As a nurse, you’ve dedicated a lot of time and energy to pursue your path and get to where you are. You deserve to hold and love your role in the healthcare landscape, but the role can often leave you battling more than a few factors associated with serious burnout. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways for nurses to prevent and manage burnout symptoms to keep them loving and excelling in their roles. Whether it is improving your schedule or specialty or investing in things like cute scrubs that’ll pick you up throughout the day or more efficient tech, taking the time to identify your stressors and aspirations will allow you to begin making positive changes.
1. Improving Physical Health
It’s no secret that physical health and mental health go hand-in-hand. The amount and quality of physical activity, food and sleep that you get all have a tremendous impact on your stress levels and overall well-being. As stress weakens your health, it’s crucial to give your body what it needs to reduce your risk of burnout.
Exercising regularly produces endorphins, which not only help to reduce stress and improve your overall mood but your ability to sleep as well. For reducing stress hormone levels, in particular, certain foods can help, along with increasing energy levels and immunities.
2. Utilizing Support Systems
We can all feel how social interactions and support systems are necessary for our mental health and overall well-being. Equally important as having and utilizing these support systems, though, is taking care to occasionally assess where your support is coming from and who’s providing it.
Friends and family have an unrivaled way of grounding a person as opposed to focusing on work, external problems or other stressors. As healthcare is a unique landscape, and nursing an intricate role, your colleagues are equally important, as they are among the few who will truly understand the stimulation and stressors of your job.
Along with these, committees can be an incredible support system not only for your mental health but to support your ideas and opinions. If you’re looking to make changes to improve your role or the landscape, committees may be some of the best systems to get involved in.
3. Identifying Areas of Control (or Lack of It)
The desire for a feeling of control is natural. Unfortunately, that means that feeling a lack of control can come with some serious side effects such as tension, anxiety, depression and burnout. With healthcare environments being fairly unpredictable and susceptible to unexpected and rapid changes, there’s a lot that can suddenly fall out of a nurse’s realm of control.
It’s important, as a nurse, to take the time to identify areas of your work environment or aspects of your role over which you may feel a lack of control. Not only can this be extremely beneficial to begin the process of accepting them but to bring about positive changes in these areas where and when possible as well.
4. Adjusting Schedules
Considering how important your time for sleep, support, exercise and eating are, finding a work schedule that allows you to incorporate all of it comfortably will have a significant impact in preventing burnout. This being said, nurses are often required to work rotating shifts or night shifts, and this leaves the battle of burnout a more difficult one. While this may be mandatory in certain healthcare environments, working these types of shifts certainly isn’t for everyone. If you’re one of these people, it might be worth adjusting your environment and moving to a different facility or clinic to attain a more workable schedule.
5. Switching Specialities
If you’ve pursued the path of nursing but are finding yourself constantly unhappy, burnt out or unsatisfied from your role, there’s a chance that you’ve just chosen the wrong nursing specialty for you. The directions that the path of nursing could take you are endless, with specialties branching off prolifically. Whether your current nursing role is too high pressure, too slow of a pace, not fulfilling for you or there is another aspect that’s leaving you unhappy with your chosen path, there likely exists a different type of nursing role that can relieve it.
6. Getting Ready for a Good Day
Our desire to look good is based on a lot more than trying to attract a partner — looking good and feeling good go hand-in-hand. By outwardly expressing the best possible version of yourself, it becomes easier to express yourself in other ways and take charge in other situations, which can create an incredibly positive impact in every aspect of your life. On the opposite note, not feeling good in your clothes, with your look or in your skin can have a drastic and detrimental impact on stress and happiness levels in everyday life.
As a nurse, there’s a good chance that you practically live in your scrubs — so it’s crucial that you look good and feel good in them too! Exploring different scrub sizes, styles, colors and patterns can not only be a fun and exciting thing to do all on its own but can help you find scrubs that make you look and feel amazing from the moment you pull them on to the second you shed them.
7. Taking Time for Yourself
A lot of people experience guilt when taking time for their own pleasure, but self-care activities can be extremely beneficial and should be utilized and enjoyed! Chances are that even once you’re done with a shift, you’re probably still busy with a multitude of other things. If you’re constantly on the go with little things, though, it can become almost impossible to feel rested no matter how much “off the clock” time you get. It’s necessary to not only get off the clock but to let it unwind!
Scheduling your me-time can be a helpful tactic to achieve this. Not only will this serve as a reminder and stressor of its importance, but will give you something to look forward to while you’re at work and, undoubtedly, make it that much more enjoyable when the time comes.
8. Unplugging Daily and Practicing Gratitude
With devices like smartphones and watches being utilized in both your work and personal life as a nurse, it can be easy to accidentally find yourself connected 24/7. That being said, it’s important to set parameters for your screen time to enjoy your time off more completely and coherently, indulge in the life you work so hard for and reset your mood and mindset.
Along with this, consciously practicing gratitude during these times can greatly increase the positive impact that unplugging already has to offer, and it is an extremely proactive step in the overall prevention and management of burnout symptoms.
9. Setting Achievable Schedules and Serious Boundaries
Being good at planning and scheduling is only half the battle. Where a lot of people fall flat in this area is being able to stick to the schedule that they’ve created. This can be for a variety of reasons, but most commonly is because the schedule that they’ve set for themselves isn’t realistic and achievable, or the proper boundaries haven’t been set.
But what if you’re capable of laying out a realistic and achievable schedule and boundaries, and you’re still always finding yourself late for the next scheduled task? There’s a good chance that your issue might be a lack of respect for your boundaries — whether it is from someone else or, possibly, even yourself.
10. There’s an App (or Digital Tool) for That
Whether it is for personal use to avoid burnout, or for professional use to improve performance, apps and digital devices make up some of the best resources being offered to today’s nurses.
Apps for both personal and patient screening, scheduling, testing and monitoring exist, and an abundance of personal and even wearable digital tools are available to nurses. All-in-one assistant devices, portable diagnostic devices, real-time positioning systems and more types of digital tools can have a positive impact on a nurse’s workload and environment and, in turn, the prevention and management of burnout.
Where and How Do You Start?
If you find yourself struggling to battle burnout symptoms and don’t know where to start or how to improve your efforts, remember that it’s always okay to seek help. Nursing is a path that’s focused on taking care of others, and it requires a special type of person to do it well. Unfortunately, this is also often the type that may experience feelings of guilt when they consider asking for help themselves.
Seeking professional help doesn’t necessarily have to mean a mental health professional. Alternative routes, like a professional career coach, for instance, can help you to reduce your risk of burnout through tactics like identifying and making battle plans to tackle both your stressors and aspirations — providing a more dreamy (and less guilt-riddled or embarrassing) experience.
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