While this post can be about the physiology of the inner ear in maintaining balance (with a differential diagnosis list including vertigo and Meniere’s disease), the balance I’m specifically referring to is the school/work/life balance. Let’s face it, being enrolled in a nurse practitioner program is intense. There are many stressors for students including meeting assignment deadlines, tasking tests, learning and being productive in clinicals, preparing for the certification exam, and paying for school. Add on a job, family commitments, and other aspects that are part of life and it is enough to take its toll on the student. Having been a NP student some years ago and recently completing the DNP last year, I’d like to offer 5 tips for nurse practitioner students to avoid a meltdown.
1. Plan and Schedule: It is so essential to schedule a regular time to perform school work and study. Since most NP students are adult learners, there is no luxury of merely attending classes full-time. Having and maintaining a schedule is especially important for students enrolled in on-line asynchronous NP programs.
2. Partake in Regular Physical Activity: It is not necessary to join a gym and try and find time to go and workout. A brisk 20 minute walk two to three times a week in your neighborhood or on a treadmill will do wonders to help clear the mind and reduce some stress. One can also partake in some simple stretching exercises or Yoga. It may sound silly, but scheduling the time for this activity in your calendar can help you to stick to it.
3. Eat a Balanced Diet: For some people, when the levels of stress increase in one’s life, the more food that is consumed (food that is usually not the healthiest or nutritious). Try to eat regular meals balanced meals that are lower in fat. Of course, the occasional burger or package of gummy bears can also be included – just don’t make it a regular part of your diet. Also watch the caffeine and alcohol intake as these can negatively affect sleeping and eating habits as well.
4. Perform Some Self-Care: Schedule one day a month for a massage. Studies have consistently shown that massages reduce stress (and some types of pain) levels. Or perhaps schedule a short weekend trip free of school and work. Whatever it is you that you find enjoyable, try not to abandon it while you are in school.
5. Consider Working With a Wellness/Life Coach: Wellness coaches are wonderful resources that can help you plan and prioritize things in your life to reduce stress. There are some wellness coaches who specialize in working with nurses and nurse practitioner students since it is well documented that there is increased chaos for these individuals due to long hours and caregiver fatigue. One such wellness coach is a friend and colleague of mine, Dr. Eileen O’Grady, NP. Her unique coaching model takes place remotely and she has helped many individuals looking to prioritize aspects in their lives and get back on the right path.
Remember that if we cannot take care of ourselves, it will be nearly impossible to take care of those around us and our patients. Try to find and maintain that balance so that we can enjoy success and productiveness in what we do.