Long shifts, long days, long weeks and multiple responsibilities pull you in multiple directions! So much to do and so little time.
Is all this a cliché or is it reality? In today’s healthcare environment, it certainly seems that it is indeed our reality – a reality of the times in which we live and our expansive scope of practice.
Nursing, more than ever before, is a challenge. And nowhere is this more obvious than in the way in which nurses care for themselves. Caring for caregivers is a common theme. How can nurses care for others when they have no time to care for themselves? How can nurses continue to be the best they can possibly be to family, patients, employers and others pulling them in multiple directions?
Balancing work and personal life can be a challenging task in the current American cultural climate. As nurses, we work more hours, have less time for ourselves, and we face a sense of urgency on a daily basis.
A nurse colleague recently stated, “I need help managing my time. I am currently studying for the NCLEX-RN. I am married and have a 4-year-old son. I am feeling like I need to study for my exam every waking minute, but I still have to clean house, cook dinner, watch my son, and spend time with my husband. Plus, I need to exercise and I attend church services twice a week. I would like to know from those who may have a similar situation – how can you do it all?”
Sound familiar? Are you caught up in the balancing act, unable to do it all and care only for others without caring for yourself? You are only as good as you are balanced! If you do not take the time for yourself – yes, even with the array of responsibilities pressuring you now – you will not be the best that you can be. That personal best includes you as mom, wife, friend, partner, professional, educator or community leader. That personal best is what will enable you to reach new heights in your career, to achieve your goals and to maintain your health.
Nurses have multiple sources of stress. From an unrealistic workload due to inadequate staffing and excessive paperwork; fluctuating schedules associated with changing shifts; mandatory overtime; floating without appropriate orientation; and moral and ethical dilemmas, nurses see and feel it all.
Additionally, being single, rearing young families, and/or caring for aging parents are common life circumstances with unique psychosocial and logistical challenges. Many professionals have sought flexible, virtual arrangements in pursuit of balanced personal lives. We all have personal and career goals. By visualizing those goals, we empower ourselves to achieve them. Taking small action steps toward our goals puts them within our reach.
Although workplace stress cannot be eliminated, the negative stressors can be reduced when nurses make caring for themselves a priority. Self-care can be a barrier to stress-related illness and contribute to your overall well-being. To maintain the delicate balancing act required for self-care, you must control your actions and personal/professional life. You must be resilient. Resiliency – the ability to pick yourself up and keep going – helps us to maintain balance.
How do you become resilient? Here are some tips:
- Create a personal environment that sustains you. Your personal environment either sustains and lifts you up or sets you up for certain failure. Your daily life unfolds in this space that you have created through actions, reactions or non-actions. Be cognizant of these critical elements: your thoughts, physical condition, self, spirit, relationships and finances.
- Bounce back as needed. Don’t let minor setbacks hold you back.
- Stay in the present and move forward.
- Know when to ask for help and where to get it.
Make priorities. Just as you learned within your basic nursing program to prioritize within your scope of practice, you should prioritize within your life. The balance between work and life is a reflection of the balance within you. Life/work balance is a barometer for well-being – personal, professional, family and community well-being. To maintain that delicate life/work balance, try these suggestions:
- Simplify your life
- Eliminate stress
- Negotiate for workplace balance
- Know your purpose
- Stay focused
- Eat, sleep and be merry
- Maintain a good sense of humor
- Allow humor in the workplace
- Dream big dreams
- Master the fine art of list-making
Identify those things that must be done and those that can wait. Identify the groups to which you must belong, and those for which you must volunteer your time and efforts. Even though there is so much to do and so little time, take time for yourself and make balance a part of your daily routine! You will thank yourself, and those around you will thank you too.