As a professional nurse, you have control over your career and your professional destiny. Nursing school covers a lot of material in a short amount of time, but rarely is work-life balance and how to achieve it ever discussed.
Work-life balance can first be achieved by first recognizing that you don’t already have it and by making plans to achieve it. Taking care of yourself should be a top priority in order to create balance, harmony, control and peace in your life. Moving work-life balance to the top of that list helps to prevent burnout and unnecessary stress. When making decisions, make sure that they strategically benefit you.
Oftentimes nurses crave this balance, but don’t quite know how to go about achieving it. So, let’s examine some things that you can do right now in order to help you to create a better work-life balance while fulfilling your desire to care for patients and while advocating and caring for yourself.
Just say “No”- This can be a challenge, but is necessary. Make sure that you are setting limits in your personal life and in your professional life so that you are not overloading yourself. Overload extends you past your limits and can quickly lead to burnout.
Turn down OT– Overtime money can be good and tempting, however, it is called “overtime” for a reason. Overtime usually starts after you have worked your normal 40-hour work week. Be careful not to pick up too many shifts to the point you are tired, worn out and mentally exhausted. Try limiting your overtime shifts to one per pay period.
Limit committee work– Committees are great for keeping you informed, increasing your knowledge and for helping you to be part of solutions. However, committee work can sometimes spill over into your personal time. Agreeing to only join one or two committees at a time may be beneficial.
Schedule your breaks– Whether it is a vacation or a staycation, make sure you take some time off. If time and money permit, consistently schedule these breaks. Breaks help you to relax, provide something to look forward to and break up the monotony.
Rest– Our bodies and minds need rest in order to regroup and rejuvenate. Make sure you are also getting in the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep time per night.
Nutrition– Your body needs proper fuel to run. Nutrition keeps you healthy and able to perform at high-levels. Just remember that you are what you eat. If you consistently put junk in your body, it will increase the susceptibility for you to become sick.
Exercise– Your body, also, needs physical activity to stay in shape. Nursing can be a very physical job. We do lots of lifting, bending, walking and pushing during our shifts. Keeping your body strong helps to prevent injuries.
Enjoyment– On your off days, find things that you enjoy and do them. Read a book. Ride a bike. Dance with your kids. Hang out with friends. Just have fun.
Change positions– Sometimes the demands of a job just do not work well with balance. It may be necessary to switch positions into something better suited for your home life. The beauty of nursing is we have several options and we shouldn’t feel trapped or limited.
Talk it out– A good mentor, a professional, a family member or a friend can give you excellent advice for achieving balance. Sometimes we just need a listening ear or a supportive shoulder to help us to navigate through the challenges of nursing life.
No matter what you decide to do, do it for yourself, first. I always say, you cannot be of any usage to anyone else until you have taken care of yourself. It isn’t selfish, it is realistic. Create a work-life balance that meets the needs of you and your family, but also, gives you professional freedom and satisfaction. Set simple, obtainable boundaries and stick to them. You are worth it!