Year of the Healthy Nurse: Balance and Recovery
For September, the American Nurses Association (ANA) has set the theme for their ‘Year of the Healthy Nurse’ campaign to highlight the benefits of finding work-life balance. Most busy professionals will admit that the idea of finding true, work-life balance is probably unrealistic, so the challenge is to find a balance, uneven or not, that works for your lifestyle. Once we have admitted that this is our reality, how can we achieve a manageable work-life balance as a nurse in the reality of today’s healthcare industry?
Acknowledge what is not within your control. One of the most stressful things that nurses, or anyone for that matter, can try to tackle is things outside of our control. In the heat of a busy shift, it may be difficult to discern what is or isn’t within our control, but the surest way to incur unnecessary stress is to try and fix things outside of our control. The key is to recognize what is outside of your direct control and develop a coping strategy that will help you overcome the immediate challenge to your work-life balance.
Tackle things that you can control. One of the surest ways you can add to your stress is by negative self-talk and being a perfectionist. Obviously, as a nurse, when something involves patient safety, perfection is required. However, in the midst of a chaotic shift, you will be faced with countless decisions and actions not impacting patient safety. In these instances, recognize that you are a human being and that we all make mistakes. If you are doing your best and a mistake happens, it is best to learn from it and move on. Beating yourself up and allowing negative thoughts to dominate you throughout the shift will only allow that negativity to follow you into your home life.
Check your judgments at the door. You are a nursing professional. You take great pride in your accomplishments and abilities, and you naturally have high expectations for others in your field. But, to level out the scale where work-related stress is dominating your day, look no further than the judgments you are placing on fellow staff. Try to develop empathy for others who may not be meeting your standards, rather than judging them. Seek to understand why they may be making a particular mistake or not meeting your expectations. Ask questions to determine if there is a way to help rather than burdening yourself with feelings of aggravation and frustration.
“Time Out” isn’t just for toddlers. Sometimes when things get overwhelming, try and find a few minutes to take a time out from the chaos. Find a quiet room or even a custodial closet and do some deep breathing or practice mindfulness. The more you can stay grounded, the better you can recharge your batteries for finishing the shift and leaving work behind when you walk out the door.
Work harder at managing your time. Most people can benefit from better time management skills; nurses are no exception. For anyone trying to achieve better work-life balance, one way to take strides in that direction is to improve time management. A few strategies to achieve better time management include negotiating time and family responsibilities with your partner or eldest children. Set limits on your time and stick to those boundaries. Make sure your priorities are clear and in alignment with work and home life needs. Don’t be shy about seeking help from others who seem to have mastered the art of time management. You might be surprised to find a few borrowed techniques can make a big difference.
Don’t forget about taking care of yourself. Balance requires that you make your mental and physical health a priority in your life. Your career is caring for others, and it is equally important to place that same emphasis on caring for yourself. Whether it is yoga, jogging, meditation, reading, or practicing mindfulness, the things you do for yourself will be the catalyst for achieving better balance and more positivity. In addition to exercising and practicing better self-care, make an effort to fuel yourself with more nutritional foods. Don’t skip breakfast or other meals to avoid the energy lags that interfere with your ability to cope with stress and make sound decisions.
All of these strategies play a role in providing you with the energy and mental acuity to face the challenges of your work day and home life. By recognizing the negative influences in your life and developing coping strategies to deal with them positively, you can achieve better balance and understanding.
What are your strategies for achieving balance in your life? Do you have any coping strategies that you can share with your fellow nurses? If so, leave your thoughts in the comment section below or share them on our Facebook page.