Self-Care for Nursing Students: 9 Tips

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Self-care for nursing students is key, especially in an accelerated BSN program. Self-care practices among nursing students include getting enough sleep, eating healthy, exercising, taking study breaks, forming peer friendships, talking with a counselor, going outside, decompressing in the evening, and interacting with loved ones.

Nurse wearing purple scrubs in a meditation pose

Nursing school is a challenge. This is not surprising, considering the great responsibility nurses carry. Nurses need to be competent and level-headed in intense situations, caring for their patients along the way. It makes sense that nursing school is stressful, as learning how to preserve life is a high calling. That’s why self-care for nursing students is so important for success.

In a nursing track like the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) at Concordia University Texas (CTX), effective self-care strategies are vital for student success. In our accelerated track — a combination of rigorous online courses and in-person labs and clinicals — students can earn their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) in as few as 16 months. At Concordia University, we are experienced at fostering success through mental health and wellness strategies.

There are specific self-care practices among nursing students that you can use to promote your wellness and prevent burnout. Self-care for nursing students can make or break your nursing success. In this post, we’ll share with you nine strategies you can use to preserve your wellness in a rigorous nursing school environment.

student with backpack walking into building

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1. Foster Peer Friendships

Common experiences are fuel for great friendships. When you’re going through something challenging, there’s high value in having people to talk to who share your experiences. Seek friendships with your peers, such as creating a study group. This will not only boost your classroom success but also improve your mental health.

Having peers to connect with helps you feel supported and heard. Some ideas for how to develop friendships with your ABSN cohort include:

  • Create a study group with a few peers. Connect weekly for group sessions.
  • Interact with peers during nursing labs. These in-person sessions are a great time to build cohesiveness.
  • Plan a dinner with your classmates the evening after you finish a major exam.
CTX ABSN students in lab working together

2. Get Quality Sleep

One of the most overlooked ways of promoting self-care during a busy nursing program is getting sufficient sleep. It’s important to avoid sleep deprivation and reliance on caffeine to stay alert. Prevent fatigue by giving yourself the rest you need to function at your peak. Sleep is key for learning and memory, not to mention the benefits it provides for your mental and emotional state.

During the ABSN track, it’s best to create a consistent bedtime and wake-up schedule that allows for 7–8 hours per night. If you still feel consistently tired in the morning, consider increasing your sleep time.

Here are a few ways to promote a healthy sleep schedule during the ABSN track:

  • Aim for 7–8 hours per night. Adjust as needed.
  • Pick a consistent bedtime. Set a phone or watch reminder for that time every night.
  • Wake up at the same time every day.
  • Minimize napping. Instead, extend your nighttime sleep if you feel fatigued during the day.

3. Eat Healthy

Another underappreciated way of practicing self-care in nursing school is by nourishing your body through what you eat. As a nurse, you’ll learn the complexities of treating patients’ illnesses, so why not take steps to prevent illness in your own life? Healthy eating is one of the best ways to stay well and prevent disease, such as heart disease and diabetes.

Not only does nutritious food stave off disease, but it also helps you remain fit and fuels your brain for learning. During a nursing curriculum, it can be challenging to make time for cooking, so having healthy food that’s easy to access is key. If it’s not right there in the fridge, it’s much easier to order takeout. Strategies like meal prepping allow you to prepare a week of meals ahead of time. Also, stock up on healthy snacks, such as fruit, veggies, and nuts, so you have nutritious snacking options.

You can benefit from healthy eating in nursing school with these strategies:

  • Aim to eat a combination of protein, healthy fats, and complex carbs.
  • Eat three meals a day to keep yourself fueled for studying.
  • Meal prep to save time during the week.
  • Keep healthy snacks on hand.

4. Take Study Breaks

Taking time for yourself during busy study days is one of the key self-care practices among nursing students. You can expect to spend the majority of your day studying in the ABSN track.

How to soar in nursing school - CTX ABSN student in sim lab

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It can be challenging to take breaks when you are busy or overwhelmed, but the personal time will pay off. In order to keep up with your studies and succeed in your online courses, simulation and skills labs, and clinicals during the 16 months of the ABSN track, you’ll need to set aside time for your wellness.

Each day, spend a little time relaxing and focusing on a hobby or interest other than nursing. This can include anything from cooking to painting to socializing with friends. If you have children, you could spend an hour eating dinner and playing with them before bedtime. Whatever you do, just make sure you spend time doing something that brings you joy.

