How to Maintain Work-Life Balance in an Accelerated Nursing Program

Have you just begun an accelerated nursing program? If so, congratulations! You’re taking a major step towards a successful, exciting career in a high-demand field with plenty of opportunities for growth. Moreover, you’ll be helping patients and serving a vital role in the healthcare system–and through your accelerated degree, you’ll be beginning your work as a nurse faster than you can imagine.

But before you can begin working as a nurse, you’ll need to finish your accelerated nursing degree–and that’s where you might hit some challenges. An accelerated nursing program is, by its very nature, a highly intensive degree program–you’re studying at a faster pace in order to fit a full bachelor’s degree in nursing into 1-2 years of study. While it’s important to work hard at your degree, you don’t want to push yourself too far–or put yourself at risk of burnout.

So, how to make sure you’re keeping up enough with studying to be successful, without burning yourself out? It’s all about work-life balance. Work-life balance means knowing how to set your priorities so that you’ll be able to give your work and, well, yourself both enough of your time and energy to keep thriving–physically, intellectually, and emotionally.

Finding the right work-life balance during your accelerated nursing program will depend a lot on your personality and circumstances. Are you studying online, or in person on a campus? Are you an introvert, or an extrovert? Do you live alone, with family, or with friends or roommates? All of these are things to keep in mind as you strive to find a work-life balance that works for you. However, here are a few more general helpful tips to bear in mind, when you’re working on your accelerated nursing degree:

Make Time for Sleep – Always!

Sleep is an absolute necessity, not just for you, but for everyone. While you may have pulled a few all-nighters in your academic career (whether from studying, or from fun nights with friends), you know that you were hurting pretty badly the next day. But long-term lack of sleep, the kind that happens when you neglect your sleep schedule over weeks or months, can be a much bigger problem than one groggy morning.

According to the Mayo Clinic, most adults need at least 7 hours of sleep. This allows you to have some time in REM sleep, sometimes known as “dream sleep,” which your body needs to recharge. According to the Cleveland Clinic, insufficient sleep can lead to problems ranging from trouble concentrating to headaches to a decreased immune system that makes you sick more often–all of which are things you don’t want to deal with during your accelerated nursing degree!

Eat Right–and Try Meal Prepping

When you’re working hard at an accelerated, high-intensity academic program, it can be easy to fall into unhealthy eating habits. Many students find themselves relying on fast food, and convenience foods like ramen and cereal. While there’s nothing wrong with eating these things sometimes, a steady diet of them can leave you feeling sluggish and deprived of important nutrients.

This is why it’s important to make sure your diet includes a good balance of carbs, protein, fruits and vegetables—with a little room for treats, of course! Because you’ll be working a demanding academic schedule, with little time for cooking, give meal prepping a try–make large portions of dishes you like at a set interval, say, once a week, and store them so you’ll have quick meals close to hand.

Find a Hobby for Your Downtime

It can be easy to let the pressure get to you–which is why it’s important to have an outlet to “let loose” and relax. A good hobby should be something that lets you take your mind off your studies and onto something that makes you happy, and helps youtube the most out of your downtime.

What kind of hobby is most fulfilling for you may depend a lot on your personality. For instance, while an introvert may prefer solitary hobbies like reading, painting, or lifting weights, an extrovert will likely be drawn to hobbies that let them spend time with other people, like joining a rec sports league, or playing a tabletop game every week.

If you don’t already have a “downtime hobby” in mind, consider something that either gets you moving physically, allows you to create something, or both. Artistic work and physical exercise can both be great emotional outlets for any stress you’re feeling, and are generally healthy for your mind and body, meaning getting in the habit is always a good thing!

Lean On Your Support System

Let’s face it: this is a challenging, intense thing you’re doing. That’s why it’s important to have a good sense of your personal support system, and to turn to them when you need a boost. Who your support system is will be different for everyone–it can be family, friends, romantic partners, colleagues, fellow students, or a mix of all of these. But whoever they are, don’t be afraid to reach out to them–this can be anything from asking friends to get together on the weekend to socialize and blow off steam, or asking if your partner could handle the cooking the week you’re studying for your final exams. Remember: you might be worried about imposing, but if it’s something you would do for them, there’s nothing wrong with asking them to do it for you!

Be Kind to Yourself

Remember, you’re going into nursing, a field that’s all about caring for people. And “people” is a broad category, that includes you. You have to be kind to yourself. This can go beyond traditional self-care practices, like exercise, meditation, and relaxing and unwinding. Being kind to yourself can also mean forgiving yourself when you make mistakes, or don’t get as high a grade as you hoped for. It can mean setting realistic expectations for yourself, instead of trying to do everything at once. You’re only human, after all–and that’s enough.