Saturday, May 28, 2011

Nurse Wellness: Keeping Your Sanity On and Off Duty

Nurse Wellness: Keeping Your Sanity On and Off Duty
As the world becomes more complex and challenging, it is virtually impossible to completely insulate yourself from the worries and activities that arise as a result.  The economy and the effects of looming healthcare reform also add to the workload at the bedside, due to the hospital’s inability to fund much needed nursing and support positions.  There are ways, however, to help keep your sanity through all of this if you take a calculated, objective approach to your life.  Here are my tips:

Live in the now:  One of my great idols was Scarlett O’Hara.  When the world was falling apart around her, she gave herself permission to move on by delaying her worries with permission when she said, “I guess I will just worry about that tomorrow.  Tomorrow is another day.”  I don’t suggest that we all get in the habit of procrastinating, but in relation to stress, we need to remember that 99% of our stress are fears that are never realized.  This fear is what invokes the stress reflex and causes the wear and tear on our bodies.  When we are faced with a stressor, take a moment to analyze the stressor, develop a plan to address it and then dismiss it.  Give yourself permission to think about it at another time if it is appropriate to do that.  If we live in the wreckage of the future, we lose those moments of life. Remember, life is nothing but a cascade of moments.  Don’t lose them because we can never get them back.

Learn to say no:  Especially as nurses, we want to help everyone and oftentimes can burden ourselves with many tasks, both in and out of work. It is important to critically evaluate your time, and if you cannot take on more responsibility, you need to respectfully decline.  I found that this was one of my problems and due to my willingness to help everyone, I was buried with tasks that were adding tremendously to my stress level.  I have learned to thank people for thinking of me but will tell them that, at this time, I don’t have the ability to help.  I always invite them to ask me later when things lighten up. In the work environment, when you are over burdened, you need to ask for help.  If you are not getting help from your colleagues or assistants, you need to ask your manager or supervisor.  Most of the time they don’t appreciate how busy you are, but when you alert them, usually adjustments can be made in the schedule or they can help you themselves.

Make a list:  I find that this is a tremendous help with organizing my day and my life.  When you make lists it becomes a contract with yourself for what you wish to accomplish.  It also feels so good to cross off the task when completed.  The list also gives you a visual representation of all that you have completed.  You will be amazed at your capacity for completing tasks and work.

Exercise daily:  The advantages of exercise are irrefutable but many of us continue to ignore the importance.  Remember that exercise strengthens our bodies and mind and helps improve our endurance.  This strength and endurance translates into everything you do, whether it is the work environment, lifting and taking care of your kids or performing you activities of daily living.  It also helps us feel in control and healthy, and reduces stress.  You can also increase your activity incrementally by taking stairs rather than elevators, parking further distances from your destination, and taking 10 minutes on and off through the day to just march in place.  You will be amazed how many pounds you can shed with these little bursts.

Schedule time for yourself:  Even if it is only for 30 minutes, schedule some renewal time for yourself (no your daily shower does not count).  Watch a television show, take a nap, meditate, read, soak in a tub, do crafts or a hobby, but do something that you feel is relaxing and enjoyable to you.  This is called creating space.  I find that when I take a few minutes for myself, it feels that I have more time for other things.

Be grateful:  The world is a wonderful place and we have been given many gifts. As nurses, we have been given the ability to help others in need.  We have been given the intellect to critically think and to learn.  We are the most trusted profession in the world and we will always be able to find jobs. We all have been given many other gifts that we may not appreciate as well.  I have set my expectations pretty low for myself.  I now feel that every day I wake up is another gift and that everything that follows throughout the day becomes a bonus.  Look at the sky, smell the flowers, gaze into the eyes of your beautiful children, appreciate your significant others.  Even during trying or sad times, remember that “you don’t realize the strength of the anchor without the fury of the storm.”  Also, in hindsight, every bad experience eventually becomes a valuable experience if we learn from it and move on.

Don’t take yourself too seriously:  I will leave you with this last idea to infuse humor in your life and not to take yourself too seriously.  We all have egos that get in the way of our feelings because we don’t ever want to look bad or be misjudged by those around us.  When we lose our egos, we liberate ourselves. Life is for learning and for growing; there are no such things as mistakes but rather learning opportunities.  Laugh at yourself and then move on and remember…

“Tomorrow is another day!”
About the Author:  Dr. Val Gokenbach has a true passion for leadership and has been in administrative healthcare positions for over thirty years. As a professional dancer and fitness instructor for over 40 years, Val has led a dual life as a fitness presenter, consultant and dance instructor. She has been featured as a health consultant and guest host on multiple TV shows and QVC. As an international speaker and author, her goal is to share her life's philosophy with all nurses and help them realize their value to the world.

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