Sometimes staying happy with a healthy work-life balance is like undertaking a quest for the Holy Grail. “Work-life balance” might better be classified as a verb rather than as a noun. It is a continuous, dynamic process that requires a little tweaking here, a little tweaking there…and so on.
Striving to obtain harmony in your life should be about making small adjustments, not about struggling through every day. As a nurse, you may face many challenges (big and small) throughout your day. Mr. Smith codes at 10 a.m., just as you were about to start your break. Ms. Jones suffers from a fall (and doesn’t hurt herself, thank goodness, but, oh, the paperwork) right at change of shift. You’re prepared for this, however; it’s part of what you signed up for when you became a nurse.
Take Control of How You React to Situations
While you can’t control all aspects of your job or environment, you do have control over how you react to situations. If the frequent emergencies, sometimes impatient patients, and constant distractions stress you out, remember, it doesn’t have to be that way. Emergencies aren’t going to stop happening. Your manager will probably call you on your day off. The common denominator in all of these experiences? You. You can decide if they will break you or not.
How? Mindfulness. Mindfulness can be your magic bullet. It is a tool that is available to you every moment of every day, requires no special equipment, and very little time. Like anything new, though, it does take a some practice.
Practice first in non-critical situations. Sit somewhere you can relax for 5 to 10 minutes. Mindfulness is not about finding nirvana. It is about having an awareness of the present moment. What is the temperature of the room like? What sounds do you hear? Was that your stomach growling?
When your mind starts to drift away, thinking about what to make for dinner tonight, acknowledge the thought—it’s there, it’s real, and it’s okay—then redirect yourself back to the present moment. As you practice redirecting your mind to the here and now, it will become automatic. When the next crisis strikes, you will be ready. You will be better able to tolerate the situation, and you will approach it with greater objectivity.
How Travel Nursing May Improve Your Work-Life Balance
Mindfulness will not fix a toxic environment, but it might just get you through until you can make some changes, like taking that travel nursing position you’ve often dreamed about.
Travel nursing provides:
- A new environment. Our brains thrive on change and novelty. A change can bring you renewed energy and enthusiasm, and helps to avoid burnout.
- Opportunities to spend time closer to family or friends.
- Professional resources. For example, Health Carousel Travel Nursing's CNO (Chief Nursing Officer) is available whenever you need him.
- An opportunity to “test the waters.” You have a chance to learn what you like—and don’t like—in a new environment.
- Satisfaction of your wanderlust. With 13-week assignments (typically), you could be in a different location several times a year!
- The possibility of taking time off between assignments to go and have fun!
It’s time, it’s 2017—the ANA’s Year of the Healthy Nurse, in fact. The old standbys of eating right, sleeping regularly, and exercising will serve you well, and mindfulness can help you get there.