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Your much-anticipated day off finally arrives, but instead of enjoying it, you spend the entire time thinking about work. When you return to work, you’re just as stressed as you were before your day off. Nurses spend so much time taking care of everyone else that they often forget to take care of themselves. Nursing can be stressful, and even more so if you are taking classes to earn your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN). It is a good idea to learn some relaxation strategies that really work.

If you are mentally exhausted and haven’t achieved a good work-life balance, you and your patients may be suffering. The challenge is in embracing the idea that taking time to unwind is not wasted time. Allowing your mind to relax and removing your thoughts from work or school can enable you to return more refreshed.

It can also help to:

  • Boost productivity and focus.
  • Decrease burnout potential.
  • Increase job satisfaction.
  • Decrease stress.
  • Improve morale.
  • Improve patient outcomes.

You can improve productivity in the long term if you allow yourself to be idle when you’re off duty. You may know what helps you relax, but prioritizing time for yourself can be challenging.

What Are Some Ways to Take Your Mind Off Work?

Get Physical – Exercise might be the last thing on your mind after too many long shifts, but a little intentional movement can provide benefits to physical and mental health. Exercise can improve mood, boost energy and improve sleep, in addition to helping prevent and manage health problems. You don’t have to complete a vigorous workout to reap the benefits. Even taking your pet for a walk can help clear your thoughts while you enjoy the positive benefits of spending time with your pet.

Let Your Mind Escape – When your thoughts keep circling back to that one patient or an upcoming test, a mental vacation can be beneficial. You don’t have to leave the house to enhance your emotional well-being. Forget your worries by reading a book, writing in a journal, watching a movie or revisiting a favorite hobby.

Become a Social Butterfly – Your social schedule may have suffered or become nonexistent while juggling your work and school schedules. Spend some time with friends and family, and nurture these healthy relationships.

Embrace Your Creativity – Adults have little time for unobstructed play. Calm your busy mind by turning up the music of your favorite playlist and dance your cares away. Once you’ve worn yourself out, pull out a puzzle or an adult coloring book to focus on your creative side.

Do Nothing – All the tasks waiting for you will be there tomorrow. Catch up on sleep and increase your mental alertness by taking a nap, or refocus your thoughts with yoga, mindfulness or meditation.

Develop Healthy Habits – Instead of your usual rush out the door, start the day off slowly. Take time to savor your coffee and begin the day with a positive attitude by listening to an inspiring podcast.

Indulge a Little – Try that recipe you wanted to make, schedule a massage, or go shopping for something other than scrubs. If you’re on a budget, go window shopping and create your own home spa experience with a bubble bath and your favorite magazine.

Completely Unplug – Schedule an away message on your emails. If you cannot bear to shun social media all day, plan certain limited times to check in.

Go Off the Clock – Nurses usually live by the clock. They rush to get to work, distribute medications, follow a class schedule, or adhere to assignment deadlines. Avoid planning anything and follow your internal clock for the day.

Permit Yourself to Daydream – Stop thinking about today and dream about your ultimate future. Envision accomplishing all of your hopes and dreams.

Return to Work Refreshed and Recharged

You have a life outside of nursing. Make mental breaks a priority and return to work with increased focus and a better ability to deal with stressors. A shift in your mindset to realize that caring for yourself is not self-indulgent, but necessary, can help you feel mentally refreshed and enable you to be a better nurse.

Learn more about the Mississippi College online RN to BSN Program.


Psychology Today: Why Your Mind Needs a Break

Scientific American: Why Your Brain Needs More Downtime

The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing: Practicing Self-Care for Nurses: A Nursing Program Initiative

Time: Science Says Your Pet Is Good for Your Mental Health

Minority Nurse: Depression in Nurses: The Unspoken Epidemic

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