As a nurse, you are used to the chaos of the career. Unpredictable schedules and long hours (and sometimes even night shifts!) can be difficult to manage long-term, though. And with the multitude of responsibilities and roles to fulfill, you may find yourself feeling stressed and anxious, even when you return home for the day.
One of the best things to counteract work-related stress is making sure you have a proper work-life balance. This means that you need to make sure you are not letting work run into your personal life and that you are getting enough rest and relaxation to allow you to continue doing your job to the best of your ability.
If you’re looking for ways to improve your work-life balance, continue reading for a few great strategies you can try to get things back on track.
- Set Boundaries
If you’ve been working in nursing for a while, you may have discovered that it is difficult to say no. Your primary goal is to help patients, so when you are asked to complete extra paperwork or provide extensive care to another nurse’s patient, it can be difficult to decline. It may feel like you are cheating your patients or coworkers or letting your supervisor down. However, it is precisely this attitude that contributes to premature nurse burnout and fatigue.
If you find yourself being stretched too thin because you have a hard time saying no, it’s time to start practicing. It might be a good idea to write down a list of limitations you want to set for yourself. For example, if you tend to pick up extra shifts every time you are asked, limit yourself to a set number per month. This will help you be more conscious about which shifts you pick up and will help you be accountable to yourself.
At work, you may be used to delegating tasks, or you are at least familiar with the process. In essence, it is simply asking for help where you need it. If you are in a leadership position, you’re accustomed to delegating to other nurses.
However, you may be struggling to accomplish everything you need to at home. In cases where you need help, it is totally appropriate to ask your spouse or children to fulfill their fair share of household duties and chores. The more you delegate to others, the less pressure you will have to do everything yourself, and the more free time you will have to share with your family and friends.
- Practice Self- Care
It can be tempting on your day off to catch up on grocery shopping or laundry. However, if you are properly delegating as mentioned in the previous step, you will be able to take some time to yourself. On your day off, try to do an activity that you enjoy. Go window-shopping, get a manicure, take a stroll in a museum. Taking time by yourself will give you the mental space you need to decompress from the heavy work week and mentally prepare yourself for the week ahead.
- Eat Well
Ironically, nurses often neglect their physical health as they help improve that of others. One thing that can help prevent physical fatigue is making sure you are eating nutritious foods. On a day off, take a couple hours to cook a large batch of soup, or some roast vegetables and rice. This can be portioned out for the week ahead and will ensure that you get the nutrients you need.
However, sometimes, even the thought of cooking can be intimidating for an overworked nurse. In this case, eating out after a long shift can relieve some of the stress you might feel and can help you avoid the temptation to skip eating altogether. If you choose to eat out, avoid fast food if possible. Instead, opt for healthy takeout from a local restaurant.
- Schedule Your Chores
If you don’t have the option of delegating chores to family members, make a chore schedule for yourself and keep it relatively conservative. That is, don’t overestimate what you will be able to accomplish in a day. If you feel overwhelmed by the household duties that await you after work, choose just one to do that day. As you prioritize, you’ll be able to focus on the most important chores first and leave nonessential chores for a less-busy day. For example, dishes should be done each day to prevent pests from making their way to your house, but you can often get away with leaving the carpet unvacuumed until you have more time.
- Ask for Help
Finally, if all else fails, you may need to ask for help. This is normal and nothing that you need to feel ashamed of. Believing you can do everything yourself is noble but will more likely result in burnout. If you find yourself needing help, ask for it. Your coworkers should be good partners in getting things done, and most will understand the boat that you’re in. If you need help at home beyond what you have delegated to family members, express this to them and ask for assistance. While it may feel like you are expected to do it all, you are more valuable as a family member and employee if you are doing well physically and have a good balance between work and family.