Maintaining Relationships While in Nursing School
Nursing school is stressful and time consuming. How can you maintain a healthy relationship with your partner while studying for exams, concerned about clinicals, and reading hundreds of pages each week?
There are many reasons nursing students experience high levels of stress, including:
- Pressure to get good grades
- Licensure examinations
- Demanding work responsibilities
- Changing roles
It's reasonable to also be concerned about maintaining your relationships, so we asked nurses and a relationship expert for their tips on making relationships work during nursing school.
11 Tips for Balancing Nursing School and Relationships
Balancing a busy and hectic life requires a little creativity and structure. Our contributing nurses and relationship expert use these strategies and recommend them to clients. They can help nursing students get through nursing school and other times where there seems to be more to do than hours in the day.
1. Get Organized
It might sound trite, but one of the best strategies is to use your time wisely and have more time for your partner and the rest of your life. If organizational skills are not your strong suit, this is the perfect time to practice.
Nurses rely daily on their organizational skills to complete each task required for patient care. If you aren't sure where to get started, consider tips from nurses on how to manage your time as a nursing student.
2. Recognize What Stresses You
The first step to managing your stress is recognizing what triggers the stress. You might think the answer is obviously the academic workload. But you could be surprised to learn that you're more stressed by activities at home, such as cooking, cleaning, and running errands.
Or it could be that your study group spends more time playing and talking than studying. Take steps to reduce external stress triggers. Watch how it affects your mental attitude and ability to learn quickly.
3. Honest Communication, Even When It's Difficult
Xiomely Famighetti is a critical care nurse and self-care enthusiast who helps others incorporate self-care strategies daily. She told us that partners are often the first to feel the stress of nursing school.
Her biggest recommendation is to communicate openly and honestly with your partner, no matter how tough it can be. She advises students to learn from her mistakes.
"While I was in nursing school, there were times when I had plans with my husband but was too emotionally, physically, and mentally burnt out to follow through with them," she says. "If I didn't communicate to him how I was feeling, it would end in an argument, with him being blindsided by it all."
"Having open communication and making time for each other is key, even if it's doing something simple at home," Famighetti says.
4. Practice Healthy Habits
Healthy habits improve your nursing resilience to stress and your energy levels. They include eating a well-balanced diet, avoiding or eliminating highly processed foods, getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night, practicing mindfulness and meditation, and if you're able, exercising.
Amanda Lundberg has an extensive nursing background and now provides content for health and wellness brands. She advises exercising with your partner as it's a win/win situation.
"Exercise, especially outdoors together, can be a perfect way to feel more calm. The endorphins will surely help any negative energy and clear your heads, and you get to spend time together," she says.
Similarly, mindfulness has mental benefits like those with exercising, including:
- Decreasing depression
- Increasing emotional regulation
- Reducing anxiety and stress
- Improving memory (helpful for exams!)
5. Have a Support System Outside of Your Partner
When you're overwhelmed with school and other obligations, it's easy to rely solely on your partner for support. They probably want to be there to help too, but you must have a larger support system to help bear the weight of nursing school.
Sometimes it's difficult for people outside of nursing to fully appreciate what you are experiencing. Consider your friendships within the nursing program for support. You may also try connecting with nurses and nursing students online.
6. Schedule Time With Your Partner
Spontaneity is a luxury that nursing students can't often afford. Famighetti recommends scheduling time with your partner, even if it's just a phone conversation. Lundberg agrees and believes that you must put it in your calendar long before it gets filled with exam preparation and school projects. Consider these tips for cultivating intimacy as a busy nurse.
"If you don't write it down, you will be so deep in your studies that days go by, and you realize you haven't seen your partner. It may seem unromantic to schedule one-on-one time, but it can carve out that special time for each other," she says.
Never outsource your schoolwork or papers, but if you're financially privileged, consider the tasks you have at home that someone else can do. Nursing school is expensive, and many students work while in school, so this may not be an option for everyone.
But Lundberg recommends considering cleaning services, laundry services, prepped meals, grocery delivery, and dog walkers. While she was in school, she and her husband realized that the added financial commitment allowed them to spend more relaxed time together.
"My husband and I agreed to have a cleaning service come every month. It meant we had to trade one 'fancy' dinner out for staying in," she says. "But this was something we were willing to compromise on to spend more time together rather than cleaning the house."
8. Create Reminders
In the busyness of life, it's easy to overlook saying "thank you" to your partner. This small gesture lets your partner know that you appreciate the effort they make for you each day.
Lundberg writes herself a reminder on her calendar to thank her partner for the little things he does each day, like taking out the garbage, doing the dishes, making the bed, or bringing her a snack.
Even when you think your partner should be doing those things, it deepens your emotional bond when you thank them for their actions.
9. Check-In With Your Partner
In the craziness of nursing school, it can be easy to take your partner for granted. Callisto Adams, a dating and relationship expert, advises nursing students to be aware they may be displacing negative emotions suppressed from their program onto their partner when they get home.
"Even though this defense mechanism is a subconscious way of defending yourself, you can take a conscious look at your actions while being cautious about where you're putting that stuck energy," she says.
Instead, consciously check in with your partner about how they are feeling at a less stressful time and try to listen rather than react.
10. Find Stress Relief That Works for You
There are many different ways of managing stress as a nursing student. But it's important to find the one that works for you.
Data show that mindfulness is an excellent stress-buster and one you can practice on your way to clinicals, waiting for the bus, or prepping meals. Consistently getting 7-8 hours of sleep, yoga, meditation, journaling, playing with a pet, listening to music, exercising, or breathing exercises are also helpful ways to destress.
11. Ask for Help
Nurses are often independent and self-sufficient people. Yet, it is OK to ask for help. You don't want to make nursing school harder than it already is. If you need a classmate to explain something you don't understand or a friend to babysit while you study, letting someone else help can reduce your stress.
Your partner can also be a great source of help and support. Here are a few ways a partner can be supportive while you're in nursing school.
Meet Our Contributors
Amanda Lundberg, RN, BSN
Amanda Lundberg has been a registered nurse for over 10 years in just about every department: family medicine, pediatrics, geriatrics, emergency, dermatology, cardiology, orthopedics, management, and urgent care triage. She now runs a copywriting and content marketing company. Locksley Content focuses on health and wellness brands, and Lundberg uses her nursing background to create content with a clinically educated framework.
Callisto Adams has been a dating and relationship expert for more than six years. She is well read on masculine and feminine psychology, romantic connections, and the way that people give and receive the signs of them.
Xiomely Famighetti is a critical care nurse, self-care enthusiast, and creator of the Instagram page Healthy Scrubs. Famighetti works with other healthcare professionals to incorporate self-care into their everyday lives. She advocates for nurses to keep their social lives flourishing, lifestyle healthy, and personal lives under control, all while being an extraordinary nurse.
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