UNITED STATES—You may work shifts on an irregular pattern. You may work from 9am to 5pm. You may work when there is work on a temporary basis. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what your work-week looks like, there are ways to juggle your career, a degree, and your personal responsibilities. Finding a way to responsibly juggle all three is not easy, but if you want to avoid the possibility of a burnout and to instead make great strides in all your goals, you need to develop the perfect strategy for you.
You may not need to use all the tips outlined in this guide, but by picking, choosing, and trialing the various options you can build the ideal approach to completing all your online nursing programs while making strides in your career and at home.
How to Approach the Juggle
Many people go into such a period in their lives assuming it’s all about timing and balance. In juggling, the secret is to just keep pace with the balls as they come back down. But that isn’t the case in life.
In real life you may only have one or two responsibilities one day, and then feel like you have been hit by a landslide the next week. Life can be unpredictable, and with three very important areas in your life tugging and vying for attention it can become too much, too fast.
The secret isn’t to balance out the timing. The secret is to know which balls to catch and which ones to drop. It’s all about prioritization. You can do this intuitively, but to make sure that you don’t forget anything, it’s a good idea to make a list, either at the start of the week, or as you go.
Making this list digitally is a great way to do it, so you can adjust what the rankings are. At the top should be the most important things. A loved one’s birthday might be up there, or a test for your online nursing programs. Ask yourself which one is more important to you at the time and rank them accordingly. This doesn’t mean you necessarily cannot go to both, but if there is a schedule conflict which one matters more? It could be the test if it actually goes towards your online nursing programs, or it might be the birthday party if it was just a voluntary practice test you were hoping to do, but it doesn’t change anything about your grade or your studying.
Deciding this way can help you keep your head above water. The items down the list are there not because they aren’t important, but because they aren’t time-sensitive. By prioritizing, you can focus on what matters most now. Being willing to let a few responsibilities drop or be put on hold is the difference between success and failure. You cannot do it all, so give yourself the breathing room to put some things on the back burner.
Staying Fit and Healthy When Completing Online Nursing Programs
Staying fit and healthy when completing online nursing programs will be a combination of wellness and health strategies, but all of those come second to choosing a great degree that, most importantly, provides you with tools to balance your career and your education and still succeed.
Choose the Right Program
Online nursing programs vary considerably. There are so many different types of nurses and specializations that you can really customize what you want to do. Being committed and loving your course, however, is just the minimum. It also needs to be designed to be completed online, it must provide clinical placement, it must have no mandatory log-in times, and above all it must be easy for you to complete on your schedule.
The right choice from all the best online nursing programs will be a combination between these traits. You need to be committed to what you are learning and supported every step of the way. A good way to start your search is to choose high ranking and accredited degrees and narrowing down your options from there.
You will also want more options. If you are currently an RN looking to become an APRN, but you only have an Associate’s Degree in Nursing you don’t want to go and get a BSN from the regular route. There are online nursing programs available for both those with an Associate’s Degree in Nursing and an Associate of Science in Nursing degree. Rather than get your BSN, and then your MSN, in these online nursing programs you will be bridging your current experience, and earning a BSN at the same time as you earn your MSN. It’s an integrated degree, and it does take longer than the traditional MSN online nursing programs, but for those with an Associate’s degree it is an excellent way to get back on track.
Staying healthy is your secret weapon when you start your latest of the online nursing programs. Online nursing programs are not that much more effort on their own; it is the combined effort of everything together when you may experience some difficulty.
The best way to handle it all is simply by having the energy to deal with it. You won’t find the energy to succeed with online nursing programs and work from a cup of coffee, however. Only a really good night’s rest, on a consistent level, can help.
Combine that with a great diet and regular exercise, and you can really take on the best online nursing programs and succeed.
Tips for Sleep
To get a consistent, great night’s sleep you will need to adjust your internal clock and use the right cues to help your brain sleep. What this means will depend entirely on whether you work Monday to Friday, or in shifts.
Monday to Friday Work
If you work on a regular work schedule the best trick to getting a better night’s sleep is to be extremely consistent with your sleep schedule. By going to bed at the same time, and waking up at the same time, you can adjust and take advantage of your internal clock.
