Top Ten Tips to Thrive in Nursing School

Top Ten Tips to Thrive in Nursing School is based off of a lecture I gave last February to the nursing students at Anoka Ramsey Community College. I wished I had some of these insights while I was going through nursing school myself, it would have made my experience a lot smoother. My intent is that you can find the space to receive the information and better yet, start to implement some of the steps listed here to make your life and time in school more enjoyable. As in most learning, laying a good foundation is an essential first step. For nurses, self-care is good care.

Be compassionate to yourself.

Do not compare yourself to others under any circumstances.

Action steps:

  • Keep a gratitude journal.
  • Recite an affirmation daily that helps you, for example, “I am learning exactly what I need to learn in exactly the right timing and the perfect opportunities are showing up for me.”

Beef up your support system.

Connect with people whom adore you and will support you, but also help you stretch when you need a swift push into your fullest potential.

Action steps:

  • Get an accountability partner who is in school with you so you can study and offer support to one another.
  • Ask your loved ones if they are willing to offer you extra support during this time and if they agree, suggest ways they can help you, such as babysit your kids, do your grocery shopping, help you clean your house.

Practice grounding techniques at least once a day.

This will keep you grounded in your physical body so that you are more in tune with what it is that your body/emotions/spirit needs, which makes coping with stress easier.

Action steps:

  • Practice mindfulness meditation-setting the intention to try this and sitting quietly for even five minutes to observe whatever comes up for you without placing any judgement on those things-emotions-physical sensations-thoughts. Practicing mindfulness will reduce your tendency to react and will improve your general awareness which can reduce stress.
  • Start a yoga practice-yoga is simple and can be practiced anywhere that you can find a chair or a space large enough to roll out a yoga mat. Start with the basics and build from there.
  • Breath Work-shift your focus inward and notice your breath. Just doing this causes you to relax a bit. After a few minutes of noticing your breath pattern, take a deep breath in through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Repeat this ten times very slowly. We tend to use a shallow breathing pattern in our day to day activities. When you take deep belly breaths it actually helps you relax by sending a signal to your parasympathetic nervous system that it is ok to relax. This is very helpful when you are running on a chronic stress pattern in the body.
  • Get out in nature and reconnect to the planet. It is even better if you are able remove your shoes and feel the earth, dirt, water, and sand on your feet. The feet have a lot of information to share with us about our health and wellness. Just connecting with nature can remove the level of overwhelm we feel at times. It is a reminder that the universe is always supporting us and that everything is probably going to be okay.

Move every day, even if it’s only for ten minutes.

Exercise is a great way to decompress and manage tension, stress, and anxiety.

Action steps:

  • Get up and stretch in the morning.
  • Park your car farther away than usual.
  • Always take the stairs when you can.
  • Dance with you kids or your partner.
  • Do little micromovements with your body while you are driving.
  • If you are sitting all day, get up at least every hour and pretend you are jumping rope or do some stretching.

Eat one meal a day for your immune system.

Imagine a meal that incorporates all the colors of the rainbow-the bright colors represent phytonutrients-the parts of food that help us stay well and fight disease.

Action steps:

  • Make smoothies a few times a week. (Save time by placing all the ingredients in a ziploc and store in the freezer until you are ready to make the smoothie, then just toss what’s in the ziploc in the blender and you are ready to go.
  • Eat all veggies for a meal.
  • Buy and prepare (wash and chop) raw veggies so they are ready to grab and go from the fridge. It is easier to make healthier choices when you have already done the work and are short on sleep and high on stress. When you provide your body the right fuel, you are less vulnerable to getting sick and your energy level with be higher.

Be a master at time management.

Chances are, there are pockets of time in your day that you are unaware of. When we don’t have awareness or boundaries around how we spend our time, things like surfing social media or netflix binge watching can easily eat up an hour or more.

Action steps:

  • Take the time to go through the process of charting how you spend your time now. Literally document what you do for an entire day and for how long. If you can afford it, document a typical week this way. Then create your schedule in a way that works for your style and include everything you need to do from attending class to studying to working out.
  • Get in a routine and you will become very efficient and you will be surprised when you are diligent how much you can get done.
  • When you are doing something give it your full attention. Distractions are rampant and just because you are good at something, like multi-tasking, doesn’t mean you should.
  • Cluster like activities together and schedule them that way. Grocery store/ meal plan/prepping, laundry/cleaning, phone calls/emails. Color code your activities if you are more visual.

Covet your “you time.”

At least once a week make a date with yourself on your calendar to nurture your creative nature.

