In managing their careers and busy lives, nurses can be very focused on the “outer” aspects of life and work: family, chores, shopping, resumes, job-hunting, pursuing education, social media, etc. But how do we keep the nurse’s inner life fed and watered? Let’s explore 10 strategies for cultivating that inner life and nurturing happiness, wellness, and personal/professional balance as 21st-century nurses with very full lives and careers to grow.  

Note: Please see the companion blog post for this episode of The Nurse Keith Show. 

Finding Your Inner Self

There are many paths to finding your inner self, nurses. It’s a very personal journey that can take you in many directions and in pursuit of myriad goals and activities. The operative point is that this is about nurturing your inner light, your creative spark, and the need for balance in a time in history when balance can be most difficult to achieve.

This process is all about finding what lights you up and creating a means by which you can change the tenor of your life in the interest of: 

  • Having more fun
  • Being more creative
  • Enjoying the small things
  • Engaging the right side of your brain
  • Finding more happiness and joy
  • Having a healthier overall lifestyle and workstyle
  • Consciously doing things that balance out the stressors of an often intense career in nursing and healthcare

Making it Happen: My 10 Strategies

Strategy #1: Remember your spiritual life. You may have a favorite place of worship that you can choose to return to. It may be a church, dojo, mosque, or synagogue, or perhaps you attend an alternative church or spiritual meeting; in fact, your “church” may be the cathedral of nature, as it is for my wife, and often for me. 

Faith leaders can often be sources of great support. If you have a faith leader in your life, reach out when you need them. I also have friends whose fellow congregants are a source of much succor. Meanwhile, some people prefer to just have a private prayer or meditation practice at home. 

Strategy #2: Get your body moving on a regular basis. Movement is essential, and the old adage is true: move it or lose it. Muscular atrophy is for real, folks, and if you want to enter old age with the ability to get up off the floor without calling 911, then make sure those glutes, abs, legs, and arms are good and strong, even into your advanced years, (You’ll just have to work at it more to accomplish the task as we lose muscle tone, testosterone, and other essential aspects of our strength and agility as we age). 

Your exercise regimen can be formal (classes in yoga, Nia, Zumba, etc.), or it can be something you cobble together yourself. The secret is consistency, quality, and doing something that prevents you from getting bored, which may mean switching it up from time to time. (And if yoga classes are partially a spiritual experience for you, as it can be for some practitioners, it may also fulfill some of your spiritual yearnings at the same time. Some yoga studios are more fitness oriented, and others are very spiritually based — choose wisely.) 

Strategy #3: Remember your creative self! Creativity is something that can truly get lost when life is exceptionally full. Some people may only think of creativity as doing art, music, or dance, but your form of creativity may be baking, yoga, knitting, needlepoint, writing, gardening, or anything else that can help get you into the right side of your brain. What’s your creative outlet? If you don’t have one, what could it be? 

Strategy #4: Engage with a counselor or therapist. Sometimes we need extra short- or long-term emotional and psychological support. I’m a big advocate of psychotherapy and counseling (as long-time listeners and readers already know), and I’ve taken advantage of such services and relationships throughout my adult life.  

Strategy #5: Seek out pleasure and leisure. Pleasant experiences help us to relax and get out of our heads. Pleasure is defined by the person experiencing it: some people like roller coasters or rock-climbing (not me!), while others prefer sex, reading, listening to music, strolls in nature, or going to the theater or movies. It’s really up to you, but just make sure you get some, whatever it is!

Strategy #6: Use nature as a source of healing for a soul in need of peace. Nature can fulfill our need for spiritual upliftment (strategy #1) and for exercise and movement (strategy #2). If you’re a nature-oriented person, there are so many things you do to connect with nature, including but not limited to hiking; canoeing or boating; skiing; camping; swimming; the list goes on and on. And remember that studies have shown that even just having greenery outside your windows and inside your house provides psycho-emotional healing and a relaxation response. 

Strategy #7: Hire a coach. At its core, coaching differs from psychotherapy and counseling in that it doesn’t involve the treatment of pathology or prescribing of psychological solutions, per se. Rather, it focuses on goal-setting and other techniques for finding fulfillment in life and/or career. There are, of course, overlaps between coaching and therapy, but a good coach knows their scope of practice and when it’s best to refer you out. There are life coaches, spiritual coaches, relationship coaches, business coaches, career coaches (like me!), and many others sprouting up all the time. 

Strategy #8: Get some rest, for crying out loud. Rest and sleep are what help our cells to recuperate and our brains to recharge. Not sleeping well is a specific health issue, and for those nurses working night shift, getting your sleep hygiene in order to paramount. As for rest, I’m a big proponent of naps, so consider how to get more rest each week despite the “noise” and responsibilities in your life. 

Strategy #9: Be a polymath. Episode 76 was all about nurse polymaths, and I sincerely believe that polymathism is good for you, your brain, and your ability to have a life not completely caught up in just work and home. 

For myself, some of my polymathism comes to bear in terms of how and what I read. This past summer, I bought myself a Kindle, mostly because I’m tired of trying to get rid of the books that pile up around the house. Books are heavy to cart around, aren’t they? I’ve found that I can really dig through a lot of books using my Kindle, and the variety of books on offer makes my reading list pretty varied and fun. The books I’ve most recently read include: 

  • Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil DeGrasse Tyson (science non-fiction)
  • Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark T. Sullivan (fictionalized history)
  • Educated by Tara Westover (memoir)
  • Life by Keith Richards (autobiography)

Do you notice that none of the books mentioned above have anything to do with podcasting, nursing, healthcare, writing, or business? While I do read books (and articles, blog posts, etc) on these subjects, I’ve been trying to make sure I keep my reading list diverse.

Strategy #10: Honor yourself. No kidding. As natural (and sometimes compulsive) caregivers, nurses spend so much time caring for others (in and out of the workplace) that they don’t have the skill of tending to and honoring their own needs. This is where the rubber hits the road and how you’ll truly move the needle in terms of your wellness, self-care, and sense of personal balance. You need to honor your time, energy, finances, relationships (to self and others), and every other aspect of your life. 

Time is of the Essence

If you feel that time is your enemy, you need to reconfigure your relationship with time itself. Here’s a strategy for doing just that: 

Carry a pen and paper with you for 1-2 weeks and use 30-minute increments to record how you spend your time. You may be surprised that social media, Netflix, and other “time sucks” are taking up more time than you ever imagined. What if you cut your Facebook and Netflix time in half and devote that time to healthier and more nurturing activities.

While watching Netflix or playing on Instagram may be one of your habitual forms of leisure, it’s very passive by nature. So, when you choose to do these things, be conscious that it’s actually how you want to spend your time. If it feels like you’re just filling time, then consider what else you could do that’s more creative, fun, and actively engages the right side of your brain. 

This list is not all-conclusive — it’s simply my best 10 ideas. Do you have more? I’d love to know what they are! 


This episode of The Nurse Keith Show is brought to you by Rasmussen College and their online RN to BSN nursing program, which is designed for working registered nurses who want to earn their BSN while balancing family, work, and school.

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Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC

In case you didn’t already know, Nurse Keith is a holistic career coach for nurses, award-winning nurse blogger, writer, podcaster, keynote and motivational speaker, and popular career columnist. With two decades of nursing experience, Keith deeply understands the issues faced by 21st-century nurses.

From 2012 until its sunset in 2017, Keith co-hosted RNFMRadio, a groundbreaking nursing podcast.

Keith’s message of savvy career management and professional satisfaction reaches tens of thousands of nurses worldwide. Keith can be found on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram—as well as at NurseKeith.com.