Working full-time as a nurse has been no walk in the park, especially in the last year. It has been dangerous, it has been all-hands-on-deck, and it has taken its toll. Managing stress is just a part of the job, but when you have to deal with the stress of the job, the stress of the pandemic, and the personal stress you have at home, it can become too much, too quickly.
It’s normal and perfectly okay if your career ambitions had to take a back seat, but now that vaccinations are rolling out, it’s time to jump back on your career ladder and start working on your next goal.
Knowing how to manage your health and well-being will help you be a better nurse, help you juggle your education, and, of course, help you throughout every life phase you go through.
Finding the Right Working Environment
One of the best things you can do for your career explores the different working environments. You may be paid better in a big hospital, but you may prefer the work/life balance at a small, rural hospital or clinic. With the rise of telehealth, you can even work remotely. As a nurse, it doesn’t matter where you work because you will always be doing so much for your community and will be making a big difference for the world and your community.
That is why it is important to feel comfortable, happy, and healthy in your work environment. If you feel stressed and like you can barely keep your head above water, you will not be the best nurse that you can be and should look for new openings in a different workplace type.
Choosing the Right Education Track
There are multiple education tracks available for you. If you don’t have children to care for and have healthy savings already, for example, you may find it better for your mental health and stress levels to take on your next degree full-time. Alternatively, you can work while you study with an online degree. Every great nursing school will offer you both to choose the degree and the format that works best for your personal life and ambitions.
When choosing any degree or learning option, ensure that the one you go for offers as much career support as possible. This means offering a student success coach means offering clinical experience and internship placements, which means being taught by talented faculty and clinicians.
Eating Well for Ongoing Energy
You need foods that provide the slowest release of energy. This will help you avoid the inevitable crash of caffeine and sugar throughout the day and can also be great for your overall health. Nuts, for example, are some of the best snacks. You can even make them into homemade protein bars. To help save on their relatively high price, buy in bulk from a bulk food store and make those protein bars right at home yourself.
Finally Getting a Good Night’s Rest
Shift work can be very hard on your sleep routine. The white, bright lights of the hospital can throw off your internal circadian rhythm. There are so many ways that being a nurse works to ruin your natural sleep cycle and can make it hard to get a good night’s rest that actually leaves you feeling awake and ready when you wake up. So if you notice that you struggle to stay awake during the day and then struggle going to sleep at night when it is finally time, try using your routine. Eat the same number of hours before bed. So, if you have a late shift one day, have dinner. If your shift ends in the morning, eat in the early hours of the day. Other tips include trying to minimize white light in your home and investing in comfortable bedding and black-out curtains so that you sleep undisturbed when you need to.
Calming Techniques for When Things Become Too Much
Compassion fatigue, physical fatigue, health fatigue – all of these can wear a nurse down and make stress compound. You can use many calming techniques, but some of the best include going for walks or sitting amongst nature, exercising, and doing slow-living activities. Reading, gardening, knitting, crafts, cooking – all of these are mindful and can help you recenter yourself so that your cortisol levels can even out, and you can calm down.
For serious stress that is starting to become clinical anxiety, you will want professional guidance, including a potential support group. Support groups, in particular, are a great resource for nurses, as they can help you not feel alone, and on top of that is a great destination to get really useful advice from people who understand. Professional support should be something that everyone who feels like they struggle with compassion fatigue should have access to, though the resources are not yet in place. Support groups, online resources, and other holistic methods to calm yourself and stay grounded can help you now.
Be Patient with Yourself
The best thing you can do for your career and your patients is to be patient with yourself. There will be a time when your stress levels are at an all-time high. There will be times when you find it too much to tackle your career, your education, and of course, your personal life. By taking steps back, reducing your responsibilities where you can, and doubling down on caring for your health, you can get through those periods.
You are not in this alone, either. Rely on your loved ones, your friends, and even fellow nurses and students when you have moments that you feel like you are alone and need support. You always have a support network that can help you, and they are not only there when you lean on them or when you are weary; they can you get through the hardest parts and make consistent progress towards your dreams, and they are also with you to celebrate your achievements as well.