COVID-19 has created an environment where burnout isn’t an outlier that happens to only a handful of nurses. Now, most nurses experience burnout as a result of the pandemic, and striving for work-life balance as a nurse can seem impossible.
Nurses can go a whole shift without being able to use the restroom or take a lunch break or a break period. On top of that, they often get volunteered to perform doubles or just plain forced to.
Some might argue that burnout is inevitable during a pandemic and there’s no way to accomplish an appropriate work-life balance. Though it may seem difficult and outright impossible, we believe that there’s a way to find balance through any scenario.
COVID-19 has caused a lot of pain for our country and especially nurses on the front lines. One thing to not lose sight of is this simple truth: pain is inevitable; suffering is optional. Choosing how you respond to the heightened stresses of nursing during a pandemic can help you become a better nurse and more peaceful person in general.
Below are some ways to find a good work-life balance during COVID-19.
Practice Radical Acceptance
Give yourself some grace. Breathe. There’s only so much you can accomplish in a given day. Accepting that is a primary means of developing a healthy presence at work. As a nurse, your empathy is certainly a superpower, but every strength often has its drawbacks.
Too much empathy and not enough practical boundaries or an inability to let go can cause tension and anxiety for a nurse.
For example, you may have patients who come to your hospital sick with the virus and go back out only to engage in high-risk situations for contracting it again. This is beyond your control. You can’t worry endlessly about that as it will inevitably cause more stress.
Beyond what you can’t control, it’s imperative that you key in on things within your control–specifically how you respond. Learning and implementing radical acceptance will go a long way in determining how much your stress amplifies or subsides over time.
Engage in Healthy Eating Habits
Nurses spend a lot of time telling patients about the benefits of eating healthy, yet, some go without eating an entire shift or eating junk food throughout. When you’re working a busy shift, you may not have time for anything more than the vending machine and they don’t have apples popping out of them.
Though it may seem difficult to get a good meal in, it is crucial to your success on the job. Skipping meals can make your blood sugar drop. When your blood sugar drops, it can significantly impact your concentration and can cause irritability.
Eating the right kind of snacks and meals can work wonders for your mood and overall performance during the shift.
Invest in Healthy Relationships
For a lot of nurses, dealing with people once they go back home is the last thing they want to do. Most would prefer to engage the flickering pixels of a television set or bathe in the glow of a cell phone scrolling through social media.
Yet, engaging in healthy relationships is crucial to having a healthy work life balance.
It’s important to have interactions with people who you aren’t caring for. Seeking out social clubs, support groups or joining a recreational league can help you disengage from the work dynamic and relieve some stress.
Try and schedule a day of the week where you don’t do anything but connect with family members and friends.
Take Breaks from Work
Nurses invest a lot of time and effort helping others–especially during a pandemic, so why not take some time for yourself. You deserve it. Taking time off gives you time to heal, focus and come back refreshed to take care of patients in the future.
You can take anywhere from a quick catch-your-breath before a new patient or you can take more structured breaks where you can go outside and get a bit of fresh air.
Last, when you request time off, make sure that you commit yourself to that time off. Try and participate in activities that completely remove you from the world of nursing. Or, better yet, try and learn a new skill or develop a hobby.
Don’t be afraid to say you need time off. This is an investment into your well-being and that directly impacts patients.
Make Time for Exercise
You may be thinking, I’ve heard this over and over. You probably have, though it’s important to repeat: exercise fundamentally improves your mental health along with your physical health to help you as a nurse.
According to heart.org, exercise can provide the following positive effects:
- Release stress and calm you
- Improve your mood and help you think clearly
- Give you more energy and stamina
- Lower your blood pressure
- Improve your quality of sleep
- Help you feel better about how you look
Need I say more? Working out fundamentally alters your mood, energy levels and overall health.
You don’t have to start running marathons or treadmill all throughout the night. Start slow if you are new to exercising. Try taking a walk around the building during your break. It just starts with that first step.
Balancing work and life during COVID-19 is challenging. However, we hope that these strategies can help you learn to invest in yourself and develop healthy boundaries with your job and your life.