As the pandemic surges and recedes, it’s hard not to feel defeated. And it’s even harder to destress & recharge. The risk for nurse burnout is sky high right now! Let these strategies help you recharge for another day! Interested in how I’ve helped other nurses just like you banish exhaustion and burnout? Click here.
We continue to find ourselves in uncharted territory; fighting an invisible enemy, feeling under-equipped for this ‘war’. There is no clear timeline or end in sight, but I wanted to share how I manage stress after a tough day.
Easy steps you can use to fight exhaustion and nurse burnout.
I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I found this simple routine is a way for me to decompress and process, so I can head back to the hospital tomorrow.
Hopefully these tips will be helpful as you destress & recharge.
1) Start Early
As soon as I leave work, I start decompressing from my day. I walk out the front doors, and imagine my worries and stresses just falling to the ground behind me. Managing stress and compartmentalizing are key strategies to prevent nurse burnout, but I’m sure you know how important they are.
In the car, I’ll put on a positive, uplifting podcast or upbeat music. If you need a podcast idea, try Happier or The Perfectionism Project, these are my go-to’s. Sometimes, if it’s been a particularly hard day, I’ll drive home in silence.
I make it a point to avoid the radio or any talk shows/npr where the focus is on providing continuous news updates. It takes a conscious effort to stop the stream of news and virus related information headed my direction. Constant bombardment with negative news or information, particularly healthcare related, can directly lead to nurse burnout and depression.
I’m also fairly certain there is no breaking news or updates I haven’t already heard during my day. With the sheer volume of emails, articles, and notifications streaming to my phone, I feel certain I haven’t missed any new developments.
There’s also no shortage of friends and family sending me articles and updates. So I made a no news rule after I get home as part of my destress & recharge routine. This also gives me a few stress-free minutes to separate from my day and prepare to see my loved ones.
When I feel over-saturated with the news, it’s nice to just be alone with my thoughts. If you’d prefer to make your commute productive, but still decrease stress, I wrote a post about ways to do that too!
And if you know you need more than a few tips to reignite your passion for nursing and you’re ready for a proven, solid strategy, you can find out more HERE!
2) The ‘3 S’ Ritual: Strip, Shower, Scrub.
When I get home, I strip down, throw my clothes in the washing machine, and then immediately shower.
I shower with what I lovingly refer to as my ‘really harsh soap’ and a pair of exfoliating bath gloves. This combo helps me feel like I am getting things really clean. I’m washing away a layer of ‘yuck’ from the hospital.
As I scrub, I visualize myself cleansing away the stress, the germs, and the uncertainty of the day. It’s relaxing to watch the suds go down the drain, it’s like washing my fear and worry away too.
My strict adherence to this strip, shower, scrub ritual is one small way I minimize potential exposure to my family and loved ones. I’m never really sure what I ‘pick up’ from the hospital but I don’t want to pass anything to those I care about.
3) Shift your focus to a creative outlet or something positive.
After my shower, I consciously redirect my thoughts to something other than the hospital or anything work-related. This is more the recharge than destress step.
I try to pick something artistic or creative to focus on, even if I’ve only got a few minutes. The goal is to consciously distract myself from the stress of the day, by doing something fun or entertaining.
Try to do something positive and uplifting for at least 15 minutes, as this is the minimum length of time for our brains to reset and allows us to become more resilient. A great tool for preventing nurse burnout.
Engaging in positive, creative endeavors for 15-30 minutes will do wonders for your mind and stress levels.
Some things that have worked well for me: dancing around the house to old 90’s songs, doing a paint by number project, reading a few pages of an inspiring book, or re-ignite a long abandoned hobby. I recently rediscovered how much I love black and white photography. Depending on how much time you have, you can also do a little decluttering or cleaning.
I try to avoid social media or getting sucked into Netflix as soon as I get home. Don’t get me wrong, Netflix is absolutely on my list, just after a little mindset work.