Action steps:

  • Try Julia Cameron’s ‘Morning Pages’ book that recommends journaling for fifteen minutes first thing in the morning when you wake up.
  • Take a detox bath with relaxing essential oils like lavender and use epsom salts.
  • Dance in your living room or at a class.
  • Go see a movie.
  • Check out a local museum.
  • Go to an art exhibit.
  • Take a pottery class.
  • Pick up your old paint brushes.
  • Draw.

If you get stuck, reflect on the things that brought you complete joy as a child and do that. Use this time to nurture your creative side that tends to get lost as we enter into young adolescence and adulthood.

When we fill our cups on a regular basis we are essentially filling our tanks, just like placing our own oxygen masks before placing it on another. If we are expected to be role models we must be able to walk the talk, I believe that means nurturing our emotional, physical, and spiritual selves and committing to taking the time to do so. Exhibiting to the world that we are worth it. It also gives others permission to do the same and it’s healthy.

Honor your body’s sleep requirement daily.

Getting adequate sleep is paramount to overall health. Adequate sleep refers to sleeping long enough to engage in rapid eye movement, the cycle of sleep that offers deep rest and the opportunity for the brain to assimilate all the information that it has processed during the waking hours. Without this sleep, the brain gets backed up and can cause premature aging and an overall feeling of forgetfulness. People who do not get adequate sleep can also have dysregulated hormonal regulation of leptin and ghrelin. These are the hormones responsible for appetite and satiety (satisfaction). This means if you don’t sleep enough, you will probably wake up hungry and no matter what you ingest, you will never be satisfied.

Action steps:

  • Develop healthy sleep hygiene habits that signals to your body that it is time to start unwinding and preparing for sleep.
  • Restore the body and mind before hopping in the bed with things like a cup of warm sleepy time tea.
  • Do some gentle stretching or yoga.
  • Shut off the technological devices at least two hours prior to sleep.
  • Meditate or pray.
  • Enjoy a good book that is not too stimulating. A famous neurologist once said, “we have to learn to put the brakes on before we get into the garage.”

Keep close tabs on your energy balance.

Energy imbalances cause illness. Your energy includes everything from your “subtle” energy which includes your thoughts and feelings all the way down to your physical energy. Abstain from relationships and people who pollute your life with their toxic and unhealthy ways. Pay attention to how your nutrition affects your mood and your health.

Action steps:

  • Set really strong boundaries and do not let negative people seep their toxic energy into your energy field.
  • Be respectful of others and demand respect of yourself from others as well. If others cross that boundary, be sure to address it in a respectful way, but let them know you will not engage with others that do not respect you.
  • Nutrition is a great way to maintain good energy balance. Be aware of how much caffeine/sugar/processed food you are eating and how it makes you feel.
  • Drink plenty of clean water and avoid using plastic bottles. Use glass if possible or BPA free options.
  • Eat organic fruits and vegetables when possible and avoid foods that are processed and full of genetically modified organisms.
  • Practice dry body brushing once a week. Buy a body brush from your local drug store and run the brush over your arms, legs, torso, chest, and back in a motion that is working towards your heart on dry skin just before you take a shower. Dry brushing removes dead skin cells and invigorates the lymphatic and circulatory system.
  • Get rid of any bath/home/beauty products that contain harmful ingredients like parabens or phthalates. Check out environmental working group’s website for all the latest safety info on food, skin, and home products.

Saving the best for last. If you don’t take away anything from our time together, remember this:

ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS ask if you are ever unsure about anything.

Chances are, ten other people have the same question but are too scared to ask. There is never a dumb question.

Action step:

  • Asking questions is courageous and the right thing to do; especially when it comes to caring for another person’s health. You will be faced with numerous situations as a new nurse, that will be scary and if you ever don’t know the answer or how to do something, it’s always safer to ask than to just assume you know how to do something if you aren’t 100% sure.
  • You must give yourself permission to put yourself first. Your health and vitality is a choice. Choose wisely now, because your choice will affect you today, tomorrow, and in the next ten years. You are worth it to take care of yourself.

I can help you do that. Head over to my About page on my site and complete the contact form. Knowing how to care for yourself is an art form, and not one that is always taught in nursing school.

Nursing is soul work and to do soul work, you must practice effective self-care techniques that provide you the space and nourishment you deserve that will keep you well as you take care of others.

Nursing is not only soul work, but it is superhero work and it certainly isn’t for sissies. If you have made the commitment to attend, complete, and pay for nursing school, you can’t give up now.

This is where the rubber meets the road. It is your time to shine.

Please share other tips that you feel have helped you thrive in nursing school or in your career.



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