The constant stress of dealing with physical and emotional demands as a nurse may leave you feeling exhausted, irritable and disconnected. Some days, it may be a struggle to head into work. You may find yourself increasingly needing a “mental health day” and calling in sick.
Draining emotions on the job come and go. Or they can be signs of burnout, a psychological condition that affects professional performance and one’s mental well-being. Long hours, limited staff and feeling undervalued can create burnout, which impacts not only nurses, but patients and healthcare systems as well.
Taking extra care of yourself is just one way to guard against this debilitating condition. Consider these other measures to protect yourself:
Eat healthy, exercise regularly and sleep well. It’s difficult to take care of others when you neglect your own health. Practicing good self-care is one of the best preventive steps against nurse burnout.
Be honest with your feelings. As a caregiver, you ride a roller coaster of emotions on any given day. It’s important to express feelings of sadness, grief, anger and remorse. Avoid suffering in silence. Sometimes a good cry can work wonders.
Communicate with your co-workers. Your colleagues can better understand what you are experiencing than someone who is not a nurse. They can provide invaluable support. Speak up when you need help and return the favor.
Become an advocate for a healthy work environment. Start a planning recognition event, morale committee or reward activities.
Schedule “me” time. Replenish your soul by engaging in activities that feed it, from hanging out with family and friends to making time for hobbies or a new book. It’s easier to deal with stress when you have opportunities to relax and enjoy yourself on a regular basis.
Leave your job-related stress at work. Create boundaries between the workplace and home with specific activities that you do consistently to mark the end of the work day. For example, once at home, soak in the tub, call a loved one or play your favorite music.