The Basics of Self-Care to Help You Reach Your Full Potential

Posted by MANS Membership Chair on August 15, 2017 at 2:00 PM

As nursing students, nurses, or a combination of the two, we are known to frequently put our own needs last when it comes to time management and prioritization of tasks. Between class, clinical, studying, preparing for class/clinical, work, extracurriculars, etc. it may seem as though we barely have time to breathe let alone do something for ourselves like watch a movie, exercise or even sit down to eat a nice meal.

Starting with our first semester as nursing students, we learn about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. We learn that in order to make it up the hierarchy we must fulfill the needs from the bottom upward and only then will the patient be able to reach self-actualization, achieving his/her full potential (Perry, Potter, Stockert, & Hall, 2016). But what about us as nursing students and/or nurses? Are we ensuring that all of our needs are met so that we also can reach self-actualization? You may recall that at the bottom of the pyramid is physiological needs: food, water, warmth, and rest. Are you ensuring that those four things are always met for yourself on a daily basis? If not, you are not going to be able to reach your full potential. Without reaching your full potential, you are doing yourself a disservice and your patients. Nursing students and nurses need to take care of themselves just as much as they take care of their patients so that we have the cognitive and physiological ability to pick up on small cues and assist patients as needed. In this article, you will learn a couple basic ways that you can help take care of yourself and be a better student and/or nurse.

To start things off, let’s start at the bottom of the pyramid with food. Eating a well balanced diet is one of the best things we can do for ourselves. Food is what fuels us for those long nights of studying and those 12 hour shifts. You will see students and nurses all the time living off of a couple bites of junk food that they get out of a vending machine since they perceive their day as too short to sit down and eat a meal. In reality, sitting down to eat a well-balanced meal will actually give you more time in your day. According to Taro (2017), a well-balanced meal full of whole grains, lean protein, and fruits and vegetables will provide sustained energy until your next meal. With more energy you will be moving faster and be more efficient than if you were with only a bag of chips in your stomach from the vending machine. Not to mention the energy crash that you would get from vending machine food. To put it in a nursing student or nurse mindframe, we always need to consider our long-term and short-term goals. Short-term you do not want to be hungry and long-term you want to have energy and make it through your tasks for the day. The best way to meet those goals is to eat a well-balanced meal and forgo the vending machine.

I’m sure that the majority, if not everyone reading this article love to sleep, I know I do. Getting a good night’s rest during nursing school is one of those things that we know that we want, but hardly ever get a full, recommended 8 hours. Often times, students will sacrifice a few hours here and there so that they can study or get a couple things done that they couldn’t get to earlier in the day. But again you are doing yourself and your patients a disservice by not being well rested. According to Caruso (2014), nurses who do not get enough sleep have been shown to make more errors. We all go into this profession to help save lives and care for others, but how can we do that if we are missing subtle changes in a patient’s health status since we are sleepy? According to Rasch and Born (2013), when it comes to retaining information, you are much less likely to be able to do so when you haven’t got a full night’s rest. Sleep is not something that anyone should sacrifice in order to get other things done. If you do, you could be putting your life and your patient’s life in jeopardy.

My last self-care basic is exercise. Now I know, right now you are probably thinking “ha, yeah right. When do I have the time or energy to do that?” Well let me be the first to say, you do! If you follow the other two basics that were explained prior, you’re on the right track to having the energy needed to exercise, now we just need to work on the time aspect. Time management is key whether you are a nursing student, a nurse, or a stay at home mom. We all need to map out our tasks, prioritize them and organize them throughout our day, this way we do not end up sitting on the couch for an hour scrolling through IG, Snapchat, or Facebook and wonder where our day went. If you map out your day, you will always know what you should be doing and when. And this doesn’t mean that you keep yourself busy all day everyday. Remember, this article is about self-care, so throw in some things that you like, like maybe a half hour for one of your favorite shows or 20 minutes to go on a walk with your dog. By doing this, you will also be able to include 30 minutes of exercise, 3-5 times a week, not to mention, since you are using your time more efficiently, you will be able to incorporate 8 hours of sleep each night. My favorite time to exercise is in between studying. This way I not only get a much needed break to clear my head, but exercise is good for the brain. Getting more blood to your brain increases oxygen to cerebral tissues, which helps you retain information.

Now that you know some of the basic ways to care for yourself and why it is so important for you to ensure that you are meeting these basic needs, I hope that you take this information and incorporate it into your daily life. It will not only help you take care of yourself, but it will help you meet your physiological needs so that you can be on your way to achieving self-actualization and your full potential.


Caruso, C. C., (2014). Negative Impact of Shiftwork and Long Hours. Rehabilitation Nursing,

39(1), 16-25.


Gidus, Taro., (July 2017). Eating to Boost Energy. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Retrieved from

Perry, P., Potter, P., Stockert, P., Hall, A., (2016). Fundamentals of Nursing. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier.

Rasch, B. & Born, J., About Sleep's Role in Memory. Physiological Reviews. 93(2): 681–766.


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Reply Charlesneino
5:37 PM on August 16, 2017 
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