As satisfying as a career as a nurse can be, it also comes with its stresses. With the long shifts, pressured workdays, and sometimes difficult patients, nurses can often feel overwhelmed by their job, leading to nurse-burnout.
What is Nurse-Burnout?
Burnout happens when a nurse becomes physically and mentally exhausted due to being overworked. The consequences of ignored burnout include the risk of mental health problems, a higher chance of quitting, and patient care being affected. The effects are both real and dire, and due to this, you must learn how to beat them.
If you are a nurse who needs some help fighting burnout and finding a work-life balance, read on.
Many registered nurses like to take advantage of the many development opportunities out there. As a nurse, you can study a specialty (allowing you to hone your skills), enter an advanced career, and even earn a higher salary.
Unfortunately, some complications can arise with this level of ambition. If you decide to keep working as a nurse while pursuing advanced education, you run the risk of overworking yourself, allowing no time for socializing or self-care.
A great way to combat this is to study your courses online. If you are a registered nurse wanting to become a nurse leader, for example, then you can find online DNP programs to qualify you for the role. While you will still need to travel to your placements, this freedom to work from your own computer will save you lots of time, allowing you to switch off from your work now and again.
Make Your Boundaries Clear:
Setting boundaries is helpful, but making them clear to those around you ensures that they stick. Let your family, co-workers, and manager know your limits and do not let anyone sway you from them. These could include having a certain number of hours off each week, taking breaks alone, or having privacy from time to time.
The clearer you are with your boundaries, the less likely others are to push them.
Notice the Signs of Burnout:
Many nurses who experience burnout do not realize how much it is affecting them until it is too late. The key to battling burnout is knowing the signs so you can stop it in its tracks, so make sure you wise up on the signs you need to look out for. They include:
If you find yourself skipping shifts, then you need to figure out why. Having a bug and needing some time off work is one thing, but if you are skipping shifts without cause, then there is a problem.
If you are feeling more tired than usual, to the point where you crave your bed at every hour of the day, you could be plagued with burnout fatigue. This is common after being overworked, so if this is the case, make it your priority to take some time off.
While getting sick does not necessarily mean you have burnout if it shows up with other signs, that could be why. Yes – being too stressed can make you sick, giving you even more of a reason to overcome it.
Dreading going to work-
A little pre-work moodiness is normal, especially after a long, relaxing weekend, but if you genuinely dread stepping into your workplace, then there is something deeper going on that you need to address.
The more you know about burnout, the better chance you will have to overcome it, so stay on the lookout for these signs.
Talk to Your Fellow Nurses:
“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” C.S. Lewis.
The only other people who will understand your stress are fellow nurses, so let them in on how you are feeling. Nurses make the fiercest of friends, and when you feel overwhelmed during a shift, they will be the ones you can turn to for a shoulder to cry on or even just a quick word of motivation. Plus, when you realize that you are not alone in how you feel, it becomes easier to talk through and manage.
Ask for More Control Over Your Hours:
One of the most common reasons nurses get burnout is that they are working too long. If you find that you are feeling worse after too many fourteen-hour shifts, then make it known to your manager that you want a little more control over your hours.
Of course, this is not always possible, and doing overtime is part of being a nurse. There is no harm in asking, though, and even just a little more control over when you work can make you feel better. It is surprising the difference an extra hour at home can make!
Do not Ignore Your Own Sickness:
Nurses tend to the sick each day, but they often forget to look after themselves. The next time you feel under the weather, make sure you address it as soon as possible, as you do not want to burn yourself out by prolonging the illness.
This goes for mental health problems, too. While they can be a little more difficult to notice than physical illnesses, it is important to seek help when you feel you need it.
Stay in Touch with Non-Nursing Friends:
As brilliant as nursing friends are, it is also crucial to keep in touch with the non-nursing friends in your life. When nursing feels like your entire life, an afternoon chatting away with an old friend about everything other than nursing can be an absolute blessing. It will give you a real breather from the medical world, allowing you to remember that there is more to life than your job.
The next time you feel you cannot switch off from nursing, give an old pal or a family member a call – you will probably find relief hearing about their work rantings!
