Nurses: Strike the Perfect Work-Life Balance

Nursing offers an abundance of benefits including challenging work, great pay and the ability to contribute to the needs of a growing health system. But caring for patients, working long hours and trying to balance work and home priorities can often lead to burnout.

Nurses: Strike the Perfect Work-Life Balance

The Dangers of Burnout

Taking care of sick and injured people is challenging, but add to that staffing shortages, hiring freezes, and workplace conflicts, and work as a nurse can be overwhelming. Issues at home — marital issues, elderly parents requiring care, and economic problems — can also contribute to potential burnout. The combination of stressors from both work and home can become too much for anyone.

Unaddressed, these stressors can lead to burnout, a condition the American Journal of Nursing defines as “a state of continual physical and mental exhaustion.” Perpetual exhaustion leads to loss of energy, which can lead to a feeling of being disconnected at both work and home.

A new personality type, referred to as Type D for “distressed,” may be emerging as a result of increased stress and burnout. The fallout for Type D personalities can include feelings of negativity, loneliness, depression and anxiety.

Signs that you are experiencing burnout, per NursingLink, include a constant state of feeling tired and sick, feeling under-appreciated, a dread of having to work, feeling like you are “just going through the motions” and becoming insensitive to the needs of patients.

The following tips offer ways for you to effectively manage a challenging nursing job while maintaining a happy home life.

5 Tips for Achieving Work-Life Balance

Some techniques will work better for you than others so try them all. The following tips are designed to help nurses find their balance.

1. Get to know yourself

According to “Striving for Work-Life Balance” published by the American Journal of Nursing, achieving balance hinges on self-awareness. If you do not have a good understanding of who you are and what you want, finding balance is difficult. The article suggests periodically looking within to reassess your goals, wants and needs. Doing this can make readjusting the demands of work and home become easier, giving you more control.

2. Know your limits

Accepting that there are certain things you are unable to change is essential for alleviating stress, says American Nurse Today. Once you have acknowledged the things that are not in your control, work on those that you do have control over, while adjusting your feelings and attitudes about certain situations.

For instance, accept your perfectionism, and understand that it is necessary to do your job adequately. But also be aware that perfectionism can be harmful. Accept that you sometimes make mistakes, and instead of dwelling on them, choose to learn from them — especially when patient safety is not at risk.

Learn to be realistic when making schedules. Creating an extensive to-do list can make you feel like a failure, according to NurseTogether. Instead, create a list that you know you will be able to stick to; a realistic list will help put things into perspective.

3. Learn to manage your time more effectively at work

NurseTogether says focusing on doing the most important tasks first will cause you to feel less stressed. When you are not busy with a patient or emergency, set aside time to work on one of these tasks.

Get rid of non-essential tasks that cause you to lose focus or drain energy — for example, checking non-work related emails or having long, non-work chats with other staff members.

4. Manage your home life

Just as you are unable to do it all at work, the same holds true for your home life. American Nurse Today suggests discussing expectations with your spouse or partner and working to set expectations. For instance, can your partner help with household chores or run errands?

Work on building stronger relationships, as troubled relationships can deplete your time and energy. Set regular times to meet with family and friends, be open to reasonable feedback, and be willing to address conflicts.

5. Practice intensive self-care

Maintaining good health gives you the energy you need to thrive at work and home. Start with the basics, including proper nutrition, exercise and sleep.

A diet that consists of junk and empty calories will not be enough to sustain you. There are different theories on which foods are best for physical and emotional health. One that has been extensively written about is the Mediterranean diet. It is a diet based on whole grains, a moderate intake of lean proteins, fruits and vegetables, which according to Scientific American can aid in your overall health.

It is believed that exercise creates more energy and improves oxygenation by causing a temporary but healthy increase in blood pressure and blood flow. This can ultimately improve brain performance. American Nurse Today describes exercise as the “cheapest anti-depressant around.” You do not need a long stretch of time for exercise to be effective; you can incorporate it into your workday. The journal suggests going for 10-minute walks around the facility and using on-site exercise amenities. Pilates and yoga classes are known for their stress reduction benefits.

If you are not interested in registering for a class, try activities that help you de-stress, such as writing in a journal, meditating or reading a novel.

Creating an environment where your work and home life are in relative harmony can help reduce the occurrence of burnout, a state that can lead to depression and anxiety and impact your ability to do your job. Taking proper care of yourself, setting limits at home and learning to manage your time effectively are a few of the things you can do to create work-life balance.

Learn about the Colorado Mesa University online RN to BSN program.


American Journal of Nursing: Striving for Work-Life Balance

Nursing Link: 5 Signs of Burnout

American Nurse Today: Achieving a Work-Life Balance

Nurse Together: Get More Done! 5 Time Management Tips for Busy Nurses

Scientific American: Mediterranean Eating Habits Prove Good for the Brain

Scientific American: Why Do I Think Better After I Exercise?

Harvard Medical School: Sleep, Learning, and Memory

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