Another point to remember is that you’ll need to prioritize the activities that are most valuable to you. You will have limited free time, so spend it wisely. Only take time for activities that improve your mental wellness.

Here are a few ways you can create personal time in your nursing school schedule:

  • Start by setting aside an hour a day for a leisure activity. Adjust the length based on how much time you need for studying each day.
  • Add breaks to your schedule, and don’t skip them. Prioritize this time for your mental wellness.
  • Make a list of your top priorities, and spend time on them. Cut out activities that don’t add value to your life.

5. Talk with Friends and Family

During nursing school, an important way you can relieve stress is by talking with friends or family outside of school. Whether in person or over the phone, having someone to talk with who is looking in from the outside will help you maintain perspective. Something may seem like a huge deal to you, but discussing the challenge with a friend can help you realize that it’s a hurdle that can be overcome.

CTX ABSN students in class studying

Family and friends are often sources of boundless encouragement. Even in the worst of circumstances, they’ll cheer you on without fail. This support is good for you — everyone needs a cheerleader, so embrace it.

The other benefit of talking with a loved one is that they can help you connect with other parts of your life that are meaningful. Your mom can update you on the family news, your spouse can tell you about their workday, and your friend can talk to you about their own life updates. A brief phone conversation can improve your mood, provide encouragement, and give you confidence to overcome any challenges.

6. Exercise Regularly

Exercise is a great habit for improving nursing student self-care. Not only does exercise improve your physical health, but it also improves mood and relieves stress. As a nursing student, your days will be filled with a lot of sitting and reading, so getting up and moving around is a terrific way to stay well.

When you begin nursing school, focus on studying, and work exercise into your routine when you can. It’s best to schedule exercise ahead of time. Add it to your calendar so you can set aside time for it.

Here are a few exercising tips for nursing student wellness:

  • Start by exercising a few times per week and adjust based on how much time you have.
  • Fit exercise into a time that doesn’t interfere with studying.
  • Consider waking up early to exercise first thing in the morning.
  • Exercise with a friend for the added benefit of social interaction.

7. Talk with a Counselor

You are never alone on the ABSN journey, and the faculty and instructors at Concordia University are here to fully support you. We want you to have the help you need, both academically and personally. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed, you may benefit from talking with a professional counselor. A wide range of individuals can benefit from having a caring person to talk with about their concerns and challenges.

If you’d like to see how counseling can support your self-care in nursing school, feel free to reach out to the CTX ABSN success coach, who can help you set up a session with a counselor. You can also find many opportunities for virtual counseling through online mental health platforms.

8. Go Outdoors

One of the simplest strategies for nursing student self-care is spending time outside. Sunshine provides you with vitamin D, which can improve your mood.

During school, you spend your time studying, going to lab, and attending clinicals, all of which happen inside. It’s good to get outside for a walk, a bike ride, or a study session on the patio.

ABSN@CTX student

Take some time each day to be outside. If you can’t take time off from studying, try going for a walk while listening to a lecture or running through your flashcards on the lawn.

9. Decompress at the End of the Day

At the end of a long day of studying for your nursing courses, it’s helpful to find a way to relax and unwind for five or 10 minutes. If you enjoy reading, keep a book under your pillow and take a few minutes to read before you close out the day. If music relaxes you, spend a few minutes listening to music before bed.

Amid the intensity of an accelerated nursing program, it’s beneficial to give your mind a break after a busy clinical shift or a challenging study session.

Here are a few ways you can decompress in nursing school:

  • Write in a journal before bed.
  • Listen to music or a favorite podcast as you get ready for bed.
  • Read a chapter in a non-nursing book before falling asleep.

Get Started on Your Nursing Journey

Are you ready to get started with a rewarding nursing career? Although the ABSN track is challenging, you will reap the professional and personal benefits of becoming a nurse for decades. At Concordia University Texas, the faculty and staff in our Accelerated BSN track are committed to standing by you as you take on the challenge of nursing school.

Start where you are.

Learn more about the process of how you can become a nurse and earn your BSN with a non-nursing bachelor’s degree.

In the accelerated track, you’ll benefit from a hybrid format, learning through interactive online courses, joining in-person nursing labs, and participating in clinical placements at top regional health facilities. If you’re looking to make a change to nursing and have at least 60 non-nursing college credits or a bachelor’s degree, then you’re on the right path to jumping into our 16-month ABSN track.

You can begin creating your ideal future today. Reach out to an admissions counselor to see how CTX can help you achieve your nursing goals.