Take Self-Care Seriously:
Choosing to engage in self-care is not a luxury, it is a must. As a nurse, you are putting so much time into other people, and sometimes you need to reverse that onto yourself. Some ways to do this include:
- Taking a bubble bath
- Having a pamper day
- Watching your favorite movie
- Getting your hair done
- Ordering a takeout you love
When you have the opportunity, make sure you spend some time looking after yourself, and you will find your body and mind feel better prepared for work.
Take All Your Breaks:
Many nurses are guilty of ‘forgetting’ to take their break, but you must never do this. You are given breaks for a reason – they give you the time to relax after the shift, allowing you to go into the next one refreshed. The next time you find your work bleeding over into your break, make the effort to get someone else to cover you while you take some much-needed time to yourself.
Focus on Living a Healthy Lifestyle:
Being unhealthy will only make the effects of burnout even worse, so you must focus on living a healthy lifestyle. As a nurse, you understand the ingredients of a healthy person, but that does not mean you are an expert at using them.
To get yourself motivated, look into downloading a fitness app or looking for a health-conscious buddy to motivate you along the way.
Plan Fun Activities to Look Forward to:
When experiencing burnout, it can feel like nursing has taken over your entire world. To create a better work-life balance, put the effort into planning fun activities to look forward to. Maybe you enjoy hiking, maybe you and your partner have been thinking about taking a spa break, or maybe you have simply been craving a vacation.
Even the act of planning the activity is enough to give your brain a positive boost and something exciting to focus on outside of work.
Figure Out What Triggers You:
Burnout is not always the same in all nurses – some nurses are fine with working long shifts, but quickly become overwhelmed when faced with a certain task. Other nurses might handle difficult patients well, but fatigue overtakes their brain after a shift longer than twelve hours.
Determining what triggers you will mean that you can work toward avoiding it, allowing you to lessen your stressors and create a work-life balance that works for you as an individual.
Do Not Take on Too Much:
When you are already faced with a mountain of work at your job, it does not help to take on more. The next time someone asks you to do them a favor and it compromises your downtime, let them know that you cannot do it.
Remember – being busy does not always mean doing something active; sometimes, being busy means you are spending quality time at home relaxing.
Create a Relaxing Home Life:
Your time away from work should be as positive as possible. After all, you do not want to leave a fourteen-hour shift only to come home to an unpleasant atmosphere. Put the effort into creating a relaxing home life by keeping the place tidy and decorating it in a way that makes you happy. If you live with others, like a partner, make sure they get involved helping out here!
If you are struggling to keep a tidy home due to your long hours, consider hiring a cleaner to help out. There is no shame in not being able to do everything, especially when you are already doing so much.
Find a Separate Hobby:
If you live and breathe work, you are going to burn out eventually, so avoid this by finding another activity to get stuck into. As much as you may love nursing, giving your brain something different to work on will help you relax and see that there is more to life than your career.
Think about the hobbies you used to love. That might be writing, acting, rollerblading, or gardening – whatever it is, give it another chance to take up some of your time.
Get Fresh Air on Your Breaks:
A bout of fresh air can do wonders for your mental and physical health. Most nurses are stuck inside for long hours, making it even more important to get outside and soak up the outside world, if only for a little while.
Your break is the perfect opportunity to step away from your working station and take a breather. You do not even have to go anywhere – simply standing outside for a few minutes can be enough to revitalize you.
Listen to Your Body:
Your body sends you messages all the time, and it is up to you to listen to them. If your body tells you that you need to sit down, then follow its instructions and pull out a chair. If your body says it is time to eat something, then do not ignore that rumble – take the next opportunity to pull yourself away from the shift and grab a snack. By giving your body what it needs, you reduce the chances of falling mentally or physically ill.
Create a Schedule:
You are likely to already have a work schedule, but you would also benefit from one outside of work. Doing this means you have better control over your time, and by saving more time, you have more opportunities to relax.
Set up a morning routine and bedtime to ensure you always get the sleep you need – just remember to give yourself enough time for everything!
Help Out Other Nurses:
Nurse burnout is not a one-person issue. The chances are, your fellow nurses have or will experience it at some point in their careers, so make sure they know you are there to help.
When you have successfully conquered your stress and have figured out a lifestyle that works for you, make the effort to notice when other nurses are struggling and offer your help. Doing this will create a positive cycle, as they will then be more inclined to help you and other nurses out, creating a more positive work environment.
Nurse burnout is no joke, but by acknowledging its presence and focusing on yourself as much as you do others, you will overcome it.
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