The nursing profession is just as demanding as it is fulfilling. It can be taxing mentally and physically to balance work and life. Owing to factors like staff shortages, most nurses are also overworked, often needing to work long shifts. The immense stress resulting from this can cause burnout in the long run, affecting mental and physical health.
Nursing World cites that in a 2020 survey, it was discovered that approximately 69% of nurses have experienced burnout. The most reported demographic that experienced burnout were younger nurses, under twenty-five. A paper published on Jama Network noted that in 2018, 31.5% of nurses in their survey group, who left their employment, did so owing to burnout.
The Well-Being Index lists the most common causes of burnout in nurses include greater workloads, long work hours, poor work environments and the emotional toll of having to deal with sickness and death on a daily basis. Yet, a high stress working environment cannot really be avoided in the medical field. Therefore, it is advisable for nurses to familiarize themselves with the symptoms of burnout so that they can recognize it early and even act to prevent it.
Burnout symptoms manifest both physically and psychologically.
- Physical symptoms: Physical symptoms of burnout can include tiredness, migraines, digestive issues, a compromised immune system, loss of appetite and disrupted sleeping patterns.
- Psychological symptoms: The psychological symptoms of burnout, however, are more far-ranging and have greater consequences. Nurses experiencing burnout face extreme anxiety and dread showing up to work. They also develop a cynical approach and are unable to empathize with patients. Personal and professional relationships also suffer as they become increasingly withdrawn and irritable.
The impacts of a burnout can hamper efficient workflow and the quality of patient care can be compromised. It can also contribute to reduced job satisfaction, disillusionment and high employee turnover rates.
Self-care habits to avoiding burnout
Self-care habits among nurses allow them to prioritize themselves every once in a while. This can not only equip them to tackle work stress better, but also facilitates them to perform better in all aspects of life. Self-care improves overall quality of life. It is responsible for emotional regulation and boosting physical health.
These self-care habits can enable individuals to navigate the chaos of life and work with clarity.
- Stress management: Setting up a proper stress relief system can go a long way in managing stress. Taking up relaxing hobbies like reading, journaling, meditating, crocheting or even cooking can help take your mind off of work for the much-needed break.
- Diet: Food can play a huge part in the wellbeing of an individual. Making mindful choices can help proper calorie utilization without having to rely on unhealthy snacking. Cooking and meal-prepping can be a therapeutic activity, while also letting you stay in control of what you consume. A diet relying on balanced portions of carbs, protein and other micros can also be beneficial in preventing chronic illnesses.
- Exercise: Regular physical exercise has been known to be an effective stress control tool. It also boosts blood circulation which can benefit cardiovascular health. Targeted muscle exercises can also prevent skeletomuscular diseases and improve bone health. Increased blood flow to the brain can also enhance cognitive abilities which can greatly benefit a medical professional.
- Sleep: Ensuring proper sleep is an absolutely non-negotiable aspect of self-care. Nurses with hectic schedules and uncertain work hours can suffer from fatigue and disrupted circadian rhythms. So, ensuring both, the quality and quantity of sleep matters for waking up well-rested the next day.
Creating bedtime rituals and keeping your sleeping space free of disruptions can greatly contribute to quality sleep. Investing in blackout curtains, earplugs, sleep masks and even speakers for ambient music can be a good idea to create a soothing sleeping environment.
- Scheduling: When dealing with a bustling work schedule, things can easily get overwhelming. Scheduling time for activities you want to prioritize can help you get on top of things. To work around such demanding professional routines, you must allocate time for hobbies, chores and even sleep. This will ensure you can still get to do the things you want to do for yourself.
- Setting boundaries: Burnout can often be triggered by feelings helplessness due to events being influenced by factors outside your control. Therefore, setting professional boundaries right off the bat is important and will allow you to distance yourself from overwhelming situations and make better clinical decisions. For times when you feel overwhelmed, you can try grounding exercises to calm yourself.
- Taking breaks: While working in a high stress environment, it becomes very common to push yourself beyond your limits without even realizing it. So, it is important to remind yourself to take breaks every now and then. Taking breaks can relieve stress while also improving clarity of mind.
- Checking in with yourself: It’s easy to lose touch with your inner self when you barely have time to even chomp down a sandwich before you start running around again. By allotting time to check in with yourself, you can stay in touch with your emotions and navigate them efficiently.
- Healthy relationships: It is important to maintain healthy relationships with the people around you. Your friends, family and even colleagues can be your biggest support during tough times. The New York Post recounts in an article how in a survey, a group of rabbits faced reduced risk of heart attack or stroke despite being fed a high cholesterol diet because they were petted and caressed while being fed. The study found how positive relationships impact the body by reducing stress hormones, boosting immune function and even increasing life span.
Why should nurses prioritize self-care
In addition to burnout, nurses also face increased risks of several chronic illnesses like cardiovascular disease, digestive issues, type II diabetes and skeletomuscular diseases. Sparing time for yourself can help you spot early symptoms of these, if not altogether prevent them.
Self-care contributes to the overall well-being of the individual which can in turn boost work performance and assure quality patient care. A regulated emotional system can also enhance job satisfaction which can make for a fulfilling career. Therefore, it is important for nurses to stay healthy as it contributes to the well-being of the medical community itself.