How do you keep from going crazy even when your shift is long and exhausting? What about when you have that one patient that keeps yelling absurdities? Sometimes it feels like your 12 hour shift has turned into a 36 hour time period. What tips do you have for keeping your sanity?

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7 Tips to Keep Your Sanity On and Off Your Nursing Shift

 By Val Gokenbach on Mon, Nov 25, 2013

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With your work becoming more complex and challenging by the day, it’s getting harder and harder to remain sane throughout your nursing shift. But you can keep your sanity with these 7 tips:

  1. Live in the Now

    One of my great idols was Scarlett O’Hara. When the world was falling apart around her, she gave herself permission to move on by delaying her worries with permission.  She said, “I guess I will just worry about that tomorrow. Tomorrow is another day.”  

    I don’t suggest that when faced with stress, we all get in the habit of procrastinating. But we need to remember that 99% of our stress comes from fears that are never realized. This fear is what invokes the stress reflex and causes the wear and tear on our bodies.

    When we are faced with a stressor, take a moment to analyze the stressor. Develop a plan to address it and then dismiss it. Give yourself permission to think about it at another time if it is appropriate to do that. If we live in the wreckage of the future, we lose those moments of life. Remember, life is nothing but a cascade of moments. Don’t lose them because we can never get them back.

  2. Learn to Say No

    As nurses, we want to help everyone. But oftentimes, we burden ourselves with too many tasks, both in and out of work. That’s why it’s important to critically evaluate your time, and if you cannot take on more responsibilities, you need to respectfully say no.

    I found that this was one of my problems. Due to my willingness to help everyone, I was buried in tasks that were adding tremendously to my stress level. Since then, I have learned to thank people for thinking of me but will tell them that, at this time, I don’t have the ability to help. I always invite them to ask me later when things lighten up.

    When you are overburdened during your nursing shift, you need to ask for help. If you are not getting help from your colleagues or assistants, you need to ask your manager or supervisor. Most of the time they don’t appreciate how busy you are, but when you alert them, usually adjustments can be made in the schedule or they can help you themselves.

  3. Make a List

    I find that this is a tremendous help in organizing my day and my life. When you make lists, it becomes a contract with yourself for what you wish to accomplish. It feels so good to cross off the task when completed. The list is also a visual representation of all that you have completed. You will be amazed at your capacity for completing tasks and work.

  4. Exercise Daily

    The advantages of exercise for nurses are irrefutable but many of us continue to ignore its importance. Remember that exercise strengthens our bodies and mind and helps improve our endurance. This strength and endurance translates into everything you do, whether at work, lifting and taking care of your kids, or performing activities in your daily life. It also reduces stress, helping us feel in control and healthy.

    You can increase your physical activity incrementally by taking the stairs rather than the elevator or parking farther from your destination. You can also take 10 minutes on and off through the day to just march in place. You will be amazed how many pounds you can shed with these little bursts.

  5. Schedule Time for Yourself

    Even if it is only for 30 minutes, schedule some renewal time for yourself. And no, your daily shower does not count. Watch a television show, take a nap, meditate, read, soak in a tub, do crafts or a hobby. Do something that you feel is relaxing and enjoyable to you. This is called creating space. I find that when I take a few minutes off for myself, it feels that I have more time for other things.

  6. Be Grateful

    The world is a wonderful place and we have been given many gifts. As nurses, we have been given the ability to help others in need. We have been given the intellect to think critically and to learn. We are the most trusted profession in the world and we will always be able to find jobs.

    We all have been given many other gifts that we may not appreciate as well. And for all these, we should feel thankful. For me, I have set my expectations pretty low for myself. I now feel that every day, waking up is another gift and that everything that follows throughout the day becomes a bonus.

    Look at the sky. Smell the flowers. Gaze into the eyes of your beautiful children. Appreciate your significant others. Even during trying or sad times, remember that “you don’t realize the strength of the anchor without the fury of the storm.” Also, in hindsight, every bad experience eventually becomes a valuable experience if we learn from it and move on.

  7. Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously

    I will leave you with this last idea to have a sense of humor and not to take yourself too seriously. We all have egos that get in the way of our feelings because we don’t ever want to look bad or be misjudged by those around us. When we let go of our egos, we liberate ourselves.

    Life is for learning and for growing. There are no such things as mistakes but rather learning opportunities. Laugh at yourself during a nursing shift and then move on. Remember: “Tomorrow is another day!”

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AuthorCourtney Tracy
Tagsnurse