With shift work, where you work nights, or three days a week in 12-hour shifts, what you need to do will be very different. As there is no consistency for you to benefit from (though you should aim to sleep at least 8 hours) you will need to use routine instead. Two hours before bed start the wind-down process. Use the same actions, stay away from screens and phones and even books, and try to meditate. Clearing your mind is the most important aspect, though black-out blinds can’t hurt, either.
Tips for Eating Well
There are two big tips to take on board to improve your diet.
- Invest in healthier snacks, like protein bars or fruit and nuts.
- Try to prep healthy meals in advance so being tired doesn’t stop you from eating well.
Tips for Exercise
Most nurses are on their feet all day, though you can still benefit from strength exercises, as this works to help you manage your energy levels better throughout the day. If this doesn’t interest you, then a simple exercise that can help you get even more out of the best online nursing programs is a simple stretch or yoga routine.
Staying Mentally and Emotionally Well
Health is rather easy to care for. Mental health, however, is another story entirely. These tips are going off the assumption that you do not currently have a disorder that you are struggling with. If you do, it is key that you get the advice and support of your therapist and doctors so that you can manage the extra workload from your degree, your job, your responsibilities, and your mental health.
That being said, you may find yourself struggling mentally during this time, even if you have never been diagnosed or suffered from mental illness before.
Rely on Your Support Network
Let your friends help you. Let them be a shoulder to cry on. Let them help you study. Let them make you food. It’s okay if you over rely on them a little. Just make sure that they know that they can say no. So long as you don’t make a fuss if someone cannot help, you can continue to ask for help as you need. They’ll know the situation that you are in, and you will be surprised at just how comforting someone working quietly beside you, or helping you cook dinner can be for your mental and emotional health.
Join a Study Group
We are social creatures, and that includes our learning habits. Either team up with other nurses at your work who are also studying while working full-time, or join an online group with those in the same course as you. There are many different ways you can study socially and benefit mentally.
Take Regular and Planned Breaks
Breaks are important for productivity and they are important for your mental health. If you try to push yourself too far you run the big risk of burning out your brain. If you want to work longer, and to actually understand and absorb what you are learning, then you need to take regular breaks.
This could be a short five-minute break every 20 minutes. It could be a half-hour break after an hour. Find what works for you, because once you do you’ll be able to make real progress on your online nursing degree without feeling mentally drawn out.
Take Only What You Can Handle
If you are allowed to take on just one course at a time, take up that option. Though you can graduate faster taking on two at a time, it’s hard to manage and harder to stay healthy and well. One course a week is already between 15 to 20 hours of extra time. Though this may pale in comparison to your workweek, it is still a lot to take on after your full-time job.
There are activities in your day you already aren’t too thrilled with. Perhaps it is doing laundry, or perhaps your commute. The commute in particular is a big opportunity to help manage your time much more easily. You can revise on your commute by reading, for example, or you can catch up on your voice notes. It depends entirely on what your commute consists of. If you take public transport you have a lot more options, but even if you drive or bike you can make many digital texts and resources work for you and help you learn on the go.
Use Mental Health Resources
If you start to feel pressure, anxiousness, or other negative emotions when completing online nursing programs, it’s always worthwhile to seek out mental health services. In an ideal world you would access these when you started your degree just so that you can have a professional support network to benefit from, but the fact is that mental health services are still strained and there is still a needless stigma surrounding it.
Mental health resources can involve talking therapies, behavioral therapies, and medication. Many students suffer mentally during their years in college or university, and that’s without the stress of caring for others added to the mix. You aren’t just completing a great online nursing degree. You may see death at work. You will see the sick and injured. Your job is already demanding emotionally and mentally, and it is more than okay to seek out professional help if it ever feels like it’s becoming too much to do alongside a degree.
By caring for your mental health in this way you can avoid a burnout and stay on task. You won’t succeed at everything you put your mind to – you physically cannot, especially to tight deadlines – but you can keep positive and committed to completing your online nursing degree.