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Balancing Life as a Nurse

 

Maintaining a good balance of work and everyday life can sometimes be a difficult task, especially in today’s world where the Internet has made it easy to keep a steady stream of emails popping into our inbox at all hours of the day and work-from-home jobs are more prevalent than ever. It can be hard to “unplug” so-to-speak from worrying about patients and having to multitask, as many nurses end up doing while on shift.

Nurses in particular deal with critical medical emergencies, the death of patients and long, exhausting hours that can put a lot of stress and strain on them. And, mostly commonly, when nurses are under immense pressure for long periods of time, it can lead to burnout. This is why it should be taken seriously to balance your personal life and your career so you can maintain a healthy lifestyle.

The Root of the Problem: What Causes Workplace Stress?

It’s good to know what can cause stressful situations in the workplace so they can be avoided (if possible) and to know that you might not be the only one facing these problems. Nurses, while on shift, are constantly being pulled in different directions and have to multitask. Communicating with many different patients, colleagues and other healthcare professionals simultaneously can be stressful and not easy to do.

There are several factors, according to Northeastern State University, that can contribute to adding stress onto nurses, which can include: understaffing, lack of cooperation, miscommunication, incompetent management and little-to-no breaks or downtime.

According to the National Institute of Health’s study, “…survey results have shown that those employed in nursing are exposed to stressful situations on a daily basis, most often involving psychological or physical violence in the workplace, dealing with death, lack of personnel and a high frequency of patients.

While there are many stress factors at work that may be out of your control, there are also ways that you can work together as a team to make processes flow better while on the job. However, when you’re not on the job, you should try to make time for yourself by knowing how to separate your life at home from your work life.

Fixing Your Work-Life Balance

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Unfortunately, when you spend much of your time working, it can be hard to detach from work and enjoy being around others during your free time. When you work too much, you might experience fatigue and become irritable or even make you not think clearly which can lead to costly mistakes. Per Mayo Clinic, poor health can also become a factor and this can worsen symptoms related to many medical conditions and put you at risk of substance misuse. And, when you are working too much, you are losing time that could have been spent with friends and loved ones, making you feel left out or lonely.

One of the ways to achieve a good, healthy work-life balance is to set limits. “If you don’t set limits, work can leave you with no time for the relationships and activities you enjoy,” Mayo Clinic writes.

So, try considering these strategies to help:

  • Manage your time: Purchase a planner and don’t overschedule yourself; give yourself enough time to get things done and checked off your list.
  • Learn to say “no”: If you are like many adults living with a “people-pleasing” work ethic then saying “no” might be hard to accomplish. Try to evaluate your priorities at work and at home and try to shorten your to-do list by cutting or delegating activities you don’t enjoy or can’t handle. You can even try sharing your concerns and possible solutions with your employer or others. And, once you stop accepting tasks out of guilt or a false sense of obligation, you’ll have more time for activities that are more meaningful to you.
  • Detach from work: If you are at home and frequently using technology to connect to work, it can make you feel like you’re always on the job, which can lead to chronic stress. Try to seek guidance from your manager about expectations for when you can disconnect. And, if you work from home, dress for work and have a quiet dedicated workspace, if possible. When you’re done working each day, detach and transition to your home life by changing your outfit, taking a drive or walk or doing an activity with your children.
  • Consider your options: If you feel like you have the option to do so, ask your employer about flex hours, a compressed workweek, job sharing or other scheduling flexibility because the more control you have over your hours, the less stressed you’re likely to be.

As nurses experience constant stress, it becomes more evident in their work. It can lead to making medical errors that can even endanger the lives of their patients. So, obtaining a good work-life balance can be critical to everyone involved. So, what are other ways that you can have a successful work-life balance?

Taking Care of Yourself

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On many occasions, nurses are working long, exhausting hours while also possibly juggling going to school and furthering their education, as well as taking care of their children and others in the household. At some point, you have to focus and take care of yourself.

Here are a few different ways that you can put yourself first:

  • Practice Self-Care: Many times, nurses find it difficult to get enough sleep, eat well and exercise due to extended shifts and a busy agenda. It’s important to try your best to get recommended amounts of sleep, as well as eat a well-balanced diet and stay active.
  • Relax: Set aside time for activities that you enjoy and give you a sense of relaxation, such as yoga, gardening or reading. Even though you might have hobbies that require being outside and moving, they can help you relax, take your mind off of work and recharge.
  • Volunteer: Research has shown that volunteering to help others can improve your connections with others, as well as lead to better life satisfaction and lower psychological distress. Volunteering is also a great way to shift your focus from work and find ways to make your time more meaningful.
  • Develop a support system: While at work, join forces with co-workers who can cover for your – and vice versa – when family conflicts arise. At home, enlist trusted friends and loved ones to pitch in with childcare or household responsibilities when you need to work late.

Lastly and most importantly, nurses – along with all professionals – need to know when to seek help when you need it the most. Sometimes, you might feel like you’re at your wits’ end and you need to contact someone for help. If you have access to an employee assistance program, try to take advantage of available services or find free resources from your local community.

So, balancing life and work as a nurse can be tough sometimes, especially in the chaos of today’s world where work life bleeds into home life quite often. Creating a work-life balance is a continuous process as your family and interests change in life. However, it never hurts to stop and re-examine your own priorities to make sure you are accomplishing your goals and remaining as happy and healthy as possible.