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Surviving Modern Healthcare: Renew Your Spirit, Feed Your Soul

We live in a world of constant pressure and stress, which seems to be getting more challenging all the time. Especially in healthcare, organizations are forced to do more with less, putting pressure on the staff to exceed the superhuman pace that they are currently working at. Nurses are especially vulnerable to this level of stress because it seems that we, as a profession, are always “picking up the slack” when cutbacks are made in other departments or holds are placed on hiring. I used to laugh in my leadership positions when the CEOs would say, “but we’re not cutting nursing positions”, and, as a CNO, I would argue in a sense, yes, we are. When nurses “pick up the slack”, nurses are absent from the bedside, performing tasks that can be done by other people and at a premium cost. As nurses, we can also add on the emotional stress of what we deal with on a daily basis, followed by the tremendous responsibility of having precious lives in our hands. Oh, and let us compound the work stress by layering on family responsibilities, school responsibilities, day to day activities of survival, and, let’s not forget, somewhere in there we need to sleep.

Over time, this level of stress takes a tremendous toll on our bodies and our minds and somehow we need to disconnect and renew. Webster’s dictionary (2008) defines renewal as the process of repairing something that is run down or broken. When have you not felt run down at the end of a long shift and yes, there are times our spirits are broken. We have to take time to do something for ourselves that helps us return to that place of rest and well-being. It is not a luxury, it is a necessity.

In order to rebuild the body and quiet the mind, it is necessary to mentally disconnect from your world of stress and chaos. You do this simply by engaging in an activity that mesmerizes your mind. It is important to understand that your brain can perform one conscious activity at a time while your mind can only entertain one thought at a time. If you don’t believe that, the next time you are brushing your teeth, try to do something with your free hand. Notice what happens to the hand that is doing the brushing. Your body can only engage in one conscious activity or one thought, so knock out the stressful activities and thoughts for some that will renew you.

Start simply by scheduling ten to twenty minutes a day to do something that you truly enjoy (no-taking a shower that you have to take anyway does not count, where a wonderful soaking bubble bath would). Pick a good time in the day when your activity level is generally reduced and when you can be somewhat alone. Ask your loved ones to help you by giving you a little time to relax and be alone. The activity you choose should be your own. Something that you enjoy or something that you would like to learn that will mentally challenge you. I recently took a class in lampwork beading. It is challenging, artistic and fun, as well as absorbing. You have to pay attention to what you are doing while handling molten glass and fire, so while lampworking I cannot think about anything else. Exercise, yoga, meditation, reading a book that you do not have to read, engaging in a craft, getting a massage, facial, hot bath or even sports are other great options that will keep your mind mesmerized and provide a mental disconnect.

There is also something magical about being outside and enjoying nature. Just staring at the beauty of a flower for ten minutes will occupy your mind and help you appreciate your world in an amazing new way. Follow a butterfly, take a walk or hike, sit by the beach, enjoy the sun. Just renew. You are worth it! As a nurse, for all you give to others, you deserve some precious time for yourselves. You will be able to give more, when you give to yourself.

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