How Burnout Affects Your Health (and what to do about it)
Unfortunately, burnout is a big problem in the nursing field.
Because of multiple factors, like high amounts of stress, the emotional and physical toll, long shifts, stress from night shifts, and a lot more...
Burnout can be a real problem, and many nurses report feelings of burnout.
So what's the good news?
The good news is that with various tactics, you can empower yourself to stop burnout in its tracks!
And we're going to teach you how in this article!
But before we get into the how, let's very briefly talk about burnout symptoms.
But first a quick disclaimer - please note that this is not medical advice and is not meant to diagnose any medical condition.
Burnout symptoms generally include the following:
- General decreased satisfaction with work (which impacts your life)
- Constant stress when at work or thinking about work
- Lack of motivation toward your career
- General feeling of exhaustion
- Feeling more stressed and on-edge in general
- Neglecting to take care of yourself as a result of any or all of the above
Reasons you may be burned out may include:
- Unreasonable workload
- Change of management and routines
- Interpersonal fights/gossip with staff/management
- Lack of passion for your current position
- Lack of novelty in your career
- Physical pain from working
- And, frankly, a lot more
The key is to IDENTIFY the reason(s) and ACT on it.
Also, you want to know the difference between burnout and short term stress.
For instance, you may be stressed if a change in management is coming, but that's normal.
Burnout is when you've experienced this stress for a more extended period (think 3+ weeks) of time, often combined with other feelings and/or symptoms.
With that said, here are our tips for combating burnout:
1) Work in a job that you enjoy
Now to some this may seem easier said than done, but if you look hard enough it's more doable than you probably think.
We get it, your job may be tough because of the patient ratios, the staff, new crazy demands, being in a field that doesn't suit you, or any other reason.
Nursing across the board is obviously a challenging profession, but almost any nurse can still find a job that they enjoy.
Just a few years of nursing experience will let you land a job in most fields - some of which (believe it or not) are good to work for.
If you're a newer nurse, we get it, it can be hard to do this when you first start.
You're still building your skills up, and you don't want to be seen as a job hopper.
Bear with us and at least consider what we'll tell you for the future.
The real strategy here is to always have a plan B!
We're not encouraging you to just get up and quit your job the second things get tough, but if things are bad, keep an ear out and apply for jobs that are less stressful.
As for how you might know a job is less stressful? Always keep an ear out.
Word of mouth is important, what are nurses saying about staffing, management, workload, and so forth?
If you can handle the extra hours, often times it's good to have a per diem job 'in the stable' so you can pick up more hours there if things go wrong with your first job.
Just knowing that you have the option usually means less stress to make things work if your current job sucks.
The last thing we'll say here is to find a field of nursing you enjoy.
A long-time floor nurse might be surprised to realize they like hospice, OB, a doctor's office, or anything else because of the nature of the work or the pace.
So if you're getting burnt out of where you're at, consider other options in nursing - there are countless!!
2) Have a financial plan B
This is actually very overlooked by many nurses.
Finances are important, including to your mental health and avoiding burnout.
It's normal to spend your extra money on the first temptation that hits you...
But do you have a financial backup plan if you lose your job?
The peace of mind is absolutely worth it.
Imagine the relief of knowing that you can go at least 6 months without working.
It makes a huge difference in the way you approach your job, if you know you have something to fall back on.
So save up! You may want to do occasional overtime if possible (but pace yourself - not too much!) and save your pennies if necessary.
Believe us - having emergency money in your pocket is often way more important than adding another high monthly expense.
3) Eat healthier
It's WAY too easy to fall prey to processed foods before the shift, and the ones that get shared on the unit...
But you should avoid this as much as possible. As convenient as they are, processed foods are NOT healthy!
All the inflammation and damage to your gut cause more stress than they're worth.
Mood and energy swings, depression, etc have all been linked to a poor diet.
We don't want to preach to you, because it's hard to always avoid eating bad food.
But you want to minimize them as much as possible.
But if you clean it up, you'll feel healthier and happier, and it will help reduce your workplace stress! A healthy body creates a healthy mind!
For more on eating healthy, read this article.
Even a little zumba, a little weight lifting, or a little kickboxing class can do wonders for your mood and confidence.
We're serious! There is a night and day difference between exercising and not exercising.
If you're not sure where to start, check the website of local gyms for classes of something you're interested in.
The most important thing is that you're doing something and you commit to it.
We promise you that the energy you put into it will absolutely help with burnout symptoms at work.
As part of this we'll also remind you to go outside, ideally every day you're not at work. A walk out in nature always feels amazing and is crucial to recharge.
Looking for an awesome workout program? We're still working on an upper body program, but as a busy nurse you'll love our Booty in 30 Days Program!
5) Space out your shifts
We know it's not always possible, depending on whether or not you're full time, vs part time or per diem.
But at the very least, a big part of this principle is learning to say NO to overtime when you know you need to take time for yourself.
We've all been there. And we know...
The money can be tempting, and sometimes the scheduler is just so good at making us feel bad if we don't say yes.
But you have to take some time off for yourself, and mean it when you say you're not coming in!
You don't need to make excuses - just say you already have plans set up and you need time off for yourself.
Lastly, be firm but polite about your boundaries and you'll see that they're much easier enforced than if you're timid and apologetic.
6) Break your routine
We're huge fans of breaking our routine as much as possible!
If at all possible, try to go somewhere you don't normally go.
It could be a trip to the beach, a trip to the mountains, a walk through the park, even visiting a college campus and enjoying the youth and energy!
Try to break the monotony as much as possible. It's amazing what this does for your mental health!
If you have a vacation planned and you're feeling burnt out, we suggest taking it sooner rather than later.
The less you experience those symptoms of burnout, the better, so you're not associating those negative emotions with your job.
7. Take care of your aches and pains
Physical pain can absolutely lead to mental stress, and thus, burnout.
If you're dreading work because you're experiencing back pain every day, the chances are very high you're going to get burnt out as well.
And unfortunately, over 80% of nurses experience moderate to severe back or neck pain at some point in their career.
We believe this is WAY too high.
Over 60% report some type of foot pain.
If you're experiencing aches and pains from work, you'll be very interested in our "Save My Whole Life" bundle.
This is an amazing "starter pack" - our popular Babe Brace for your back and neck, a pair of non prescription Night Shifters for your eyestrain. headaches, and poor sleep, and a pair of our amazing compression socks to relieve foot pain.
Get it here while it's on sale!
We sincerely hope this article helped you out.
Burnout is tough, but it's definitely at least manageable, if not totally avoidable.
We hope this article has helped give you ideas and has empowered you to take better care of yourself.
Please share it with a nurse that needs it!
As always, take care of yourself, and THANK YOU for what you do!