Being a nurse is incredibly satisfying. The ability to help others through their most stressful and vulnerable times is a special accomplishment that nurses cherish. Walking the path of nursing education is not always easy, however. While the stress is worth it, many nursing students struggle through classes at one point or another. Interestingly, this struggle typically comes from factors outside the classroom rather than difficulty with the course material. Balancing life and school can be difficult, even during the best times. Add in the heavy coursework nurses must master, and it is no surprise that many students struggle with the concept.
It is imperative for nursing students to remain as healthy and happy as possible as they complete their coursework and prepare for their careers. The last thing we want is to see students experience burnout before they even begin working full-time! With that in mind, here are some tips to keep your school/life balance in check as you study.
Add structure to your routine.
Our first tip for students looking to balance their academic and social lives is to create a structured schedule. Less demanding degrees might not require as much dedicated time as nursing. That means you need one whether your friends in other disciplines have concrete plans.
Online students might have flexible schedule options in some areas, but live lectures are typically scheduled and required regardless of onsite or remote participation. Start by taking note of your classes and their start times. Write down the times you must be in style, then look at the rest of your days. Do you work? If so, include your work schedule next. Once you have the most rigid of your scheduled activities recorded, you can move on to the next step.
Next, jot down your responsibilities. Ask yourself what needs to be done and when, and decide when to fit them into your schedule. If you are responsible for making lunch for your children, you might be able to provide that between lectures. On the other hand, responsibilities like taking someone to an appointment might not be quite so flexible. Do you have all of these responsibilities down? Good, let’s move on to the next step.
The next step is to decide how much time you need to study for each class. For example, certain anatomy classes might take longer than ethics in nursing courses. Be honest about your study needs and whether you have time in your schedule. Create a substantial maximum amount of time. Match these times with your classes. Some students prefer to study right before a lecture, while others prefer to stay one step ahead and finish their work a day before the class. Add study times to your schedule accordingly.
Once you add study time, you must pare down your responsibilities. Look at the tasks you have already added to your schedule and cut out all but the most important. At this point, you should consider contacting friends or family members for help with anything you can’t fit into your schedule. Remember that you must also include some breathing time for yourself every day. If possible, cut out another responsibility and delegate it to carve out some much-needed self-care time.
Be creative with your time! Your studies can be conducted over a few different periods. If you know you need to study for an hour and have a half-hour break between classes and another half-hour break at work, you can try to fit study time in that way.
Organizing your time might be difficult initially, but you will be surprised at how much you can streamline tasks throughout the day to give yourself a few extra minutes. Schedule a self-care day or night, too! Whether this includes catching up with friends and family or simply staying in and watching a movie, this is a critical addition to your schedule. These moments of peace, paired with those moments of stress, balance your schedule and boost your overall performance.
Another important tip for staying healthy while studying is eating well. Create nutritional meals and snack options.
Many students are tempted to eat whatever is convenient if it saves them a bit of time, but this can quickly backfire. A diet rich in fat but lacking in minerals and vitamins can lead to poor sleep, reduced energy, mood swings, and poor focus. It can also have continued health impacts in the future and negatively affect your mood, energy levels, and skin. In short, it directly impacts your studies and how energetic you feel outside them. Too little energy, and you will not have enough time to complete everything and feel like you are doing a good job.
Meal prep can make your days much easier and less stressful than they might be when you are searching for food at the last minute, and planning ahead also helps keep your diet nutritious and energizing. AddMeal prep can make your days much easier and less stressful than they might be when you are searching for food at the last minute, and planning also helps keep your diet nutritious and energizing. Meal prep can make your days much easier and less stressful than they might be when you are searching for food at the last minute, and planning also helps keep your diet nutritious and energizing. 20 or 30 minutes once or twice a week to assemble healthy meals and snacks. Try to limit grocery visits to once a week to give yourself more time to live your life.
