Royal College of Nursing Representing nurses and nursing, promoting excellence in practice, shaping health policies

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As a nursing professional it is important that you take the time to consider factors that impact upon your own health - this is known as self-care.

Self-care is the power we all hold as individuals to influence our level of wellbeing.

Choosing behaviours which help you balance the effects of physical and emotional stress supports you to engage positively with family, friends or colleagues, and deliver safe and compassionate care to your patients.

The information below aims to help you to manage physical and emotional stress, recognise when you need help and prevent you from reaching crisis point.

Completing the self assessment worksheet will allow you to gauge your current level of self-care and can be referred to throughout your journey. Should you have any concerns about a lack of self-care or feel that you resist looking after yourself then we recommend you discuss this with someone you trust, or consult your GP. You can also set up an appointment with the RCN’s counselling service if you are a member.

My body

It is important to understand what your body does for you and how it enables you to carry out tasks.

In order to care for your body, you must maintain a balanced diet and healthy weight; hydrate; sleep; exercise regularly; attend to your body in times of ill-health and recognise when a task is too physically demanding.

My mind

Your mind is amazing. Every day it processes thousands of pieces of information and performs complex calculations. A healthy mind enables you to feel capable, confident and able to meet life's challenges.

Many factors can affect your mental health, including staff shortages, time pressures and caring for vulnerable patients. You may also be facing demands in your personal life such as a bereavement or financial problems.

Surviving and thriving is possible, in part, by taking action to care for your own mental health. Taking some time out to reflect on your wellbeing and state of mind can help you to focus on what your needs are and how to build your resilience.

My heart

Understanding our feelings is an essential part of living, so too is sharing them in a healthy way. Differentiating between feelings and naming them appropriately can help us understand ourselves better. The information which comes through feelings and emotions can guide our thinking and help us meet our emotional needs better.

Emotional self-care strategies include spending time with family and friends, giving yourself praise and showing self-compassion. Allow others to support you and confide in someone you trust.

My spirit

Spiritual self-care is very personal. It could be about seeking meaning or purpose in life; connecting with the present, self, others, nature or a higher power.

Your work will expose you to other people's suffering which may evoke sadness, moral distress and grief. Spiritual self-care can provide you with a different perspective on life’s experiences, another way to understand suffering as part of a larger picture or a way to cherish optimism and hope.

My work

Work is the cornerstone of many people's lives. How we feel at work can influence our attitude towards the rest of life. If we are challenged to grow, learn and develop our skills then work can fuel a deep sense of fulfilment.

As a health care professional you may be motivated to meet the needs of others before yourself. You work to meet the various needs of your patients. Failure to recognise your own self-care can cause stress and depression, and ultimately affect the care you are able to provide your patients.

If the demands of work overwhelm you, consider what steps you can take to feel more supported.

My career

Believing that you have some degree of control over your career is one aspect of self-care. Take time to think about what is important to you, what you enjoy doing and what you are good at. Taking these steps can help you to identify want you want from your career.

My balance

Balance can be considered in terms of a flow of energy. Giving and receiving are important parts of that flow. It is important that you look after yourself and keep energy levels up in order to support those around you. 

Achieving balance in life helps you to feel calm, clear-headed and motivated.  

Take time to identify any areas you are neglecting and find a balance that works for you.

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Page last updated - 10/03/2024