It’s no secret that the life of a nurse can be a stressful one. Nurses are some of the most selfless and hard workers around. They are often burdened with long shifts, stressful environments, dealing with sickness and death and putting others’ needs ahead of their own. If you’re not careful, the combination of these factors can contribute to nurse burnout.
According to National Nurses United, burnout is defined as physical, mental and emotional exhaustion. While burnout can occur in any job, it is becoming more and more common in medical professions and is resulting in high turnover in the field.
In a stressful profession, such as nursing, what can you do to help prevent burnout from happening to you? Begin practicing self-care. Nurses are taught to care for others, but you can’t do that to your full potential unless you have taken care of yourself first.
1. Get Enough Sleep
In order to be at your best during your workday, you must make sleep a priority. Although it can be a major challenge when you are working long, and sometimes odd, hours for your shifts, it is crucial for your well-being.
Establish a routine for going to sleep and stick to it. It could be taking a shower, brushing your teeth and reading a book before bedtime. This will help signal your brain that it is time for sleep. Make it a point to keep a consistent schedule on work days and also non-work days.
Keep electronics out of the bedroom. Use blackout curtains if you need to sleep during daylight hours. Invest in a good mattress. Eliminate noise with earplugs or use a white noise machine to help you drift off.
2. Practice Meditation and Breathing Exercises
Making time in your day for meditation and breathing can help greatly decrease stress. Meditation can reduce the stress and anxiety you harbor from your job, help you reset and focus when you feel overwhelmed or even help you fall asleep at night. New to meditating? Give it a try! Even just 10 minutes a day can make a noticeable difference. You can implement meditation as part of your routine when you get home from work, or spend five minutes focusing on your breathing when you are feeling overwhelmed or anxious at work.
There are many breathing and meditation apps available for smartphones, for both quick sessions and longer ones, but if you are looking for something you can do anytime, anywhere, without the help of your electronic device, one of the easiest exercises to start with is the 4-7-8 method.
4-7-8 Method: Inhale slowly through your nose while you count to four in your head. Hold your breath and count to seven. Then, exhale through your mouth while you count to eight. Repeat for at least one minute.
3. Plan a Personal Care Day
Nursing schedules are almost always hectic. Couple that with a busy personal schedule and “time off” can feel far and few in between. Do you find you often use your personal days to run errands and take care of other business? Your new homework is to plan a personal care day – especially for you! Family obligations and errands will always be a part of life, we understand that, but a great way to incorporate self-care into your routine is to plan a day to spend on yourself every once in awhile. Read a book, schedule a massage and treat yourself to lunch. Do whatever it is you like to do to relax. Do you have a hobby that you often neglect because of not having enough time? Do it! It will do wonders for your mood and you will feel refreshed and accomplished.
4. Meal Prep
As important as it is for your body and mind to get enough sleep, it is also important to feed it the right fuel! As a nurse, you know what a healthy diet consists of, as you tell patients every day, but with a hectic schedule, sometimes you might forget about taking care of yourself in this way. For those who are busy and always on the go, meal planning and preparation can really be a life-changer. If you find yourself constantly hitting up the vending machine or fast food because you didn’t have time to plan a nutritious meal for yourself, give meal preparation a try. There are many recipes online for make-ahead meals that are healthy and easy to incorporate into your day. You will be more focused for your patients if you are nourished.
Nurse burnout can happen at any time. Practice these self-care tips so you can prevent it and maintain your passion for helping others.