Many of the careers that provide high rewards are also extremely demanding, and nursing is no exception. Long hours, emotional stress and constant dedication to patients – all this can lead to fast burnout. In turn, burnout can cause constant exhaustion, ineffectiveness at work, as well as cynicism and irritability, even with patients and coworkers.
Many nurses face burnout at some point in their careers. Sometimes, the competitive, fast-paced environment of hospital work means that nurses who are just starting out in the field feel a lot of pressure. On the other hand, nurses further along in their career may face too much emotional stress or have neglected to take the proper time to care for themselves.
If you’re starting to feel run down ‒ don’t get discouraged. The best way to deal with burnout is to prevent it from occurring. Some simple ways that nurses can avoid burnout at work include:
1. Reduce and Manage Stress
One of the primary reasons that nurses experience burnout is stress, so the obvious way to avoid burnout is to reduce stress. This is easy to say, but of course, it’s a little harder to actually put into practice. Reduce stress at work by taking breaks throughout your shift and organizing your everyday tasks. Many hospitals and medical facilities have on-site counseling and support programs for nurses who are feeling pressured at work. However, the most important step you can take to reduce and manage stress is to be aware when you are stressed and seek help or take action to deal with it.
2. Make Time for Yourself
Nurses work long shifts and often have a hectic schedule, which means it can be difficult to make time for activities outside of work. Having a hobby can be really helpful in helping you unwind and leave your work behind. Schedule coffee with friends, take up painting or sports, go to the movies, or practice whatever else you love doing. The important thing is to have a life outside of your work, so you can take your mind off it.
3. Talk to Others
Sometimes, it’s easier to keep things to yourself; however, discussing your stress is an effective way to deal with it or to work through issues. Many nurses keep a circle of medical professionals as close confidantes who can serve as a support group when things get tough at work. It’s also a good idea to have friends who are not nurses since that makes it easier to get into other activities and hobbies. One option is to find a mentor who can help walk you through any issues you’re facing. If you feel that work stress is starting to really affect your sense of well-being, seek professional help, such as a counselor or a psychologist.
Many benefits exist in exercising on a regular basis. The obvious benefit, of course, is that you stay healthy and fit, but keeping active also raises energy levels and reduces stress. While nurses often have physically demanding jobs, regular exercise helps you keep a routine and adds a sense of mindfulness to your day-to-day activities. Exercise is especially helpful for nurses who work night shifts: A quick workout before a shift can give you an energy boost. Additionally, staying active gives you a hobby and allows you to take time for yourself.
5. Eat Healthy
While it might take some extra effort on a daily basis, following a healthy diet is important to both your overall sense of well-being and stress levels. Many people don’t think of food as a stress reducer, but, indirectly, it absolutely is. One of the main reasons is that stress wears you out, and receiving healthy energy from eating complete, whole foods is a good way to keep you going through the day. Eating well also means sticking to a routine, which can help you stay organized. Last, but not least, your overall health will improve with a healthy diet, which means both your body and mind will get stronger.
We don’t often have time to be completely in the moment, especially if you are leading the hectic life of a professional nurse. Between work, household obligations and everyday chores such as grocery shopping, cooking, household management, etc., it’s difficult to find time for reflection. This busy lifestyle can cause stress to accumulate. To break the cycle, practice meditation. While meditating may not seem an obvious choice, it requires both self-discipline and a lot of mental space. Meditation lets you connect to your inner thoughts and make time for yourself. Try self-guided meditation at home a couple of times per week or seek out meditation classes with professionals.
7. Explore New Career Options
Sometimes, we just need a change. Whether it’s getting a new specialization, switching to a different type of nursing career or just looking for a new team of coworkers, a career move can be helpful if you feel that your current job is leading to burnout. Try other techniques first, but if you’re not happy in your current position, or just need to grow professionally, many options are available to you as a nurse. For example, both LPNs and RNs can pursue a variety of specialties. On the other hand, nurses can look into opportunities that provide a less-stressful environment, such as working as a school nurse, nurse educator or policy advisor, among others.
Work is an important part of our lives, but it’s essential in achieving a good work-life balance. Finding this balance can be difficult in many professions, and nursing is no exception. However, with some discipline and a conscious effort to avoid burnout from work, you can reduce stress and get involved in activities that lead to a happier and healthier lifestyle. As a nurse, you have a huge responsibility for the health of others, but to do your job well, you must stay on top of your game. So, stay determined, organized and positive by making time for yourself and avoiding burnout.