The Mayo Clinic defines workplace burnout as “a state of physical, emotional or mental exhaustion combined with doubts about your competence and the value of your work.” As nurses, burnout can happen after a traumatic event, but often the discreet signals of distress go unnoticed while you're busy taking care of others.
Do you feel exhausted, anxious, physically ill, or dread the thought of going to work each day? If so, you may be experiencing burnout. Here are some tips that can help you overcome this chronic, stressful state and learn to thrive again.
Try to pinpoint the circumstances that are causing you to feel overwhelmed. Once you’ve identified what’s fueling your feelings of job burnout, you can make a plan to address the issues. If you have trouble recognizing the cause, try tracking your job responsibilities for a few days, and write down how you feel after you’ve done each activity. Tracking your feelings will help you concentrate your efforts on the areas that are truly quelling your passion for nursing.
Consider reducing your workload or taking a vacation as ways to recover from burnout. You may need to limit interaction with people who leave you feeling drained, and delegate some tasks to other people, both at work and at home. Once you punch out, disconnect from work at home and on your days off. The bottom line is, "Don’t take your work home with you."
You might have supportive colleagues, friends, or family members you can talk to. But for some nurses, the level of burnout requires the assistance of a professional. Many employers offer an Employee Assistance Program to help you resolve personal and work-related problems. Consider attending a conference to recharge and connect with fellow nurse colleagues. Take advantage of whatever services are available to you.
It’s easy to get caught up in taking care of others and neglecting your own needs. Good self-care for nurses includes eating well, getting enough sleep, avoiding harmful substances, and staying physically active. You may be on your feet all day at work, and the body needs rest at the end of a long day. Spiritual health is also essential. Whether it is meditation, yoga, or prayer, set aside a part of the day to find a calming moment that belongs only to you.
When you’re in a state of burnout, you’re more prone to making mistakes, losing focus, and feeling unhappy. Research suggests creative endeavors can enhance your mood, increase your energy, boost your immune system, lower stress levels, and provide a positive distraction from the things that are weighing you down. Maybe you’ve been thinking about trying an art class or taking golf lessons. Now is the perfect time to try something new or let your creative juices flow.
Have an honest talk about your situation. If you’ve tried the stress relief tips to no avail, it might be time to consider a job change. While it’s not an easy decision to make, you may find you’re more fulfilled in a less demanding job that supports your values and beliefs. Consider changing your specialty. There are so many options -- from teaching to informatics, to sales, to school nursing. Maybe a different schedule would meet the needs of you and your family. Explore your options and find the right fit.
Visit the American Psychological Association for more resources on managing stress.
What are your anti-stress strategies?