As a nurse, it’s likely that you’re no stranger to feelings of exhaustion and fatigue. While you may be able to stick it out for a certain period of time, the truth is, too much fatigue will eventually begin to take a significant toll on your mental and physical health.
Fortunately, being a nurse doesn’t mean that you’re doomed to feel exhausted for the rest of your professional career. By taking advantage of some potent and beneficial strategies, you strengthen your mind and become more resilient in the face of a difficult job.
Here are some tips to better your mental endurance as a nurse suffering from fatigue.
Sleep is one of the most important aspects of maintaining a healthy state of mental wellness. Unfortunately for nurses — especially night-shift nurses — changing schedules, working stressful shifts, and engaging in demanding work can sometimes make it difficult to stick to a strict sleep schedule.
To begin, it can help by crafting a strict schedule that one abides by consistently — even on off days. The more consistently you are going to sleep and waking up at the same time, the better-quality sleep you’ll get. This means that, though it may be tempting, it’s important to fight the urge to stay up later or sleep in on off days as this will disrupt your sleeping patterns and will inhibit you from getting deep and restful sleep.
To bolster your sleep hygiene efforts, it can be helpful to invest in blackout blinds and remove any electronics with lights from your bedroom. Light pollution — even small lights on laptops or TVs — can disrupt your sleep cycle while even making it more difficult to fall asleep in the first place.
Though it may seem counterintuitive, exercising more can actually make your nursing shifts less physically exhausting and more mentally endurable. This is because the more you exercise, the better your stamina will become and the more mental clarity you’ll experience.
One of the main reasons that a consistent habit of exercise can positively impact your ability to mentally endure stressful nursing situations is because it increases blood flow to the brain. In fact, studies have shown that regular exercise can improve both your cognitive performance and memory.
As time goes on and you regularly engage in exercise, you’ll begin to notice a change in your overall mood and levels of mental resilience. As such, you’ll be able to feel more in control when faced with trying patients, co-workers, or situations and perform at a high level regardless of how stressful your work environment becomes.
When it comes to any stressful, difficult, or impactful experiences, it’s important to have a space where you can express your emotions and work through your feelings. For nurses, this is even more important as each shift you work can come with difficulty, stress, and even sadness.
When you keep emotions and difficult experiences inside without taking time to process them, they’ll typically affect you in several negative ways. One typical way these unresolved emotions and experiences can negatively affect you is by making you more prone to feeling overwhelmed when exposed to stressful situations. As a nurse, this can make you less pleasant to interact with and even cause you to make frivolous mistakes that can potentially have negative impacts on patients’ health outcomes.
If finding a therapist or counsellor seems like it would be out of your budget range, there are other support system options available to you as well. In most major cities, there are support groups that meet up for various reasons that allow you to speak about your emotions and work through them.
As a nurse, it can sometimes be easy to fall into the trap of believing that many of the problems you encounter in your professional life are your fault. In addition, it’s not uncommon for nurses to experience the feeling that it’s their responsibility to solve every problem that arises during shifts. The truth is, this is far from the case and, many times, problems are likely out of your control.
In many healthcare settings, organizations may have their own weaknesses that cause problems to arise. Furthermore, the patients that you deal with on a regular basis may bring their own emotional baggage and problems to the table as well. What’s important is that you remember that it’s not your fault that these problems are arising and it’s not your responsibility to fix all of them.
Cultivating a practice of reminding yourself that it’s not your responsibility to fix all of the problems you encounter is a great way to lessen the burden of nursing-related stress. The more you’re able to remind yourself that some things are out of your control, the calmer you’ll feel simply doing your best.
Though nursing has evolved significantly over that last several decades, there is still progress to be made in terms of maintaining the mental health of nurses. While organizations may not be ensuring that all healthcare workers are safeguarded from feelings of fatigue and overwhelm, there are tips you can take advantage of to build mental endurance.
From practicing better sleep hygiene to finding a support group, you have the power to strengthen your mind and improve your ability to cope with the stressful nature of nursing.