stressful world we live in, we never get enough reminders to take care of ourselves, nurses especially. In order to maintain their physical and emotional health, nursing students need to consider different ways of dealing with stress and managing their personal, academic, and professional lives. After all, how can nurses take care of so many other people when their own health suffers from stress?
1. Eat right. The body metabolizes more during stressful times, meaning you may be hungrier more often, but without proper planning you might find yourself making poor food choices. Because the nursing profession is largely comprised of women, it’s not surprising that eating disorders are prevalent in the profession. Eat five or six small meals a day, drink plenty of water and be conscious of choosing whole foods, with an emphasis on fresh vegetables, fruits and whole grains.
2. Adopt smarter study habits. Nursing students are frequently encouraged by faculty to study in groups. While this is sometimes helpful and constructive, it can also lead to “group anxiety.” The stress levels of individual students can begin to mount and actually accelerate within study groups. So determine what works best for you. You may find that quizzing each other in groups while preparing for tests works well, but reading difficult chapters and articles is best done alone and isolated in a quiet, undisturbed place.
3. Pace yourself. At the beginning of a term or semester you generally know what your student workload will be. Resist the temptation to procrastinate completing assignments, which frequently results in the dreaded and extremely unhealthy “all-nighter.” Remember, you’re not a history major who can sleep the entire next day. More than likely you’ll have to show up at a clinical assignment the morning after your marathon event!
4. Get centered, physically and emotionally. Nurses are masters at multitasking—and often the trade-off of this mastery is sacrificing “me” time. Although it might seem impossible, carve out a minimum of 30 minutes a day for yourself. Spend this time wisely—incorporate a physical activity such as walking or yoga, set an intention for the day that helps you maintain your focus and spend some time in meditation. If you’ve never tried meditation or yoga, try a physical inversion (simply put, turn yourself upside down or do a deep forward bend). It increases blood flow and helps you rest better and think more clearly.
5. Love your profession. You’ll get frustrated. You’ll get upset. You may break down in front of professors and colleagues. But remember, you’re entering into one of the most admired and important professions in the world. Without you, the healthcare system would fail. As you go through your studies, keep this in mind, and think about what you want to do next. An attitude of lifelong learning will help you gain confidence and enhance your position in the workplace.
Completing your RN-BSN degree will be one of the most rewarding and exciting stages in your life as a nurse. But to get to that point in one piece – and to move forward in your nursing career – you need to maintain your personal well-being. When in doubt, or under the load of stress, remember that the first person you need to take care of, is you.
For more details on how to get through nursing school, please visit ScrubsMag.com