Note: Guest contributor Ashley wrote this post. Learn more about Ashley and her travel nursing journey at the bottom of this article.
Travel nursing is amazing, but the career means you’ll be moving pretty often, depending on the length of your contracts. I have taken contracts in Maryland and California, including Santa Rosa and the South Bay area. I’m currently still in the South Bay area and keep extending because exploring this region has been my favorite thus far!
But each move requires tons of energy, interrupted time, and inconveniences that can throw off your day-to-day wellness routine. Whether this is your first or tenth travel assignment, it is tempting to put off healthy habits when you move. Life gets interrupted, and you have to scramble every time to find your favorites in your new city, like your favorite grocery store or gym. However, your health and mental space are critical to your overall quality of life, and the good news is it doesn’t need to be challenging to maintain a healthy lifestyle while living on the road. Here are some things you can do to keep a wellness routine as a travel nurse.
Set Realistic Goals
Each travel nurse assignment comes with a different schedule, so it is essential to find a realistic routine you can maintain with your work hours and days off. Start by tracking how you feel before, during, and after a shift, the things you are eating, and how you would rather spend your days off. Recognizing how you feel allows you to set realistic goals about when you would want to be active or have rest days, which are both equally important.
Maintain Healthy Eating Habits
The food you eat can impact your mood, energy, and metabolism. It’s easy to find the nearest fast-food drive-through and order, but picking healthier options will always be more beneficial in the long run. Tip: the day you arrive at your new assignment, find the nearest food market and shop for items for easy-to-make meals. Some great options include whole wheat pita bread, fruits, almond or peanut butter, oatmeal, turkey slices, rotisserie chicken, rice cakes, hummus, or spinach for smoothies. Choosing things that will supply all day (or night) energy boosts and decrease inflammation will make it easier for you to transition back into your healthy habits after a move. You can always check out other helpful, time-saving options, such as getting groceries delivered or even meal-prep companies to make healthy eating more convenient for you. If you want an extra boost of protection to keep you healthy, multivitamins are great to supplement as well.
Move Your Body as Often as You Can
Moving your body and being active at least 3-4 times a week is imperative for your overall health. Because it can take time to adjust to your new city, schedule, and find a routine, try to keep things simple at first. Don’t think you have to do a rigorous heavy-lifting routine for your exercise to count! I always pack a jump rope, two 10 lb. weights, and a yoga mat to incorporate exercise into my day even in the shortest amounts of time. You can get started by doing jumping jacks or squats in your living area! Or, take a 20-minute walk once a day to keep your blood flowing, allow you to destress, and boost energy levels. Plus, it gets you outside, which is a natural serotonin booster!
Something that has always helped me get back into my exercise routine quickly is taking the time to research different gyms in the area or finding fitness communities when I’m looking for a new assignment. You can ask the gyms or fitness communities you find if they offer any memberships, or you could speak with your travel agency to ask about potential corporate discounts. Wherever you are, taking time to be active is important!
Do a Mental Health Check
Finding ways to manage stress levels healthily is essential as so many stressors can become apparent when settling somewhere new. Putting yourself first is vital to perform at your best and maintain a healthy mindset.
I love to use the FifthWindow app, which provides tools and resources to support nurses’ wellbeing. You can set an alarm to “check-in” with yourself every day, and it is awesome how it allows me to truly reflect and acknowledge how I am feeling. The FifthWindow app will then offer different practices, such as journaling and breathing meditation, or highlight resources, such as access to multiple therapy platforms.
Your mental health can also benefit when you stick to the activities or hobbies that make you feel grounded. That might be knitting, reading your book before bed, or watching your favorite show. Whatever activity makes you feel grounded – doing things that allow you to decompress is crucial to your mental well-being.
You can also contact your travel agency and ask if they offer any mental health support resources. If you use a therapist, see if you can develop a solution that will still allow you to reach them during times of need. Never be afraid to ask for help or support when needed.
Find a Wellness Accountability Partner or Community
As travelers, we meet different people all the time, which means it can be easy to find people with like-minded interests. Finding someone who supports your healthy habits and keeps you accountable and vice versa is important and equally fun at the same time. I love to use apps like BumbleBFF and MedVenture to meet friends and healthcare workers in the area. This has been my favorite way of finding new sight-seeing partners and workout buddies! These have been great tools to connect with people and build my own “mobile community.” It certainly beats the feeling of loneliness, and it allows for lifelong friendships to bloom.
As always, your wellness journey is important and is unique to you, so make sure to keep it at your own pace and find the balance that works for you. Remember, establishing smaller healthy habits daily is easier to maintain than drastic large ones at once. Take it day by day, and don’t forget to breathe and enjoy the journey!
About the author:
My name is Ashley, and I am a cardiac pre- and post-procedural nurse. I have been a nurse since 2019 but have worked in the healthcare industry for the last 13 years. One of my favorite things about working with cardiac patients in this type of procedural setting is the direct impact I can have in such little time and seeing patients feel so relieved with most of their outcomes. These patients have such a genuine appreciation for our work, and it always reminds me of why I do what I do. When I am not working, you will always catch me doing things that fill my half of the cup, such as being outside in nature, working out, or exploring this beautiful world we call home.
I started travel nursing in February of 2021 due to wanting more freedom to explore and take in any grand opportunities that I know would be open to me if I just took the leap and went for it. It will be a whole year soon, and it has been life-changing in every way imaginable. The friends and relationships I have been able to make, the financial freedom and stability, and the places I have always dreamed of seeing and can now add to my list have made me happy. Every day, I wake up grateful for what travel nursing has given me.