So you’ve decided to take the plunge and enroll in a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree? That’s great! You have made the first step towards a more rewarding and advanced chapter of your career as a nurse.
The DNP is a qualification that will open doors to higher-level job roles and greater employability, as well as boost your knowledge and take your skills to new heights. However, have you given any thought as to how you’ll take care of your own wellbeing while learning how to take care of other people’s?
Studying any graduate-level program can be tough, but as a nurse, you have the extra pressure of clinical placements where you spend long hours on your feet and may face emotionally challenging situations. Don’t panic, though! There are lots of steps you can take to practice self-care effectively while undertaking your DNP.
This will not only be good for your mental and physical health, but it can also improve your grades by helping your brain to function at its best. Interested in learning more? Read on for some top tips!
Take regular exercise
As a nursing student, you will already be well aware of the importance of staying physically active. It helps us to maintain a healthy weight, stave off a wide range of diseases, and even boosts our mood. Try joining a yoga, dance, or martial arts class on campus, or get up early to fit in a run or home workout before class.
Even a brisk walk on your lunch break can make a big difference, especially if it gets you out in nature. The key is to find an activity that you enjoy and look forward to and that you can fit around your college schedule.
Exercise is arguably more important for nursing students than those studying other subjects because you will often be on your feet all day – a situation that will continue once you’ve graduated and started work. Building up an exercise habit now will raise your physical fitness and stamina, thereby making your job easier later on.
Connect with others on your course
Studying can often seem like a very solitary activity, so it’s vital that you reach out to others on your course and make meaningful connections with your cohort. Not only is this good for your mental health, but it can also help you to succeed academically because you’ll all be able to motivate and support each other.
This tip is even more important if you are studying online rather than on campus because it’s easier to feel isolated doing all your work at home alone. Try searching for virtual social groups for students on DNP midwifery programs or whatever your particular specialty is, or for distance learning students from any discipline. Just because you’re studying different subjects doesn’t mean you can’t be friends!
Get plenty of good quality sleep
Sleeping well is vital for so many reasons. It helps us to feel refreshed and alert, boosts our memory and concentration, and even improves our appearance! Napping can be an important form of self-care, as can getting an early night when your body needs it. If you struggle to fall asleep when you go to bed, try to avoid caffeine and screen use late at night.
It can also be helpful to stick to a regular sleep schedule, which means getting up and going to bed at roughly the same time every day. Other top tips include getting a sleep mask and blackout curtains to avoid being woken up by light, trying calming breathing exercises at night, having a hot bath with lavender oil before bed, and listening to a relaxing sleep story as you drift off.
As you’re sure to learn about during your studies, eating a nutritious and balanced diet is key for our mental and physical health. Plus, as a nurse, it sets a great example for your patients! Aim to include lots of colorful vegetables in your meals, as well as whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
Be sure to stay hydrated, too, as this will keep your cognitive functions at their best. Fruit can be a great snack when you’re at college all day, but don’t feel like you have to restrict yourself too severely – treating yourself every now and again is an important part of self-care, too, so you don’t need to give up chocolate altogether!
Engage in hobbies you love
Studying for a DNP can take up a lot of your time, but it’s important to also set aside time for your favorite hobbies. Whether it’s reading, going to the movie theater, playing a musical instrument, or drawing, engaging in an activity that you love can help to relax you and boost your levels of happiness.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should neglect your college work, but if you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, then taking a break can often help you to be more productive in the long run. If you don’t yet have such a hobby, take some time to find one that inspires you! Simply spending quality time with your friends and family counts too.
An important part of this is setting clear boundaries between your nursing work and your personal life to ensure you can switch off and decompress at the end of long or difficult days.
Organize your studies effectively
This aspect of self-care might not sound as fun as some of the others, but it’s important for getting through your DNP happily and successfully. Good organization can help to prevent you from becoming overwhelmed by your schoolwork. For instance, try to complete all of your reading and written assignments well in advance of the deadline so that you don’t need to stay up all night working on them.
Likewise, aim to study a little bit every day – that way, if you need to miss one session, you won’t be too far behind. This kind of frequent repetition can also help you to remember the material better, boosting your academic performance. Finally, improving your time management and similar skills now will not only help you at college but also in the workplace after you graduate.