The balancing act

The balancing act

Nursing student Josh offers his advice on achieving a healthy study-life balance.

Josh Gilroy

No matter what subject you’re studying or the career you’re in, there’s no denying that establishing a healthy balance between work and play is essential when it comes to leading a happy and productive lifestyle. But with so many commitments, whether these be to home and social lives or to study schedules and work shifts – how exactly can this delicate balance be mastered once and for all?

When it comes to juggling it all, LJMU Mental Health Nursing student Josh Gilroy knows a thing or two about keeping the equilibrium. He shares with us his secrets to staying both happy and focused whilst working and studying, even in the face of long hospital placement shifts and exam revision. First and foremost he explains the importance of learning to sometimes say ‘no’:

“I genuinely believe that a good work-life balance is one of the most important aspects of a healthy lifestyle. As well as my 30 hours per week nursing placement, I also work part time for another care organisation, meaning my free time can sometimes feel limited. I’ve learned that agreeing to do too many shifts on top of my placement hours (no matter how tempting the extra money can be!) can quickly lead to my work-life balance being thrown off-kilter. It’s taken me a while to realise that it’s okay to turn down extra shifts. I’m now also careful when it comes to setting myself unrealistic studying expectations too for my degree. After all, there are only so many hours in the day and learning to take a step back sometimes has been the key to unlocking more ‘me’ time. Booking the odd day off every now and again is also really important, no matter what course you study or what career path you’ve taken.”

Josh also cites good time management as a winning way to restore the balance between work and family time.

“As a nursing student, I spend a lot of time at the hospital where I work – sometimes more time there than at home! Being able to effectively manage my time is essential if I want to have the best of both worlds. Having a shift planner and allocation sheet for each day on placement and in work definitely helps me to know where I’m up to. When it comes to my home life, planning is equally as important, especially with a young family. My fiancé and I have found it really helpful to have a ‘family planner’ on the wall highlighting our shift patterns and after school activities. Luckily this means that I rarely miss out on something important, especially with my step-son!”

When it comes to getting the most out of every day, Josh also has a couple of lifestyle hacks to help stay focused throughout long shifts and still arrive home feeling rejuvenated:

“I used to live off energy drinks and was convinced they would keep me going through long hospital shifts. These days I’ve discovered the benefits of healthy eating instead. Cutting down on the stodgy foods and sugary drinks that were slowing me down has helped me to feel more energised, meaning that I don’t feel sluggish when I arrive home, can still be productive and enjoy my evenings more. I would definitely steer clear of the microwave meals for lunch! I’ve also learned the importance of a regular sleeping pattern when it comes to keeping your energy levels, focus, and even your morale high – both at work and at home.”

Josh also makes sure he takes advantage of any flexible working hours when possible.

“I’ve been lucky enough to have a relatively flexible contract in work since I began my nursing training. This type of career can actually be a lot more flexible than people realise, which definitely helps when it comes to ensuring a healthy work-life balance. My advice when studying for any degree (especially one that involves a placement) would be to find a job on the side that allows you to be adaptable and gives you the time you need to study and still have downtime.”

“Earning some extra money is great, but I definitely think it’s more important to use this time to put your academic studies first. You’ll reap the rewards later...”

When it comes to the idea that working in the health service doesn’t allow for much of a social life, Josh is adamant this is not the case:

“Since studying nursing at LJMU I’ve found that my social life has flourished. If I ever speak to anybody interested in nursing but worried about not having enough time with friends or family, I tell them to go for it and not worry too much about that. The great thing about this course and career path is that you can always work around any problems when they come up and have lots of support along the way. If you manage to keep yourself organised you’ll find there is a pleasantly surprising amount of downtime to be had!”

Josh’s top tips for getting the balance right:

1. Stay hydrated
At work and at home I keep my energy and concentration levels high by staying hydrated. Water is your best friend, especially during a thirteen-hour shift!

2. Finish assignments promptly
There’s little else worse than the panic of leaving an important assignment until the very last minute. Try and make a start on your projects as soon as you can to keep your downtime time stress-free.

3. Take some ‘me’ time
Even if this is just a five-minute walk in the fresh air between lectures or on your lunch break at work. Every second helps.

4. It’s okay to say ‘no’
Remember that you’re not obliged to take on more work or responsibility than you can realistically handle or make time for.

5. Sleep is golden
Never underestimate the power of a good, undisturbed snooze when it comes to setting yourself up for a busy day of work and life demands. 

6. Wind down properly
After completing a placement, sitting an exam or finishing a long shift – find your way of relaxing. Whether it’s lying in a bath or binging on a boxset like me!

When it comes to studying nursing at LJMU, Josh is full of positive things to say:

“Another great thing about the Mental Health Nursing course at LJMU is the guaranteed study day each week that we have. This means I’m safe in the knowledge that I always have a day to come into University and get my work done, without being on placement. The support that LJMU offers its students is absolutely brilliant and definitely helps to balance out work and play. My advice to anyone considering a course in nursing would be to just go for it. The things you can achieve and the help to others that you can give is amazing. There’s truly nothing like it…”

Interested in a career in nursing like Josh? Take a look at our courses.

If you’re a current student and feel you need a little help when it comes to managing your time, remember you can contact our Student Advice and Student Wellbeing Services for some extra guidance.


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