As a nurse, you probably started your career intending to be a caregiver and healer. But the stresses of the job commonly cause compassionate and hardworking nurses to simply burn out, leading them to question their career choice altogether. Sadly, well-meaning nurses, whose primary goal is the adequate care of their patients, may find themselves ill-equipped to meet the complex needs of those patients.
There are many reasons for nurse burnout. You are asked to function at a very high level in a very high-stress work environment over long hours. Day in and day out, you encounter sickness and death. But despite these challenges, it is possible to take steps to reduce your own burnout through conscientious self-care and small changes to your working environment.
What Is "Nurse Burnout"?
Job burnout involves chronic stress that leads to detachment and emotional or physical exhaustion. Nurses, like other professionals experiencing the condition, will have doubts about their value and competence at work. The great news is that the effects of burnout can be controlled by taking a few reasonable steps:
1. Recognize the Signs
Burnout is more than just a bad day. If you find yourself becoming irritable, even in off-hours, or have anxiety when you think about going back to the clinic or hospital, you may be burned out. Take time to acknowledge this fact and get to know the signs and symptoms of nurse burnout.
2. Practice Deep Breathing
Like many forms of mental stress, burnout is often characterized by physical symptoms. Taking a few moments to slow down can help reduce tension in your body, clear your mind, and enhance your ability to take on your duties.
Before entering a stressful situation, take a few minutes to breathe. Breathing exercises help reduce stress by keeping your body and mind functioning optimally. There are several exercises you can try, from belly breathing to roll breathing.
3. Join (or Start) a Social Support Group
Studies have shown that social support, such as the interpersonal exchanges you have with your co-workers, can promote positive feelings, improve respect for one another and even reinforce security. Being a part of a social support group helps you improve your sense of freedom and enhances your self-esteem.
Join an existing workplace social support group or have a biweekly lunch meeting with co-workers. You can also take the lead and start a group in order to reduce your own burnout and that experienced by those around you.
4. Automate Your Life
While it may not be easy to change your schedule, you can still use tools to make your work life more organized. Try an app that helps you manage your tasks. The right aids can help you reduce the stress imposed from redundant tasks and feel more in control of your working life.
5. Take a Break
As a nurse, it's easy to feel the needs of patients, doctors, and staff around the clock. But if you fail to take a moment for yourself, you are doing yourself a disservice and even risking your patients' well-being. Take a break to breathe, listen to relaxing music or meditate.
6. Get Creative
Cultivating creative activities when you're not on the job can help you reduce nurse burnout and help relax and engage you. A favorite hobby is not a mere indulgence; it can be a form of therapy. Garden, draw, paint or decorate.
7. Get Sleep
When you miss sleep, you can't do your best. Lack of sleep affects your memory and job performance and contributes to an overall feeling of being haggard and fatigued. Get in those hours of sleep before clocking in to start your shift.
Banish the Burnout
As a nurse, you can't always predict or control what happens on your shift. But you can control how you react to some situations. Make your own wellness a priority, and by doing so, better the lives of your patients.
The Well-Being Index is a great tool to evaluate well-being and gain access to resources that aide in wellness education. Learn more about this powerful tool and how it can help you improve well-being and renew your purpose.