Do I Have Time for Self-Care?

Written by Samantha Wall, LCSW

I am sure you looked at this title and thought, “If one more person tries to tell me to do ‘self-care’, I’m going to lose it.” If that wasn’t your first reaction, great! Self-care is a buzzword for taking time for yourself, but when you work in a profession with 12-hour shifts, where all your focus is spent taking care of others, time for yourself can be hard to come by. I was first bombarded with talks about self-care in grad school, and my first reaction was always, ‘well, when I have time after my homework, internship, and my job, I will do some self-care.’ Then I went along laughing because I really didn’t think I had time. Self-care is also a topic that is brought up at both jobs I have taken in the mental health field. As I have spent time as a mental health professional, I have been able to expand and grow in what self-care not only means to me, but what it means to my clients. There is no one-size-fits-all for self-care, it (as most things) takes a unique plan and follow-through to help you in your daily life! I promise, it is worthwhile! 


What is self-care? The definition of self-care is “…the individual practice of
health management without the aid of a medical professional. In health care, self-care is any human regulatory function which is under individual control, deliberate and self-initiated, for the purpose of the maintenance of health and wellbeing.” (thank you wikipedia!). So what is ‘individual practice of health management?’ It looks differently to different people. There are no rules for self-care besides one: be sure  ‘it isn’t hurting you mentally or physically’.
When anyone talks about self-care, the first thing that comes to my mind is candles, bubble baths, face masks, and reading a book all at the same time! If that is what helps you stay grounded and regulated, amazing! If you are thinking, ‘I do not have time to do that and I don’t think that would help me,’ also amazing–we just have to find your version of self-care.  


Sometimes, self-care doesn’t feel like self-care. Self-care can be as simple as sticking to a daily routine of basic needs, like brushing your teeth, brushing your hair, eating breakfast, drinking water, having as much of a sleep schedule as possible, etc. Routines are not fun to stick to, especially when you are tired and struggling to make through the day. Despite it being hard, they are IMPORTANT! If you feel like you are starting from ground zero, start with routines. I am not saying plan your day out minute by minute, just set an intention to do those daily tasks of brushing teeth, eating breakfast, and having a nice glass of water with your choice of caffeine. You decide what you have the capacity for each day, and making time to meet your basic needs is a great place to start! Your brain and body will thank you! I also want to point out a word that I used: INTENTION, not goal. Sometimes with goals if we don’t meet them, we beat ourselves up. That is not the point of self-care. Self-care is where we are showing our brain and body we care about them, and that can start off with working towards a daily routine. This is the foundation of creating a healthier mindset each day. 


There are a couple of ways to integrate self care into your day. If you feel like the daily routine of basic needs is easy for you, or you have gotten to a place where you are able to meet those basic needs more days than not, this is another area you can work on! Focus on things you enjoy, that also support your health physically and mentally, before and after work. Do you want a walk/exercise to be a part of your weekly routine? Do you need to decompress by listening to a funny podcast at the end of your shift? Do you need to sit in the car for five minutes listening to music before you go into your house? Do you like to walk before your shifts to get your brain ready to take care of others? Do you need to take five minutes to sit in your car before a shift? Asking these questions is a great way to figure out how to build self-care into your routine. I am sure you already are doing some of these things subconsciously. Again, being more intentional helps take care of our brains and bodies! For me, I LOVE to listen to funny podcasts or music to decompress after a day of work. Honestly, it really depends on the day I have had. If I had a rough day and want to decompress, I will listen to a funny podcast to take my mind off of the rough day and process the day when I am more regulated, either with a coworker or supervisor. If I had a great day and am feeling really good, I will 100% choose my favorite music playlist.


So, just to recap:

  • Self-care is doable for anyone. Do what works for you! 
  • Setting intentions to have daily routines around basic needs is a great place to start!
  • Brush teeth, eat breakfast, drink water, set up a sleep routine (wake up and fall asleep at similar times each day)
  • Setting intentions to have routines before and after work can be helpful when we have a stressful job like nursing! 


What are some of your go-to self-care routines? 



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