Have you ever felt like you were living in a fog? Even with plenty of rest, you still felt physically and emotionally exhausted. Maybe you found yourself hitting the snooze button a few more times than usual, struggling to maintain focus throughout the day and perhaps even snapped at a coworker or two. Even though you love being a nurse, you might have felt overwhelmed and unenthused.
Although these experiences seem commonplace to any hardworking professional, they’re actually the telltale symptoms of a much larger issue. Burnout is a real (and frustrating) condition, and the additional stressors placed on those in the nursing industry put professionals like you at a higher risk for burnout than workers in other professions.
If you’re beginning to feel the onset of burnout, follow these five tips to a healthier, happier and more fulfilled you.
Take More Breaks
As a nurse, you are responsible for your patients. This responsibility can weigh so heavily on your conscience that you feel guilty stepping away, even if it’s just for a few minutes. But several studies show taking short breaks throughout the workday can actually increase productivity, focus and employee satisfaction. By taking a 10-minute break to grab a cup of coffee or get a breath of fresh air, you’ll be more effective in serving your patients.
Make Healthier Food Choices
As a nurse, you’re often encouraging your patients to reduce the intake of fatty, unhealthy foods in favor of more nutrient-rich alternatives. However, given your fast-paced work life, it’s not always easy to heed your own advice. All too often, meals consist of a fast-food burger or something from the break room vending machine. As you know, you are what you eat. By taking a few extra moments to enjoy a well-balanced meal, you’ll increase productivity and help kick brain fog.
Of course, healthy eating is only half the battle. To improve your energy level and avoid burnout, you also need to work exercise into your daily routine. If a jog on the treadmill doesn’t sound particularly appealing after an entire shift on your feet, try yoga. Even 30 minutes of you-time three or four times a week can have a huge impact on your mental clarity.
Schedule a Vacation
It’s easy to get so caught up in your career you forget to set aside time to explore life outside of work. “I’ll plan a vacation eventually,” you tell yourself. But, as time passes, you only become more stressed.
One of the best ways to avoid burnout (and cure burnout if you’ve already fallen prey), is to step away from work completely for an extended period of time. A week at the beach or a long weekend in the mountains can do wonders for your mind and body. You’ll not only return well-rested, but also refreshed and re-focused on patient-centered care.
Talk with Your Nurse Manager
Burnout is a serious condition but, unfortunately, not uncommon. If you’re beginning to notice symptoms of burnout, it’s a good idea to bring your concern to your nurse leader’s attention. He or she may be able to offer expert guidance and help you schedule a mental health day or redistribute your workload.
By taking better care of yourself, you can take better care of your patients. For more tips on how to improve the patient experience, check out our guide How Nurses Can Increase Satisfaction through Patient-Centered Care.