3 Self-Care Strategies for Nurse Leaders That Don't Take More Time

3 Self-Care Strategies for Nurse Leaders

Nursing leaders experience just as much stress, if not more so, than those working directly in patient care. The nurse leader is tied up in meetings, on telephone calls, and often has to travel for the job. The brain is overworked and the body is pushed to the max. Not to mention the fact that nursing leadership is often struggling to keep multiple parties happy.

Let’s face it- being a nurse leader is no walk in the park!

And- we need nursing leadership that are happy and healthy. On so many levels. These nurses are the role models for the new graduate nurses who look up to them. They are the people that need to recruit and retain strong nursing staff to the organizations that employ them. Without a robust nursing leadership, the entire workplace suffers.

So, how does a nurse leader reduce tension and stress? What’s more… how do they find or have the time to do it?

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Choose Activity While Working.

Many of the executive level nursing roles require a lot of sitting time. That’s right- we all know that back to back to back to back meetings mean that the nurse leader is sitting at a table or desk all day.

Realizing this- and that there is little time for movement in a busy work day- we need to incorporate as much movement while we work. How can we do that?

One way is to think about your commute and travel to work. Do you get in at 6 am, as one of the first employees? And if so, where do you park? Probably the closest to the building as you can. Next time you pull into the parking lot- think about distancing yourself from the door so that you need to take extra steps to your office.

Again, our movement comes into play as we hit up nursing units for various nursing leadership meetings. Instead of the easy and fast elevator, why not take the stairs? The more that you can move the body while you work- the better.

If you are at your desk, answering emails and fielding phone calls… why not stand? I have a standing desk and highly recommend doing part of the work day on your feet.

Finally, when you do get a few minutes to yourself from time-to-time… is there any way to get outside and go for a walk? In fact, if this sounds like it will never happen because there is no “me time” at work… try this one on for size. Instead of sitting at your desk during a phone call, why not take it on-the-go? Walk and talk! This will help you get through the conference meeting and also get the heart pumping as you head outside.


Yes, you may have heard a lot about the breath. And it does not take more time. Cause if you are not breathing, then you’re not doing well in the first place, right!?

How is this self-care related though? And what’s a surefire breath exercise that will work?

In my book, “Stop Nurse Burnout”, I talk about something called the squeegee breath. What’s this, you might be wondering. Well, it is an intentional exercise that helps release tension in under a minute’s time.

Here you go- try it now. First, set your intention that you are going to release anything stressing you and become calm and relaxed. Next, breathe in. Take a deep, long inhale and hold your breath for a count of one, two, and three. Then, release the breath and exhale all of the way to the bottom of your feet. As you are exhaling, you are releasing any tension and when you get to the bottom of your exhale- hold the breath for one, two, and three. Final step- SMILE and say “Ahhhhh”.

Do this any time and as much as you need through the course of your day.

Eat Something.

Sure, this one sounds obvious. But how many times do you work through lunch? On top of that, how often do work meetings supply foods for you? But they are sugary, fatty, and totally unhealthy.

A bonus tip for eating something is to come prepared yourself! Bring snacks that don’t take time and are energizing. You can carry these in your pocket or laptop case and have them with you when you need something quick.

Easy ideas are veggies, nuts, or trail mix. Feeling hungry at 10 am and not yet time for lunch? Bring out some carrots to crunch on. After lunch, feeling sleepy and like you need a boost of energy? Munch on a healthy bag of mixed nuts.

These are the types of foods you can keep in your office, carry on-the-move, and have with you whenever you need a fast-fix. Avoid sugary snacks and over-doing it on the caffeine drinks. These will only make you more tired and even hungrier later on.

And since eating healthy is not my specific area of expertise, I recommend checking out Cassandra Herbert’s Zest and Harmony resources. She is a fellow nurse and nutrition guru. I always consult her site when I am looking for a fun, healthy, and quick snack. Enjoy!

Let’s hear from you! What do you do to take care of yourself while at work? Can you share a tip with your nursing colleagues for how to relieve stress in the workplace? Leave a comment and thank you for reading.

Elizabeth Scala, MSN/MBA, RNAbout the Author: Keynote speaker and virtual conference host, Elizabeth Scala MSN/MBA, RN, partners with hospitals, nursing schools, and nurse associations to transform the field of nursing from the inside out. As the bestselling author of ‘Nursing from Within’, Elizabeth guides nurses and nursing students to a change in perspective, helping them make the inner shift needed to better maneuver the sometimes challenging realities of being a caregiver. Elizabeth received her dual master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University. She is also a certified coach and Reiki Master Teacher. Elizabeth lives in Maryland with her supportive husband and playful pit bull.