How to stay sane at university: the UK student nur...

How to stay sane at university: the UK student nurse guide

Life as a student nurse is a special kind of hectic. You forget what day it is. You forget what it’s like having cash. You forget what a nine to five feels like, and you certainly forget what nights out are when deadlines loom. So how can you best prepare to ensure you’re not on the verge of a breakdown? Here are a few pointers to keep you going.

Get to grips with your circadian rhythm

When you’re on shift you’ll be at the whim and mercy of your mentor’s shift patterns which means if he/she has a fortnight of night shifts booked, you do too. But during uni weeks you need to find when you work best so you can not only revise, but get writing all those essays and reflections. I tend to work best at night, just before I got to bed. I roll with a totally strange phenomenon – an overhwe=helming burst of motivation. In those previous few minutes I can type and create and revise, and it all sticks. I’m not a morning person. I never will be. But if that’s what works for you, definitely take advantage of it.

Get a diary

My campus is very small, five buildings all within ten minutes of each other. If we find ourselves at the wrong building, a quick jog takes us over to the right one. But for those who aren’t as fortunate, a diary is essential to plan your day. I use a Filofax and my whiteboard to keep myself organised. I keep track of pre-reading and post lecture tasks, essay and exam deadlines and placement hours. Use what works for you, whether it’s pen and paper or newfangled technology, and make sure it’s up to date.

Get organised the night before

Forget the morning rush of trying to brush your teeth while making a coffee and pouring the cat a fresh bowl of water. Get everything, and I mean everything, ready the night before. Find your uni pass and your ID and put it by the front door. Lay your clothes out ready to stop the morning stress of what the heck do I wear. Get your makeup organised (I do mine in the van after I’ve parked to save previous sleeping moments) and have lunch ready int he fridge. I would literally sleep in my clothes if it meant a few extra moments in bed, but unfortunately, I don’t think non-sweat clothes exit yet. Seriously, you’ll never need to be more organised than you are now, so good habits = less stress.

Find your special place

I can’t study in my home office. I can’t. I’ve used my desk perhaps four times in total. I just feel sapped of all creativity when I’m sat at a desk at home, and especially when I see the cat all snuggled up and cosy on the sofa. It doesn’t work for me. We’re leaving our penthouse flat and moving into a cosy cottage nearer uni, so I see myself spending most of my personal study time at uni. The library motivates me to start and not finish, and I work well surrounded by the quiet hum of people in their groups getting their work done. Whether it’s in bed or in your office, at your mum’s or in a little eatery down your High Street, find an area that helps you concentrate without too many distractions.

Slippers are life

So, slippers are amazing. Any while it’s only socially acceptable to wear a onesie for Comic Relief, everyone can bring a pair of slippers to lectures. It helps me feel a little less formal and a little more like my study habits at home. Plus, it’s so comfy!

Lecture your way

Some people love typing their lecture notes on their laptop as the professor is talking. Others use all manner of handwritten notepads to cover the main points. Some take notes on scrap paper and retype them when they get home, and another use a dictaphone to ensure they don’t miss a word. There is no one-size-fits-all there, it’s how you work best. I started on my laptop and migrated to good old-fashioned notebooks. Nothing is typed up post-lecture but I do some additional reading afterwards. It’s what works for me, definitely.

Be your own nurse

You’ll see friends drop out, people you’ve grown really close to and shared everything from tales of bedpans to last offices *cry*. You’ll see fellow students realise nursing’s not for them. You’ll observe other students – the part-timers with their art and gender studies degrees – miss a month’s worth of lectures and no one bat an eye. But that’s not you. You need to have the fire and conviction inside you to make it to every lecture, even if you’re exhausted. You need to stay strong and committed when you fail an exam or you’re given negative feedback. You need to be a support for others, sure, but mainly for yourself. You will graduate and you will be a nurse. But only if you truly, seriously want it.

Self-compassion isn’t a weakness

We had a lecture about why some people (myself included) find it hard to take a compliment. Some say it’s awkward, others say they don’t believe the giver when they say nice things. Others say it shows a lack of humility to take a compliment, and that doing so gracefully is difficult. Mostly, it boils down to us not thinking we deserve it. But we do. We all deserve a rest without feeling guilty now and then. We all deserve praise when we do well, and stern words to do better next time when we fail. But our harshest critic is ourselves. Learn to be kind to yourself and not take worries and stresses home with you. Spend time doing what you enjoy with people you love being around. Make time for you, and you’ll be able to make time for others.

Finally: SLEEP

HA! Sleep? What even is that anymore. But seriously, sleep is vital. Eat right, drink water, stop smoking and give up those takeaways. These are all bonuses. Sleep is the key, and you’ll need loads. So make sure you relax before bed and get a full forty winks before that alarm trills you awake in the morning. Your brain will thank you.

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