Nurses are tasked with life-saving, life-giving and life-sucking opportunities.
All of these occurrences take a toll on our energy levels- some give and some take energy. It is entirely important for Nurses (and for all of us!) to incorporate replenishing and rejuvenating actions throughout our day to stay healthy for our patients, for ourselves and for our families.
Here are some tips to keep you feeling alive and energized, I hope at least one of these things will resonate with you and help you to de-stress, reenergize and feel positive in your work.
1. Pin up a photo of a loved one at your computer. This will remind you of the love and adoration that awaits you when you get home. It also reminds you that the work you do has purpose.
2. Consider placing a vial of essential oil in your pocket. Pull it out and take a quick whiff on the go, or better yet, massage a drop to the back of your neck and/or temples or even the souls of your feet for some self-care. A touch of peppermint and/or citrus will revitalize and lavender and/or frankincense will help calm.
3. Show gratitude and appreciation to a colleague by writing a quick note of thanks for the work they do, or why you enjoy working with them on a stickie-note. Stick it to their computer when they’re not looking for a fun and uplifting surprise. This is a win-win for both of you.
4. Be like a butterfly. Land on moments of gossip and negativity, but don’t stay long, take off and fly to another conversation that is more positive. Spread your wings in positive directions.
5. Incorporate a Healing Ritual into your practice. Modern day Nurse Theorist Barbara Dossey coined this term in her book Rituals of Healing (Achterberg, Dossey & Kolkmeier, 1994). These are actions that help bring us healing in all moments. For example, hand washing. As you wash your hands, recall what just happened with your patient or colleague. Feel the friction on your hands, the warmth of the water, the slippery bubbles, the scent of the soap, and the feeling in your heart. As you rinse away the bubbles, let all the emptions of the situation flow off of your heart and hands, into the sink bowl and down the drain.
6. Carry a favorite keepsake in your pocket. Perhaps it’s a stone, a seashell, a piece of colorful yarn, your child’s toy racecar, a feather, or anything that reminds you of a positive event or person in your life. Before going into a patient’s room for a difficult conversation, reach into your pocket and hold it in your sensitive hands, allow memories to come to mind. Or, if you feel overwhelmed, take it out of your pocket and let it touch the skin of your fingers and hands and allow the recollections to infuse into you, letting go of stress and overwork.
7. Create your own Power Pose. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy (TED Global, 2012) coined this term. She found that certain postures increase testosterone and decrease cortisol, making us feel powerful and victorious. If you are feeling overwhelmed or irritated, step into the break or med room and adopt a Power Pose. Plant your feet firmly on the floor in a wide stance, then open your arms tall and big above your head, and lift your heart up and out (imagine Florence Nightingale as she hangs one of her lamps high above a patient, or Usain Bolt at the finish line). Hold this position as you breathe in and out deeply. As you stand, openly powerful, notice what happens to your emotions. Amy Cuddy suggests holding a Power Pose for 2 minutes to get the best results, however- even a few breaths in a Power Pose will help redirect your emotion.
8. Use moments of skill to infuse hope into your patients. For example, hanging an IV antibiotic. Instead of just hanging a bag of medicine, consider what else you can infuse alongside that medicine. While you are hanging the bag, breathe deeply and focus your intention on the healing properties of the drug, and what it could mean to your patient. Alongside amoxicillin, perhaps its hope and patience, alongside clindamycin, perhaps it’s love and healing, alongside levofloxacin, perhaps it is energy and peace.
Some of these things will take practice, because they are out of the normal patterns we have created for ourselves. It is OK to be a beginner and just try one thing during your next shift. Maybe share with a colleague what you intend to do (especially if they find you in the breakroom practicing your Power Pose). Sometimes we have little control over the things happening in our environment, but we always have control over our own personal actions.
If you have any additional ideas to bring healing, resilience and positivity into your work day to reduce your stress, please share in a comment!