Wednesday, July 27, 2016

How To Cope With Burnout



BURNOUT.

I'm there, Janes. I'm sure that I'm not alone; there are plenty of us burning our candles at both ends. Responsibilities, involving family, careers, errands, medical appointments, etc., can overwhelm us all at once. We are expected to manage many moving parts under the bullshit time constraint of twenty-four hours per day - all while trying to keep our sanity.

Currently, my burnout issues stem from my career. I work twelve-hour night shifts as a bedside nurse,  in a high level neonatal intensive care unit. My unit treats the sickest of the sick infants. The last few months have been especially trying because more infants have been admitted with complex problems during a period of short staffing. We experience sucker-punch after sucker-punch as a fair number of these precious kiddos lose their battles during these months. As much as I love my role in this unit and as varied as my nursing jobs have been, this one is rocking me to my core and requires major mental adjustments on my part just to survive long shifts.

I'm doing my best to manage all of these feelings, but it's difficult. There is such profound sadness for the families that have no choice but to make the journey through our unit. There is the heartbreak of seeing a baby's name on our unit's board under the column "passages," instead of in their assigned room. There is the never-ending sleep deprivation from long night shifts and waking up in an unexplained panic after being asleep for only a few hours. I neglect my own health by eating shitty food, drinking too much, and doing stupid shit that is unfulfilling. (My mindless hours on Facebook are an example.)

For all the Janes out there experiencing burnout, it is time to revisit the "what can I do about this burnout?" list:

1. Take a deep breath. Sometimes just taking a few moments to reflect and validate your feelings can make all the difference. Accept these feelings and keep in mind that this, along with everything in life, WILL pass.

2. Self-care. All of those safety lectures on flights that no one listens to should teach us one thing - you are of NO use to anyone if your ass is unconscious from not putting on your own oxygen mask first. Whatever self care looks like to you, do it. I'm a big fan of massages!

3. Get outside every day. Yes, EVERY day. I don't care if it's raining buckets - get out there. I have experienced a profound increase in my ability to cope if I get outside every day, especially working nights when I can sometimes go for days without seeing any daylight. Vitamin D goes a long way, Janes. I'm actually outside right now as I'm writing this!

4. Perform physical activity every day. No, this doesn't mean go out and buy an expensive gym membership or work for the goal of six-pack abs. This is about MENTAL WELLNESS, and studies show physical activity to be a very effective form of treatment in various mood disorders. Grab the stroller and walk the kids to the park. Park your car a little farther away to squeeze a 15-minute stroll into your day. Throw in some extra trips up and down the stairs. Get on the floor and lift your giggling kiddo up and down while watching your favorite TV show. It all counts.

5. Ask for help. Don't be shy about asking for and accepting help. Mr. ZJ and I share the belief that it's complete bullshit to think or expect each person in a relationship to give 50/50 all the time. We recognize there will be times when one person will struggle to give even 20%, and that's fine because the other person can chip in the remaining 80%. Find those persons (spouse, friend, parent, the tribe) who can help you during your own 80% deficits. They are lifesavers.

Please accept this as my virtual hug for all the Janes going though similar struggles. We will get through this. I welcome any additional ideas for coping with burnout in the comments section!

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