Post-Shift Wind Down: Five Home Exercises for Travelers
As a traveler, you know the benefits of exercise but may not take your own advice when it comes to doing it regularly. It’s too easy to find an excuse to skip exercise due to long shifts, unpredictable schedules, and traveling. This is where “practice what you preach” comes in; after your shift, it may be tempting to eat a piece of pizza, watch TV and go to sleep, but you’ll feel better if you do these five stretching exercises to wind down and release the stress of the day.
Lying supine twist
Not many exercises feel better than a twist to massage your organs and release your spine. Here’s how to do it:
- Lying on the floor, draw the knees into the chest.
- Bring the knees over the hips, bent at 90 degrees.
- Gently drop the knees to the right, making sure they stay stacked.
- Open the chest away from your legs, and square your shoulders to the sky.
- Look away from your knees.
- Repeat on the other side, taking 8 to 12 breaths on each side.
You can strengthen your gluteal muscles with the bridge pose, which is easy to do and not too strenuous. Here’s how:
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor.
- Place your hands by your sides.
- Slowly lift your hips until you have a straight line from your knees to your chest.
- Hold this for three full breaths, and release your hips to the floor.
- Repeat this exercise five to eight times.
This pose stretches the spine and lower back. Here’s how to do it:
- Lie on your back, with your knees open wider than your torso.
- Bring your ankle over the knee so your shins are perpendicular to the floor.
- Flex through your heels.
- Hold your feet and gently push your feet up into your hands as you pull your hands down.
- You can rock gently back and forth for a light lower back massage.
Standing and bending all day can take its toll on your back and knees. This pose builds strength in your quads, core and feet so you can prevent pain. Here’s how to do it:
- Stand with your feet hip distance apart.
- Lift your arms up, palms facing inward, and relax your shoulders down.
- Bend your knees and send your hips back (imagine there’s a chair supporting you).
- Lean forward slightly, reach your hips back.
- Prevent your lower back from arching by drawing your navel toward the spine.
- Look forward, press your weight into the backs of your feet.
- Hold this pose for at least 30 seconds.
If you only have time for one pose after your shift, this is the one. Travelers spend most of the day standing and this pose helps to move the flow of blood away from your legs for some much-needed relief. Doing this right before bed will also help you to sleep better. Sound too good to be true? Don’t knock it ‘til you try it! Here’s how:
- With your right hip against a wall, sit as close to the wall as possible.
- Gently swing your body so your legs are up against the wall and your head and back are on the floor.
- Position yourself close enough to the wall that the backs of your legs are flush against the surface.
- Flex your feet, rest your hands by your sides or on your stomach.
- Tuck your chin so your neck is long and then remain here for 10 to 15 minutes. Breathe deeply and allow your mind to relax.
Why These Exercises Help
It’s no secret that being a health care traveler can be a stressful job, and it’s important to find a healthy way to manage and relieve stress before it takes a negative toll on your body. It’s clinically proven that being physically active helps protect against stress, anxiety and depression. Mediation is another excellent way to relieve stress (and keep your brain in shape). These stretching exercises combine the best of both worlds.
As a nurse, you’re likely on your feet most of the day. When you finally get home, it’s important to stretch your muscles and relax your mind. So take a few minutes to go through this simple stretching routine to help you wind down and keep your body and mind healthy so you can continue doing what you love.