Balancing a full-time nursing career with family, friends, and “me” time is very challenging. Add an online postgraduate nursing degree program to the mix, and you know for sure that “not enough hours in the day” is more than a cliché.
If you’re taking your leadership and clinical skills to the next level by pursuing a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), you know all about juggling competing priorities and the relentless pressure to excel. Although frazzled nerves, anxiety, and stress are common for both nursing professionals and graduate students, they don’t have to compromise your physical, mental, and emotional health.
If your academic workload is throwing your work/life balance out of whack, try a couple of the following therapeutic techniques to help tamp down stress levels. They’ll benefit you during your advanced-level nursing program as well as in your career as an accomplished healthcare professional.
1) Adhere to a schedule
A visible and realistic weekly or monthly schedule can keep you on track, organized, and more relaxed. Blocking out a time for everything in your life and sticking to your plan helps diminish the mental agitation that often comes when you’re overwhelmed by the feeling that there’s way too much to do.
Whether it’s a mobile app, Google Calendar, color-coordinated daily planner, or month-at-a-glance wall chart, find a system that works best for your needs. Schedule time slots for job, class, study, sleep, exercise, and social relaxation.
2) Cultivate peer support
No one is better at providing the emotional support and “I hear you” camaraderie that you need during your graduate program than your classmates. Join a study group, or form one of your own. Not only do you reap the benefits of ongoing emotional connection, but studying with peers enhances your learning process and inspires you to stay on track. You might just develop friendships that last a lifetime.
3) Make daily exercise a priority
Avoid the temptation to skimp on regular physical activity. It’s as important to your brain’s health as your body’s. Even just five minutes of aerobic walking, running, or jumping rope stimulates anti-anxiety effects, notes the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). Research shows that exercise is “very effective at reducing fatigue, improving alertness and concentration, and at enhancing overall cognitive function. This can be especially helpful when stress has depleted your energy or ability to concentrate.”
Exercise also helps you retain the information you’re studying. Harvard Medical School reports that regular exercise “stimulates brain regions that are involved in memory function to release a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF rewires memory circuits so they work better.”
4) Practice spiritual self-care
Regular spiritual centering is the cornerstone of your success and health. It’s easy to let this slip when you’re consumed with studies, family obligations, and tending to the needs of others in your healthcare job.
Develop a menu of spiritual nourishment practices that help you thrive and feel balanced and centered. Are you most inspired and uplifted by prayer, meditation, Bible reading, gratitude journaling, or mindfulness walks? Remember to schedule your spiritual exercise time into your weekly planner, make it a top priority, and always honor your commitment to yourself.
5) Keep your eye on the prize
When you’re sure that you can’t feel any more frustrated or stressed, remember that you’re contributing to your community and your country in a highly valuable and desperately needed way. The existing shortage of Registered Nurses in the United States “is expected to intensify as Baby Boomers age and the need for health care grows,” explains the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN).
You had your own personal reasons for pursuing a career in healthcare, and you knew that the path would be challenging and intense. Reinvoke your passion for this profession when daily stressors cause you to lose sight of your long-term plan. Why did you decide to become a nurse? Are those goals still relevant? If not, how can you take control of your career path now? Do you need additional educational resources to steer yourself in a new direction? Revise you career development plan to feel more in control of your process and personally empowered.
Would you like to learn more about a Christ-centered online degree program that comes to you? Abilene Christian University offers a Doctor of Nursing Practice program that lets you earn your degree as part of a vibrant, virtual, Christ-centered community with no need to relocate — all while balancing the demands of work, life, and your community.