However savvy you are in defusing stress between patient and family, you want to be just as smart in caring for yourself. No matter what anxieties people around you have unleashed throughout the day, being concerned about your emotional and physical health after work is paramount in being your best self for and during work.
You’re likely already familiar with the basics—a good diet, plenty of rest, and lots of activity. Who can argue with the same positive lifestyle choices that experts suggest will help gird you physically and emotionally for any job-related stress? But you also want to be uplifted in other proactive ways so you’re energized to right the family ship for your patients. Whatever conflicts they might provoke, they’ll be easier to tackle if you’ve scheduled routine perks that you’re committed to come hell or high water. If that means taking yoga classes every week or enjoying Starbucks every morning, you want to have something in your quiver just for you.
For instance, Teresa Conte, PhD, CRNP, assistant professor of nursing at the University of Scranton, discovered as early as training that no matter how tight her budget, she could make it through the bad days knowing that she had scheduled a massage in the next few weeks. “Some people might think that it’s a selfish act, but it’s not selfish,” she says. “As nurses we always see ourselves as caregivers. But if you get so bogged down in being a helper that you’re fatigued or even thinking of leaving the profession, what good is that? You’re doing more for your patients by honoring and taking care of yourself.”
Beyond scheduling activities worthy of your time, there are other steps you can take to center yourself personally so you’re prepared professionally. Prior to work, for example, Lorenz preps for the potential challenges ahead by walking and repeating a favorite mantra: “I’m here for the greater good of the patient. Help me become an instrument of healing.”
At the end of the day, however, she retreats to a home where she’s already set boundaries for behavior. Chief among them is the cardinal rule that there can be no yelling or raising voices, especially to solve conflicts. When Lorenz steps in the door, she removes her watch as a ritualistic reminder that she’s off the clock and away from work. Obviously, if she’s had a really, really tough day, some of the stressors, including those involving patient-family dust-ups, come home with her. Even then, Lorenz dispatches them quickly before moving on. “I won’t dwell on anything for more than a few minutes because I don’t want it to affect my home,” she says. “That’s my sanctuary.”
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