From classes to clinicals, the life of a nursing student is a constant balancing act. Taking care of your mental health is essential to balancing it all. It will help you become a better nurse, too.

It might be a cheesy saying, but it’s true: you have to put your own oxygen mask on first in order to serve others. If you practice self-care now, you will develop the tools you need to support your mental health as you care for your future patients.

Here are seven tips for being mindful of your mental health as you navigate your nursing education.

1. Create a schedule to balance your time.

Create a schedule that builds in time for yourself, your school, your community, and your friends and family. Keeping a planner can help you manage these commitments while protecting your time.

Maintaining social relationships and creating time for self-care are important to your overall well-being. It can also help to connect with others in your community, whether through a student organization or volunteer initiatives in town.

Your mental health isn’t something that can just be penciled in. It’s not a once-a-week self-care routine; it’s part of everything you do. Keeping a balanced schedule helps protect your mental health—all day, every day.

2. Join a study group.

Whether you have classes in person or online, forming a study group is a great way of building community. It also allows nursing students to hold each other accountable. You might trade notes with classmates, review material before an exam, unpack your day in clinicals, and cheer each other on as you navigate your nursing education journey together.

3. Prioritize sleep.

Sleep is one of the most important functions of maintaining good health. A lack of good sleep can cause difficulty focusing, a weakened immune system, higher anxiety, and a greater risk for long-term conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Plus, being well-rested is going to help you ace that exam more than an extra hour of cramming will.

Creating a regular sleep routine can help with chronic sleep issues such as insomnia. Try going to bed at the same time each night, and develop a ritual before bed. It can also help to avoid screens for at least 30 minutes before you hit the hay.

4. Fuel your body.

Maybe you’re exhausted after a clinical rotation and don’t want to be on your feet anymore. Or, maybe you’ve just been sitting at your desk studying and can’t find the motivation to get up and move. Staying active can help improve your mental health, though. If you can’t get to the gym, try an at-home workout, a walk around the block, or some stretches in between book chapters.

Staying fed and hydrated are also important to caring for your mental health. Planning meals ahead of time—and maybe even meal-prepping—can help you choose healthy options and ease some stress during the week.

How many times should you be refilling that water bottle? Dehydration can affect your mental health. Most people need about half their body weight in ounces of water each day to stay hydrated. 

5. Practice Mindfulness.

If you are looking to add some activities in mindfulness to your to-do list, you can practice mindfulness by taking walks, spending more time off screens, and doing meditations and/or yoga. ISU offers mindfulness activities throughout the semester.

6. Give yourself permission to pause.

So many self-care resources talk about what you can add onto your plate (including this one). But sometimes, what you need is permission to do less. Give yourself time and space to pause and do nothing—to take a short break from work, school, and other obligations.

7. Reach out for help.

At ISU, Counseling Services, Student Health Services, and the office for Health Promotion and Wellness offer resources for students. These include:

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