When you’re a healthcare provider, it can be easy to become so consumed with taking care of others that you forget to take care of yourself. That’s a problem because neglecting your own needs doesn’t just put your physical and mental health at risk, it can also compromise the quality of care you can provide to your patients.
Proper self-care, though, often begins in the way you nourish your body. Ensuring that you give your body the nutrients it needs to thrive is perhaps the greatest gift you can give to yourself, your patients, and the people who love you. This article provides the essential tips you need for maintaining a healthy diet when you’re a busy healthcare professional.
Using Food as Medicine
As a healthcare provider, you probably understand the role of nutrition in physical and mental functioning better than most. That’s why approaching your diet as a kind of preventive medicine is so important. This includes being strategic with your diet. Consider your particular needs and how you can use your diet to meet them.
For example, as a health practitioner, odds are you spend more than your fair share of time working on digital devices. This can wreak havoc on your eye health. To counter the effects of overwork and eye strain, you’re going to want to incorporate a lot of eye-enriching nutrients into your diet, including foods rich in Vitamin A, beta-carotene, and other essential vitamins and minerals.
It’s not just about using food to nurture your physical health, however. As a caregiver, you will inevitably experience plenty of workplace stress, which can take a tremendous toll on your mental wellbeing.
For this reason, when you’re devising a nutrition plan that efficiently meets your particular needs, you will also want to focus on foods that can support mental health. Foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics, and healthy proteins, for example, can help boost your mood, reduce fatigue, and alleviate anxiety.
Understanding your specific nutritional needs and planning your meals to accommodate them before your busy work week begins and you’re tempted simply to grab a quick bite between patients can help you maintain your healthy diet no matter how chaotic your schedule.
Plan Ahead for Cravings
When you’re busy and under stress, it can be tempting to reach for quick and tasty “comfort” foods. This is especially true when you find yourself facing an energy slump in the middle of a shift. It may seem easier, after all, to down a cup of coffee or a soda for a jolt of caffeine or reach for a fistful of candy when you need a little boost than to take the time to prepare something more filling and nutritious.
Inevitably, though, those quick hits of sugar and caffeine will leave you feeling worse than before. Not only are you going to face the candy crash after the initial glucose spike, but you’re also going to trigger a physiological stress response from all the caffeine and refined sugars, and that means you’re going to wind up both more anxious and fatigued than before.
Instead, plan for nourishing your body by giving it the vitamins and minerals it craves even during the most hectic moments of your workday. For instance, packing a thermos of warm soup or soothing tea can satisfy your cravings, boost your energy levels, and calm your nerves.
Give Yourself Permission
One of the most important ways to maintain a healthy diet as a healthcare professional really isn’t specifically about diet at all. Rather, it’s about permitting yourself to practice self-care.
Your career, after all, is built around caring for others, and that can easily give rise to the sense that the time you spend caring for yourself is time taken away from your patients’ or your family’s needs.
In reality, when you fail to nourish your body, mind, and spirit, you’re going to run out of the resources you need to care for anyone else. So to keep yourself from being stretched too thin, it’s imperative to make time for self-care. This includes finding the time to feed your body healthfully every day, no matter how chaotic the day may be.
There will always be reasons or excuses to put yourself last on your priorities list. When you commit to prioritizing your needs, though, then what you’re actually doing is prioritizing your patients’ care by caring for their caregiver.
Maintaining a healthy diet is not always easy, especially when you are a healthcare provider. However, nourishing your body is essential both to your physical and mental wellbeing and your patients’. When you make nutrition a priority, you’re not just practicing good self-care, you’re also ensuring you have the health, stamina, and focus to continue providing your patients with the quality of care they deserve.
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Katie Brenneman is a passionate writer specializing in lifestyle, mental health, activism-related content. When she isn’t writing, you can find her with her nose buried in a book or hiking with her dog, Charlie. To connect with Katie, you can follow her on Twitter.