Taking a travel nurse contract comes with a lot of amazing opportunities and benefits, along with a major lifestyle change. Depending on where you move, what facility you’re in, and what shift you’re on, your body might find it more difficult to adjust. According to a study by the National Library of Medicine, about 54% of nurses are overweight. This can be caused by the nontraditional work shifts that force you to eat at strange hours, and maybe even you're more focused on caring for others than caring for your own health. Not to mention the fact you're traveling a lot which means eating on the road and snacking on foods that may be easy but not healthy. Let’s look at a few reasons why you may have gained weight recently and realistic things you can do to help you drop those extra pounds.
You're eating for comfort
When your family and close friends live hours or days away, you may find your heart is homesick on occasion. Comfort eating often comes into play to cope when you’ve had a tough shift, broken up with your significant other, or just feel lonely. Of course, getting overwhelmed with a hectic work schedule can send you straight to the closest fast-food restaurant for a quick, easy, and semi- delicious meal that helps you save time. While fast food is both comforting and convenient, you already know that it’s also the unhealthiest option. To help shed some pounds, prioritize meal prepping! Even if it’s just one or two meals a week. Don't let fast food become your only option. Spend the evening prior to a round of back-to-back shifts meal-prepping healthy food so you never have an excuse to stop for something more convenient. Having a pre-made homecooked meal, especially if it’s a family recipe, can also bring you comfort and keep you from turning to junk food when you’re feeling down.
You spend your days off on the couch
Your work as a travel nurse is highly demanding, making your couch or bed seem like the only place on Earth you want to be when you have a day off. Or maybe your new city doesn’t feel like home yet, so it’s easier to stay home and relax. It’s a natural response, but it won’t help you maintain a healthy weight. Take advantage of your time in a new locale to explore what Mother Nature has to offer. Physical activity doesn't have to entail a trip to the gym - it can be a walk in the park, a hike up the mountain, or a swim down the nearest stream. Don’t let a little rain or heat keep you home on the couch either, a walk in the local mall or library can not only help you get steps in but are also places where you can potentially meet new friends!
Mitigate stress with a new hobby
Travel nursing being a particularly stressful line of work is no secret, especially to you. But not taking steps to reduce those increased stress levels can lead to weight gain, even without turning to unhealthy foods. High levels of the stress hormone cortisol can lead to extra pounds piling on from sugar cravings and metabolism changes. It’s important you find a way to cope with the pressure of being a nurse. Sign up for a weekly yoga session, try an art class or attend a trivia night at your local bar to mingle with others and get your mind off work. Check out our list of hobby classes you may want to try to help reduce stress.
As a nurse, it's important to remember to take care of yourself. Prioritizing your own health enables you to put forth your best effort in looking out for your patients. Keep these tips in mind during your next travel assignment for improved health and wellness.