by Lauren Wertz, MSW
It goes without saying, but the impact of working in a high performing, stressful job can have on one’s whole being is massive. Add in a pandemic no one was ready or prepared for and it increases tenfold. The harsh reality of this whole situation is that we cannot control the ushering in of stress that comes with all this.
In school they can teach us how to accomplish all the techniques, procedures, and job duties possible, but no classroom setting can really prepare you for the highly intense and stressful work environment that nursing can create. Have you ever gotten home after three in a row and the slightest need to make a decision has you more overwhelmed than normal? Do you struggle with finding joy in an activity that you once did? Does someone share their personal problem with you and your automatic response is cynical and depersonalized? These are all clear signs that stress and emotional burnout have taken over and your tank is empty.
No one is immune to stress. We do believe though there are healthy ways to process, manage, and heal from it. Finding the right balance for you will help make the impact of working in an emotionally taxing environment a less heightened experience than it once was. One of the best ways to do this is to create your own burnout plan.
We’ve all heard that saying, failing to plan is planning to fail. We are usually really good about planning other things in our life, but when it comes to planning for times of stress or emotional fatigue we often forget to plan ahead of time. Utilize these three tips to create a plan you can implement for yourself to make room for the healing, space, and energy needed when hard times hit.
We’re not saying sit and stew on it for months, but finding a safe person to process this with is important. This could be your therapist, a friend with amazing listening skills, or a coffee date with a coworker. We have found at times it can be difficult to talk to loved ones about this, so choose your listening ears wisely. Although friends and loved ones mean well, they can struggle to relate to the type of burnout you have experienced and this can increase stress instead of calming it.
Have you been through a hard time before? How did your own personal resiliency come into play? What did that look like? Maybe you didn’t like how you handled it and there’s an amazing lesson within that for you to draw from this time. It’s important to do this for two reasons. First, it allows us to reflect on our own personal strength. Utilizing our strengths, and what works for us each individually, in times of stress is a powerful way to move forward. No article, resource, or person can create a plan designed for you because we are all different and what works for one may not work for you. Secondly, reflecting on our own resiliency helps us see that hard times do not have to last. You can move on from it because you have before.
What triggers happen in your day to day life when you're impacted by stress? Consider things at home, in your personal life, and maybe there are a few things in your work life that can be on this list. Maybe the trigger looks a lot like the decision fatigue we mentioned earlier. Decisions outside of work send you into a tailspin and cause you to have a meltdown. Start there. Maybe this will entail planning out your dinners for the week ahead on Sunday so you have less to think about. This could include you being intentional about planning out quiet time for you to sit and rest your mind. This could be telling your significant other you want them to plan a date night where they make all the decisions, but the one requirement is to have fun! Really think about what those triggers are and plan out how to address them in a safe and supportive way. Use your person in question 1 to help you with this.
A lot of people talk about resiliency like a basketball and having the ability to “bounce back”. We read an article recently that talked about seeing resiliency like a rubber band. If we are the rubber band, stress comes in and stretches us. Our resiliency and burnout plan are there to help us be flexible as things change and stress comes and goes.
This resource was written by Lauren Wertz, who is a social worker living in South Bend, Indiana with her husband and cat. She has her masters degree in social work and has worked in the field for 12+ years. Lauren is also the social media ninja behind all of the Nurses Inspire Nurses accounts! She is dedicated to helping others and ensuring that those who are helpers take care of themselves. She loves red wine, a good crime series, and will take salty over sweet any day.