Before we move onto Step 4:
I’m going to preface this with the fact that I’ve been self-medicating a bit more frequently than normal. I enjoy a smallish glass of wine after work. Does this help with nurse burnout? I have no idea, but I’m going to say probably…because…it’s wine.
I usually only indulge on weekends, but things have changed. The future is uncertain and stress is at an all-time high. So the occasional glass of wine has been happening alongside these destress and recharge tips.
However, I made an agreement with myself that I cannot have any wine unless I’ve done step 4.
4) Process what’s going on.
Give yourself time to process your feelings. Don’t just numb with alcohol or other substances. There is a LOT going on right now. It’s normal to feel stressed, overwhelmed, helpless, hopeless, or a variety of other feelings.
Everything you are feeling is valid. All of it! In fact acknowledging what you are facing, even if it cannot be changed is a key resilience strategy to reduce nurse burnout, and can help you maintain a more hopeful and optimistic outlook.
We do nerve-wracking work under very uncertain circumstances every day! Who wouldn’t be stressed taking care of patients when we don’t truly know who’s sick, or when we will get more tests (or vaccines), or when our PPE or ventilators, or even oxygen supply might run out. There’s also the stress of when we could get a dreaded phone call that we’ve been exposed, or that a family member or loved one has been exposed and is now having symptoms. There are so many different stressors.
Give yourself time to process, to cry, to vent, or whatever it is you need to do. Just make sure you get those emotions out so they don’t consume you.
I’ve started journaling daily as a way to process the current situation. I use the same few prompts, and make myself write something for each one.
Some days the words flow more easily than others, but consistently writing helps me sort out my frustrations and anxiety. When I reflect on what I’ve written, it helps me see what is actually in my control and how I can better channel my energy to make a difference.
This cycle of writing and then reflecting is what helps me go back to work the next day, refreshed and recharged.
5) Commit to a Nightly Routine.
My nightly ritual is one small way I can set myself up for success the next morning. I give myself a strict technology cut-off time, usually around 9 pm. I turn my phone on silent and plug it in to charge (I charge it outside the bedroom).
This helps me limit screen time, but more importantly gives me time away from any news, updates, or notifications.
My anxiety has been spiking at night, and I was having trouble falling asleep. This is not necessarily a new thing for me, but it has gotten much worse since the virus outbreak in the US.
Previously, whenever I was super anxious, I would do nightly stretching routines, take sleep supplements, or listen to meditation music. All of those things were helpful, but my results were inconsistent.
As my stress started ramping up, these things didn’t work very well anymore. A co-worker suggested I try something called progressive muscle relaxation.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation:
If you aren’t familiar with progressive relaxation, it’s a body-wide practice that focuses on one part of the body at a time, where you methodically tense and relax it.
The point is to focus on the relaxation phase and feel the tension fade away. Grab my exact Progressive Muscle Relaxation Routine here!
It took a little trial and error to create a routine that worked for me, but now I have a full-body practice that I do before bed each night. I am unwinding a bit easier, falling asleep more quickly, and sleeping more soundly. It’s been a game changer.
Muscle relaxation techniques are a great way to decrease stress, lower cortisol and stress hormone levels, and help prime your body for rest and relaxation. If you haven’t tried it before, I highly recommend it.
I hope this article is helpful for you. These 5 steps are the blueprint I use to consistently manage my stress, recharge for another day, and prepare to handle the unexpected.
I’m not sure how long this is going to go on for, but I feel confident I have the routine and processes in place to weather this for the long haul. And with the tips and tricks in this post, you’ll be fully equipped to destress and recharge!
P.S.: If you’ve been having more than the occasional ‘rough day’ at work or you know you’re burned out and feel like the whole ‘nursing thing’ isn’t worth it anymore, check out these testimonials from nurses just like you that have benefitted from my Ending Exhaustion course.
=====> And don’t forget to reserve your spot for my FREE Training: The 4 Habits Every Nurse needs to Survive Their Next Shift! I’m sharing these 4 key habits ALL month, so don’t miss out. Sign up today!