Eating well is critical, but so is enjoying the food you eat. Eating well is vital, but so is enjoying the food you eat. Eating well is essential, but so is enjoying the food you eat. Note that you can include unhealthy foods in your diet! Everything is healthy when your diet is balanced and gives you the vitamins, fiber, and protein your body needs. If you know you are having lunch with a friend at your favorite burger restaurant, note that at the start of the week and balance the rest of your meals and snacks in response.
In the same vein as eating well, nursing students should exercise regularly. Being active has many health benefits; perhaps the most important for students include regulating your sleep schedule and boosting energy.
Note that just as you might have to be creative in planning your study times, you might have to exercise whenever possible. This might include taking a walk at lunch or hitting the gym between classes. Whatever activity you can fit into your schedule, have it and stick to it. And remember that sitting for long periods can also negatively impact your physical and mental health, so including brief study breaks to walk around or stretch can be beneficial, too.
If you cannot fit in 30 minutes or more of exercise daily, scale down your ambitions to what suits you. Can you find an extra ten or 20 minutes somewhere? Any activity is better than no exercise.
Learn to handle stress.
Stress is inevitable, especially for those balancing difficult classes with social and work lives. Instead of trying to hide from stress or ignore it, embrace it. Accept that there will be days when you struggle a bit and make a plan of action to handle the pressure healthily.
It is extremely important to handle stress rather than feel overwhelmed by it. High-stress levels can lead to an artificially lowered diet that causes people to skip meals and increase cravings for sugary, fatty foods such as soda and fast food. This may give your body a temporary burst of energy but also cause a crash in energy levels later. As we’ve learned above, a poor diet can lead to decreased performance and even more stress in the long term. Knowing that a stressful period is coming gives you a better chance of handling it preemptively.
There are a few different options to help. First, you might consider speaking with a therapist. They can help you identify where you feel the most stress and offer tips to help you deal with the pressure effectively. You can also do some research of your own into healthy coping mechanisms and how they can have a significant impact on your health. Remember that not all options work for all people! Finding the coping mechanisms that work best for you might take some trial and error, but don’t give up! You will find good options sooner or later.
Pick your university carefully.
The next tip we have is to think before you select a school. Completing a master’s in nursing program is anything but easy, and some universities offer more tools to help students retain their mental and physical health than others. Make sure you pick a university with an accredited program! Elmhurst University, for example, is well-known for its balanced online classes.
Completing an online degree allows students to live at home and fit their schooling into their schedules. This is especially important when students are juggling work and school. Whether you choose an online or in-person school, keeping the rest of our tips in mind is imperative! Some of them, such as the advice about building a firm schedule, are even more important for online students.
Get enough sleep
We cannot emphasize the importance of this. Many nursing students struggle to fit sleep into their schedules. We understand! You likely have a very demanding schedule with more responsibilities than time.
Unfortunately, whittling time from your rest is not a compromise you can afford, and as you progress through your program requirements, the need for sleep and the time you can dedicate to sleep increase and decrease, respectively.
There are a few reasons why cutting out sleep in favor of other activities is bad. First, not getting enough rest impacts every facet of your life. For example, it can negatively impact your mood and increase your irritability and motivation to work hard and do your best. Too little sleep also lowers your energy levels, making it even harder to complete all of the tasks you need to accomplish. Finally, too little sleep increases your risk of suffering high stress levels because you will not have the focus or energy to deal with it healthily.
Getting plenty of sleep is critical to your success as a student, nurse, and functional adult. Getting plenty of sleep is essential to your success as a student, nurse, and active adult. You must schedule rest into your day. If that means cutting time from a meal or even skipping a date, these are sacrifices you must make. And if you know that you’ll be running low on sleep one day, ensure you schedule more time for sleeping the next day.
Are you ready to learn more about studying to be a nurse? Remember to prioritize your health first and foremost. How can you help others and complete your tasks if you are not healthy? Keep our tips in mind as you progress through your studies and use them to craft an effective and realistic schedule for studying, working, socializing, and resting.