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7 Ways to Enjoy the Holidays as a Busy Nurse

Gayle Morris, BSN, MSN
Updated December 15, 2022
    Holidays can be demanding for overworked and busy nurses. Check out six tips that can help you celebrate without the stress.
    Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
    • Nurses have busy schedules that are often more challenging during the holiday season.
    • It’s common to feel overwhelmed, as if you’ve lost your work-life balance throughout the holidays
    • Planning and preparation for the holidays can make the hours at work and home more entertaining and memorable.

    Life as a busy nurse can be challenging and sometimes overwhelming. The holidays are often the busiest time of the year for nurses, both personally and professionally.

    During this time, you’ll likely be trying to spend more time with friends and family on top of your daily routine. As a nurse, there’s also a good chance you’ll be working for at least part of the holiday season. Although holiday pay can be a nice addition to the budget, the work can be mentally and emotionally challenging.

    Review seven tips that can make the holidays a little brighter and a little less stressful.

    7 Ways Busy Nurses Can Enjoy the Holiday Season

    It is common to feel like you have lost your work-life balance as a nurse throughout the holidays. But, while it can be challenging, it is still possible to appreciate the season of joy. Consider the following tips as you prepare for the holiday; they can help make the time you spend at work and home more joyous and memorable.

    1. Plan

    The holiday season is a perfect example of the old expression “If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.” Understand how your hospital unit manages the holiday work schedule so you can plan around it. You may need to work the holiday, but celebrating on a different day means you may have a larger crowd since you aren’t competing with other friends and family for a celebration meal.

    Don’t forget to plan how you’ll spend your extra holiday pay. While the extra money in your paycheck might not make up for the lack of time with your loved ones, it can help in other ways. You could put it toward a weekend away, splurge on clothes, or get a device you’ve had your eyes on.

    Make a calendar and narrow things down by priority to ensure that you can get everything done.

    2. Create a Priority List

    Once you’ve planned things out, you should create a priority list. If you create a prioritized list of events you want to attend and things you want to get done, it’s more likely you’ll end the holiday season feeling as though you are productive without getting overwhelmed.

    3. Take Full Advantage of Every Day Off

    When you have a day off, be sure to take full advantage of the time. This does not mean cramming more things in the day. If you are feeling mentally and emotionally drained as a nurse, you may want to completely take the day off to help manage your stress as a nurse.

    It’s acceptable to check out and binge-watch your favorite TV show or go for a long walk in a nature preserve. However you choose to relax, there may be days during the holiday season when you’ll need to prioritize yourself.

    4. Shop Online

    You might enjoy walking through the stores and looking at all the holiday decorations. If this is something you find enjoyable, be sure to include it in your holiday plans. However, you don’t have to do all your shopping in person.

    When you shop online, you save gas money, time, and likely frustration from having to visit multiple stores only to find one item. You may also save money on the cost of your purchase.

    To top it off, it’ll be delivered directly to your front door. Some stores also deliver it gift wrapped.

    5. Make Time for Self-Care

    Nurses spend their lives caring for others and ensuring the health and wellness of their patients, friends, and family members. They often forget themselves. It is especially important to include self-care as a nurse during the holiday season to avoid nurse burnout.

    Here are a few self-care tips:

    • checkGet at least 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night if you can.
    • checkStay hydrated and limit caffeinated drinks, such as soda, coffee, and caffeinated tea.
    • checkPay attention to your nutritional intake.
    • checkExercise regularly.

    During the holidays, it is easy to indulge in high-carbohydrate and high-sugar foods. This can pack on the holiday pounds, suppress your immune system, and increase fatigue.

    Exercise boosts your immune system and protects your mental, emotional, and physical health. Together, these strategies help to build resilience against stress, which can be overwhelming during the holiday season.

    6. Dress for the Holidays

    Nurses make a difference in the lives of their patients, especially around the holidays. You can brighten your day and your patient’s when you dress for the holidays.

    Check with your manager for any restrictions on additions to your nursing scrubs, or if you can wear festive holiday scrubs. Santa hats, elf ears, or decorative belts are other ways of dressing up without interfering with patient care.

    7. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

    Nurses notoriously find it difficult to ask for help. Yet, over the holiday season, it is especially important to recognize your limitations and ask for help when you need it. In the United States, the holiday season usually begins in the middle of November, and for many it doesn’t end until the middle of January.

    You might ask your family for extra help to keep the house clean, walk the dog, or do the grocery shopping. You can also hire someone to help clean the house, get food delivered, or plan to order meals out more frequently for a short time.

    However you choose to enjoy the holidays — as the busy nurse you are — remember to take it easy on yourself.