Building resiliency will help ensure you have the capacity to respond to patients, clients, and loved ones
By Lisa Alphonsus
December 22, 2023
Why is self-care important?
As nurses, we are caregivers, and we are good at it. Unfortunately, we are not always the best caregivers of ourselves.
Self-care is important because when we take proper care of ourselves, it is easier to take care of others. We can take better care of our patients the stronger we are. You can’t pour from an empty cup.
When you know that your mental, emotional, physical and spiritual needs are going to be met, you can confidently give and care for your patients and their families, knowing that your own needs will be met as well.
Giving and giving until you have nothing left doesn’t benefit anyone in the long term — not your patients, your loved ones, and certainly not yourself. Although we are caregivers, we also deserve to engage in our own self-care.
What exactly is “self-care”?
It sounds so fluffy, a term I used to roll my eyes at. But if I’ve learned anything at all during the past three years of pandemic nursing, it is that self-care is important. The concept of self-care, of caring for yourself, although not exactly rocket science, is 100 per cent easier said than done.
Caring for yourself is seeing yourself with compassion. It means identifying needs that are not being met and working toward meeting those needs.
Why is it beneficial to think of self-care as a journey?
A journey is the process of travelling from one place to another. Self-care is a journey because when we engage in it, we travel from who we are in the current moment to a stronger, more resilient, and more capable person.
Self-care is a journey of becoming — becoming stronger, more resilient, more in touch with your mental and emotional needs. It is a lifelong journey, one that will never be finished as long as you are alive.
When we give up on self-care, we give up on ourselves. We owe it to ourselves to be our best and provide the best care to our patients, families and co-workers.
So then, how do I go about taking care of myself?
I’m glad you asked! Perhaps it might help to think of yourself from the third-person point of view and ask yourself, “How can I take care of (insert your name here)? What do I need?”
The question is not necessarily “What do I want,” because if we were to answer that, we might want to sit on the couch all day or go on a shopping binge, things that may only make us feel worse in the long run.
When we answer that question honestly — “How can I take care of myself?” — and commit to doing something, anything, we move toward a stronger, more capable version of ourselves.
We all need different things, and I think that if we are truly honest with ourselves, we know something we might do that would take us a step forward on the self-care journey. This might mean doing more (seeing a counsellor or a nutritionist, exercising, journalling, reading a book), or it might mean doing less (unclogging your schedule, deleting some phone apps), or a combination of both.
Show kindness to yourself. Be gentle, take care of yourself. You deserve it. In doing so, you will become a stronger, more resilient nurse, and — more importantly — a stronger, more resilient person.
Here are some resources that can help you get started:
Lisa Alphonsus, RN, BN, has been an emergency department registered nurse for the past eight years. She works at South Health Campus in Calgary and is completing her master’s degree in nursing at the University of Calgary.