Nurses are one of the most sought-after professional in any career path. However, a great deal of pressure is placed on them as the demand for improved healthcare is now just an expectation. Unfortunately, more nurses are suffering from the likes of anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions, which can severely impact both their work and personal life.
Nursing is one of the most stressful roles in the healthcare industry and many good nurses are forced to face the consequences of the huge burdens that are placed on their shoulders. The result of this means that instead of the vocational role bringing joy after years of hard study, it can actually have the adverse effect and cause severe dissatisfaction.
It’s important that nurses achieve a good work/life balance in order to improve on their mental frame of mind, general health and personal relationships. Below are some useful tips for nurses to consider as a way of achieving a good work/life balance.
Accept the Situation
For many new nurses especially, the idea of working in such a fast-paced environment with long working hours and thankless effort can come as a real shock. Unfortunately, many suffer from stress as a result of immense pressure, but the only way to come to terms with it is just to accept their situation and change their mindset.
Tell yourself that you have worked hard to reach this position and you’re experiencing the same situation as other nurses all over the world. If you feel as though you lack control, concentrate on the things that you can take control of, such as your own mental frame of mind. Remember that everyone makes mistakes and no-one is super-human, so you can’t be in multiple places at once. Over time, as you begin to practice this thought process, you’ll start to notice a difference in how you are able to manage your day-to-day life as a nurse.
Define Your Purpose
Although you have worked hard to get to where you are, being a nurse isn’t your sole identity, so don’t let it define you and take over your entire life. You may also be a wife, husband, mum, dad, sister, brother, daughter, son, and best friend. Ask yourself who you want to be and what other goals you want to achieve outside of your work. Doing so will allow you to think outside the box and come up with ideas on how to spend time off shift with the people that mean the most.
Study at Home
In the nursing industry, employees are expected to undergo constant training to re-evaluate their skillset and improve on the level of care they deliver. Due to this, it’s likely you’ll be traveling around quite a lot which may be quite inconvenient when you have other responsibilities to think about. You may feel torn in boosting your career ambitions, while trying to keep your family life on track.
Dependent on which sector of nursing you work in, there are certain courses that are geared towards different circumstances. For example, there are now online courses such as nurse leadership to enroll on, without having to commute to educational institutions. This option will allow you to study in the comfort of your own home, so you don’t have to unnecessarily out of your working hours.
Irregular shift patterns and long hours may mean that you have put your health on the backburner. It may never have been intentional to put yourself to the bottom of the pile, but as a result of your demanding schedule, you may have just let it slip over time. Poor self-care can leave you feeling sluggish, tired, and extremely unmotivated, meaning you’re unlikely to perform to the best of your ability when you get to work. Aim to change your habits and adapt to a much healthier lifestyle, by taking on a regular exercise regime and a healthy diet.
If you have a few hours spare in the morning before you start your shift, it would be in your best interests to take a brisk walk around the neighborhood or head to the gym to get your heart pumping. Even the most basic exercise regimes release endorphins in the bloodstream to make you feel much happier in yourself and oddly enough, more energized.
In order to lower your stress levels, yoga and Pilates have been proven as great exercise regimes to boost mental health, as it helps to clear the mind and put full focus on the body in its current state, rather than ruminating worries.
Being on your feet all day is bound to make you feel completely worn out at the end your shift. It’s important to give yourself some down time once you get home, so your brain has time to switch off. Refrain from picking up your smartphone or laptop before bed, as the blue light emitted from the screen keeps your brain alert, which will mean you’re less likely to fall to sleep.
Try to unwind before your head hits the pillow by listening to calming podcasts to put you in a relaxed state or take a hot bath. Both will ensure that your body is geared up for sleep. Adults should be getting between 7-9 hours of sleep each night in order to function well the next day, so don’t underestimate how important sleep is for your body if you wish to power on at the same pace you’re used to.
If you work night shifts, getting sleep in the day can be difficult, as there are so many more distractions around you. There are a few considerations to bear in mind if you struggle to sleep in the daytime after working through the night.
Many nurses find it difficult to balance their family life with work, as they have so many demands to confront professionally. This is where time management is key. If you have a partner, arrange a time to sit down and discuss how you can make the relationship better, how they can support you through stressful periods and then also and come up with a schedule as to when you are able to quality time together.
You may feel a sense of guilt that they’re neglecting your loved ones too often in sacrifice of your job, so it’s important you try and resolve any conflicts as soon, or this negative feeling of letting people down or causing family issues will worsen.
Look for aspects in your life where you feel you may be wasting time and cut it out of your schedule. Similarly, think about how you may be spending too much time on things that don’t need so much attention. Providing you’re aware of where your time is best spent should allow you to gain perspective on getting that work-life balance.
Take short breaks
Although your main task is to look after patients, you should be looking after your own health too; even while you’re at work. Don’t forget that you’re also a human being who also deserves some self-care. In between looking after patients, spend a few minutes alone to gather your thoughts and take deep breaths.
The constant rushing around is likely to trigger further anxiety and distress, so always take time out when you need it. If you can, get out into the fresh air and take a walk as a breather during your scheduled break, so you walk back onto the ward with a completely different mindset.
As already mentioned, you can’t be in more than one place at a time, and sometimes, you may feel as though you don’t want to anything when you finish work. While it’s important to balance your work life with social activity, there may be some occasions when you just need some peace and quiet after the rush of a 12-hour shift – and that’s okay. Don’t feel as though you must please people constantly. Put yourself first and only accept what you can realistically manage.
The same goes for how you deal with employers in the workplace. There may be occasions when your supervisor asks you to work overtime if when there happens to be a short-staffed shift; but if you feel you just can’t manage it, don’t be afraid to say no. After all, it’s in your rights to do so. Agreeing to do something you can’t realistically manage will only make you regret the decision afterward and cause you further stress that you just don’t need. Being too willing may also make you a go-to target from your supervisor, to work overtime whenever they need some extra help.
If you’re uncomfortable with the amount of overtime that is offered to you, don’t be afraid to say so. If you’re a new nurse who has just entered the industry or have perhaps worked in the sector for a number of years, we hope this guide has given you some useful advice on getting the work/life balance you deserve.