How to Form Healthy Habits as a Nurse
As a nurse, you’re no stranger to a hectic lifestyle. Rotating shifts, overtime, and abnormal work hours are all contributing factors to an unpredictable daily routine
It may be difficult to form healthy habits as a nurse when your schedule and energy levels can vary so much. Working multiple 12-hour shifts in a row isn’t exactly conducive to a healthy lifestyle, but it definitely doesn’t have to stop you from living one.
Activities necessary for a strong physical and mental state like exercising, healthy eating, and adequate sleeping can all be influenced greatly by establishing favorable habits.
What Does it Take to Form a Habit?
Research suggests there are three phases to habit formation:
1. Initiation Phase – The target behavior and the context in which it is practiced is chosen.
2. Learning Phase – This is where automaticity is developed as the context-behavior association is reinforced by repetition.
3. Stability Phase – In the final phase, the habit persists with minimal effort and forms a “plateau.”
Tips For Creating New Habits
Creating small, attainable goals tends to garner the most success. For example, deciding you will complete an exercise YouTube video at home for 20 minutes three times per week is more likely to be successful than attempting to go to the gym for 90 minutes every day of the week.
Here are some more tips for successfully forming a new habit:
Recruit a Fellow Nurse – Find a buddy to work on a goal with. Hold one another accountable and have fun doing it together!
Remove Temptation – Is your goal to eat a salad for lunch every day? Avoid going out with your friends to a burger joint in the early phase!
It’s Not Over When You Mess Up – Don’t let missing a day derail your progress! Acknowledge the misstep and commit to your plan.
Focus on the End Goal – If your ultimate goal is to get in the best shape of your life, keep that in mind as you work through establishing multiple habits to get you there.
Track Yourself – Keep a visual log of your goals so you can check them off each day as they are completed. Fortunately, there are numerous habit-tracking apps available to keep you focused and accountable!
What Are Some Habits I Can Work on as a Nurse?
We’ve come up with some examples of habits aimed to help nurses who may struggle with health and wellness when their careers are a top priority. Each bullet point is meant to be a separate habit to achieve an end goal. Your individual needs and the difficulty of each habit will vary based on where you are in your wellness journey.
● Go to bed at the same time each day/night.
● Create a solid bedtime routine – shower, listen to relaxing music, read.
● Start your bedtime routine right when you get home after your night shift rather than staying up for a few hours.
If you are struggling with sleeping, you might be suffering from shift work sleep disorder. Read more on how to cope with shift work sleep disorder.
Maximize your sleep with these suggestions.
● Take a walk for 15 minutes at lunch every day.
● Complete an exercise video before breakfast each morning at home.
● Attend a class at the gym three days per week.
● Hire a fitness coach and commit to his/her training program for two months.
● Do 100 squats per day for one month.
● Stretch for 20 minutes after work every shift.
Read more on our suggested free at-home fitness classes
● Eat a vegetable with two of your meals each day.
● Prepare your lunches several days out instead of making last-minute decisions.
● Cook dinner at home six days per week
● Drink a healthy smoothie each day for breakfast
● Drink water. Set remembers to drink the suggested 8 cups of water a day.
● Eat 1500 calories per day for one month
Don’t have the time to prepare your meals, Check out Daily Harvest!
Now it’s time to commit! Write down your goals where you can see them each day and hold yourself responsible.
What are some habits you have struggled to establish? What is your biggest hurdle as a nurse to better health?
Gardner, B., Lally, P., & Wardle, J. (2012). Making health habitual: the psychology of ‘habit-formation’ and general practice. The British journal of general practice : the journal of the Royal College of General Practitioners, 62(605), 664–666. doi:10.3399/bjgp12X659466