As personally satisfying as nursing can be for the true altruist at heart, there is no denying the physical and emotional turmoil that comes with it. Ever since the Covid-19 pandemic struck, the healthcare sector has been more pressurized than ever to meet the growing health needs of the community.
Nurses have been one of those to bear the brunt of the increasing healthcare demands; in 2022, nearly 45% of practicing nurses who were surveyed claimed to be severely burnt out, and nearly half of the early and mid-career nurses were thinking about leaving their jobs.
Burnout is a very common phenomenon in professions as demanding as nursing, but this surely doesn’t mean it should be ignored. Burnout is known to worsen the quality of life, reduce commitment to work, and lower the ability to perform well on the job. In fact, prolonged fatigue can be seriously detrimental to your physical and mental health.
The good news is that nursing doesn’t always have to be this exhausting; if you take the right measures, you can prevent burnout and make your dream profession a lot less stressful. The following tips should help:
1. Identify and target your stressors
Of the factors that contribute to stress, many might be out of control, but many aren’t. If you don’t distinguish what can be controlled from what cannot, it is easy to overwork your mind over uncontrollable factors and give in to stressors you could have altered.
Begin by identifying symptoms of fatigue and anxiety so that the next time you experience any of these, you take note of the antecedents. For many nurses, a major source is the struggle of juggling on-site education with part-time work. If this is so, consider doing an online RN to MSN program instead – this offers much more flexible schedules.
Other triggers, like conflicts with colleagues, the emotional burden of dealing with patients, and pressure from authorities, can be addressed by communicating issues and concerns.
Venting out to some close friends after an emotionally exhausting day at work is truly rejuvenating. Having a strong social support network can act as a great buffer against workplace stress. Poor collaboration at work is a contributing factor to workplace burnout.
On the one hand, it helps to have good ties with other nurses with whom you can share your stresses and know that you aren’t alone in this battle. On the other, it is equally important to have a good social network outside your workplace to break free from work and get a much-needed breather.
3. Prioritize sleep
Burnout isn’t just being tired for a day or two; it is a condition of prolonged emotional and physical exhaustion resulting from long-term stress. Sleep is your body’s way of recovering from any kind of exhaustion.
Burnout is, no doubt, a complex state that results from a combination of long-term stressors, but recent research has found a causal relationship between sleep deprivation and burnout. One study that monitored burnt-out employees for their sleep habits, stress, and burnout severity, found sleep deprivation as the major contributor to clinical burnout.
Therefore, sleep is as important for you as you might think it is for your kids. To fix your sleep schedule, you must be consistent in your daily routine and have a dark, quiet, and comfortable place to sleep. Also, make sure to avoid screen time, heavy meals, and caffeine, and practice some relaxing routines before sleep.
4. Practice self-care
It is easy to lose sight of the time when you are a nurse and even easier to forget self-care. Nurses seldom find themselves free enough to engage in any healthy hobby, which can lock you in a vicious cycle of selfless work-related tasks.
Remember that self-care isn’t selfishness – in the long run, it is actually important for your patients. Unless you are in tip-top shape yourself, you cannot guarantee high-quality care for others. Hence, it is important to take out some time for yourself during the week.
This is the perfect time to take on a hobby that is internally satisfying for you, be it painting, sketching, cycling, watching TV shows, or simply going for a walk in the park. For this, you must also set boundaries; learn to say no when it is your ‘me-time’ and don’t take on extra tasks when you don’t think you can manage them easily.
5. Learn and practice relaxation exercises
There is no better counter to stress than a relaxation exercise like breathing exercises, journaling, progressive muscle relaxation, and meditation.
Relaxation exercises are known to lower your heart rate, slow breathing, reduce blood pressure, improve blood flow to muscles, lower levels of stress hormones, decrease muscle tension, lower fatigue, anger, and frustration, and even improve sleep quality.
Whenever you feel overwhelmed by troubling thoughts or need a break from your busy work routine, inhale deeply and just give yourself a break from everything. After a deep inhale, hold your breath for some time and exhale slowly. You can practice this whenever you are anxious, stressed, overworked, or frustrated.
It is also a great idea to begin your day with a short meditation exercise; you can do this in any peaceful spot in your room.
6. Prioritize exercise
Even though you might not have a heart for exercise at the end of a tiring day at work, research has shown exercise to be a great counter to stress and burnout. It can even help relieve depression and anxiety. Physical activity releases endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin, the body’s feel-good hormones.
Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise a day – this can be broken up into smaller portions if that is more suitable for you. Even a 10-minute walk will uplift your mood for up to two hours. Any kind of rhythmic exercise can improve focus, lift your mood, relax your body and mind, and keep you energized.
Working day in and day out as a nurse can truly be exhausting, both physically and mentally. Nursing burnout is, unfortunately, a very common concern. However, with just a few lifestyle changes, you can avoid burnout. With a strong support network, good sleep, exercise, self-care, and relaxation exercises, you can make your job much less stressful.