You may love travel nursing and the benefits that it affords you — you earn more than most perm nurses, you get to take vacations more often, and you get to opt out of hospital politics. All of this makes your life a bit less stressful. But, you have your challenges, too: always being the new nurse on the block, continually learning hospital policies and procedures, and finding your way in unfamiliar places every few months.
So, if you’re feeling stressed out, here are some quick ways to achieve a little relaxation and peace as a travel nurse.
Take your breaks
It’s easy to get caught up in call lights and med checks and forget to take your break. But your breaks are essential for your health and overall well-being (and are even mandatory in some states you may travel to!). So don’t skimp on your break time.
- Find a break buddy. Make a pact with another nurse to spot each other through break times.
- Think of your patients. Taking a break isn’t just good for your stress levels. Breaks help you provide better care, too.Unplug. When you’re on your break, really take a break. Don’t use it as time to catch up on other stressful aspects of life. Instead of checking email or thinking about all the work to be done, savor your meal, go for a walk, talk to a friend, or do something else you enjoy.
You’re probably an expert when it comes to making sure your patients are hydrated but did you know that even a little dehydration can increase your own stress levels significantly? Stress can cause dehydration and dehydration can cause stress, so making sure you have a steady water habit built into your days can help you stay ahead of the game.
- Make a reusable water bottle part of your nursing gear.
- Keep a glass of water next to your bed so you can drink first thing in the morning.
- Replace just one cup of coffee or can of soda with water.
Fit exercise into your day
We all know it can be tough to fit a workout class or a run into a busy day — especially if you’re working 12-hour shifts. You may be on your feet all day but standing isn’t enough — in fact, if you aren’t in motion, it may be just as stressful for your body as sitting. So, work some more exercise into your day — and tap the benefits of those natural stress reducers — endorphins.
- Speed walk throughout your shift. Added bonus — you’ll be known as a go-getter on every new hospital you visit.
- Incorporate a walk into your commute. If you live close enough to your hospital, leave your car at home and stroll into work. Even if you need to drive, park a bit further away and walk the rest of the way.
- Take the stairs. Especially in large hospitals, you may be traveling between floors often. Skip the elevator and walk — or run — up those stairs. You’ll get your heart pumping and banish the blues while you’re at it.
Get more sleep
Sleep can be tricky — especially when you work the night shift, and you’re trying to fall asleep while the rest of the world is blaring morning radio shows and making coffee. But the less sleep you get, the more stressed out you are.
- Practice good sleep hygiene. No matter what your schedule, try to keep a regular bedtime.
- Turn off that smartphone. The blue light of your screen suppresses melatonin, and tells your brain it’s time to be awake. So, put down your phone a good 30 minutes before it’s time for lights out.
- Develop a sleep ritual. Add a little something nice for yourself before bed — perhaps some chamomile tea or a nice bath to add more relaxation into your day.
Weird, right? But in a recent study, chewing gum increases mental alertness and reduces stress, especially when study participants were multitasking, which you likely do all day long as a travel nurse.
- Avoid sugary gums, as stress loves sugar.
- Check out this list of unique healthy gums without other bad-for-you chemicals.
- Bonus: your breath will be minty fresh!
Make new friends
Travel nursing can be lonely sometimes, and loneliness can up your life’s stress levels. The good news is that you can make friends wherever you go!
- Be approachable. When you first come on to a new unit, get yourself in an open frame of mind. Your face will tell people whether or not you’re interested in connecting, so be sure to convey positivity from the get-go.
- Do what you love. The best way to new friends outside of the hospital is to throw yourself into your passions. Do you love to go to trivia night? Are you an avid knitter? Find a group that lets you do what you love and connect with folk who share your interests.
- Follow up. In this era of constant notifications and instant communication, it’s easy for a new friendship to get lost in the shuffle. So, if you really want to forge a connection, be sure to follow up after you’ve hung out for the first time so your new buddy knows you’re interested.
You probably know that mindfulness techniques are all the rage nowadays, and for good reason. Not only does practicing mindfulness help you reduce stress, it also helps boost your memory, decrease pain levels, improve your focus, and even increase your levels of compassion. Here are a few tips just to get started.
- Set an intention at the start of each day to be more mindful. Before you even step on the hospital floor, check Facebook, or brush your teeth, simply commit to paying more attention to the present moment.
- Tap into your senses. Mindfulness doesn’t mean sitting in a room with your eyes closed. Paying attention to what you see, hear, taste, smell, and feel in any given moment is a great shortcut to being present.
- Pick a go-to visualization that can be your happy place. Here are some examples:
- You are a blue sky. Your thoughts are just clouds passing by.
- You are sitting next to a beautiful river. The sun is shining down on you, and there is a gentle breeze. Your thoughts are leaves just floating along. They will come and go.
- Your thoughts trains passing through a station. You don’t need to catch any train, you can just observe them passing by.
Looking for more tips for being the best travel nurse you can be? Check out our article on creating community as a travel nurse.