Are you a travel nurse that’s working over the holidays? If so, you’ll probably need to strategize to stay on top of your game.
That’s why we’ve created a list of suggestions to help you stay organized, well-rested, and high-performing while juggling all your holiday responsibilities.
Read on for tips on how to remain healthy and happy while working this holiday season!
The holidays are busy, plain and simple. And if you’re working, it’s important to set expectations for your friends and family ahead of time.
Work with your supervisor to find out which shifts you’re working as soon as you can, and let your loved ones know when you’ll be available. Even if you can’t join their official gatherings, you can still celebrate the holidays a few days early or late.
Your friends and family may be disappointed that they can’t spend as much time with you this holiday season (virtually or in person), but be kind to yourself. Overloading your schedule will only create unnecessary fatigue and stress, which could negatively affect your physical and psychological wellbeing.
Make Time for Holiday Fun with Your Coworkers
Working during the holidays can add stress to your regular schedule, so it’s important to make time to laugh and enjoy yourself, no matter where you are.
Have some holiday fun with your coworkers, or do something spontaneous. Some ways to spread cheer within your unit include:
- Playing “Elf on the Shelf”
- Decorating your unit with coworkers
- Write your teammates letters of gratitude
- Add holiday accessories to your outfit
- Playing “Secret Santa” with coworkers
- Get a surprise “holiday meal” or snacks delivered for your teammates
Develop a Consistent Sleep Schedule
Being well-rested is the most important part of staying healthy and on your game when you’re super busy or working long hours over the holidays.
While it can be difficult for shift workers to maintain a stable sleeping schedule, try to be as consistent as possible. This will make falling asleep and waking up much easier, and reduce your chance of crashing while you’re awake.
If you work nights, limit your use of electronics before bed and invest in blackout curtains to darken your room during the daytime.
Remaining open-minded about your new schedule will help you develop a routine that works. Once you’ve figured out which sleeping schedule works best for you, stick to it. Sleeping at irregular intervals will lead you to poor health, stress, and on-the-job-mistakes.
Only Use Your Bedroom for Sleeping
Do you use your bedroom for activities other than sleeping? If you’re someone that has trouble falling or staying asleep, you might need to find a new room for working, watching television, or using your laptop.
By using your bedroom exclusively for sleeping, you strengthen your brain’s association between “bedroom” and “sleep.” If you find yourself lying awake and struggling to fall asleep, try moving to another room and doing something else until you feel tired enough to try again.
If You Work Nights, Work Your Shifts Consecutively
If you can, try to schedule your night shifts consecutively. This will help you maintain a stable eating and sleeping routine, which will keep your energy levels high.
Working consecutive night shifts will also allow you to enjoy your days off, rather than spend them catching up on sleep.
Due to the nature of the job, it can be difficult for healthcare professionals to stay hydrated. But drinking water is essential for maintaining your physical and mental health.
Bring a refillable water bottle with you and drink steadily throughout your shift — once you’re thirsty, a headache may be on the way.
Physical exertion causes the body to release endorphins, which acts as a natural energy boost. Staying fit and active will give you the energy you need to thrive on while working over the holidays.
Studies show that just 10 minutes of light exercise will significantly increase your alertness. If you don’t have time to work out before your shift, there are ways to fit exercise into your work schedule. Lunges, wall-sits, and jogging up and down the stairs are great ways to stay active while you’re on the job.
Make Time for Friends & Family
Most of the world works during the daytime, which makes socializing difficult for healthcare professionals who work nights or irregular hours. However, it’s important to spend time with friends and family.
Your social life greatly impacts your emotional well-being, which is closely tied to your physical and mental health. Avoid feeling isolated or lonely by making time for social interaction.
Maintaining your emotional well-being will help you provide better care for your patients and help you have a longer, happier career.
Be Careful on Your Days Off
Although it may be tempting to change your schedule to suit your days off, be careful about disrupting your regular sleeping and meal schedules.
Staying awake for too long before starting your first shift of the week will disrupt your internal clock, negatively affecting your energy levels. Eating at irregular intervals prevents your metabolism from functioning efficiently and optimally.
Even though it’s the holidays, do your best to maintain your routine. Your body will thank you later.
Eat Healthy Snacks During Your Shift
Snacking is a great way to stay energized over the course of a long shift. However, it’s important to eat the right snacks.
Almonds and cashews are high in healthy fats and protein. Avocados are superfoods, which means they’re nutrient-dense and contain relatively few calories. Fruits and vegetables are low-calorie options with natural sugars and fiber.
Try to avoid snacks high in sodium and added sugar — they may give you a quick boost, but you’ll end up crashing hard.
Training and Education
There are lots of resources to help nurses who work long hours thrive. Organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offer online classes created by experts for professionals like you.
Night or long-shift training offers in-depth strategies for your professional and personal life intended to maximize your performance and minimize your stress levels.
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