When It's Not the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

  1. Long before the holidays arrive, we begin to mentally review what needs to be done to create the perfect holiday, or choose the perfect gift for our loved ones. Many of us develop unrealistic expectations on our time, money, and energy, of what the holidays should include. This is especially difficult for nurses since often the holidays bring longer hours, less staff, and more stress. Instead of enjoying the holiday season, we end up feeling guilty, frustrated and overwhelmed.

    When It's Not the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

    Months before the holidays arrive we start getting bombarded with advertisements and movies depicting the perfect holiday scene. These fictional people are happy, and stressors are wrapped up while everyone exchanges beautiful gifts complete with a handmade bow. Most of us enjoy indulging in these scenes, and envision trying to recreate the perfect holiday depicted by the media and television. Even if we know it's not real, we may desperately want it to be.

    But instead we're scheduled to work, or the kids get sick, or we can't afford what's on their Christmas list. We're overwhelmed with too much to do with too little time, money, sleep, and patience-but with plenty of patients who need our attention. It's hard to give one-hundred percent at work when we're preoccupied, or resentful that we're working and we can end up dreading, instead of enjoying the holiday season.

    When You Feel Like a Scrooge

    Although most of us realize that people require healthcare every day of the year, we may not have considered how a nursing career can affect our personal life for many holidays to come. We may understand the need to work, but it can be disheartening when we end up missing out on holiday traditions and family gatherings. We can spend time being resentful because someone else got the day off, or we were called in to work, or feeling inferior because we're too exhausted to keep up with what we feel the holidays require. Or we can try to change our perspective. Attitude can make or break the holiday.

    Often the holidays repeat this same stressful rollercoaster year after year. Each year we think it's going to be different. That this will be the year that everything is perfect. We know the holidays are coming, yet we haven't tried to change our expectations or attitude, and the outcome remains the same. We end up bringing ourselves down, which can lead to not being present for our patients when they may need us the most. They may be spending the holiday season ill, or without their families. If we take the time to plan and prepare for more than our shopping list, we can begin taking control of holiday expectations.

    Sleigh Holiday Challenges

    Even with holidays surprises, most of the challenges during this season are the same year after year. If we try to work the holiday around our work schedule, instead of trying to work around the holiday, we can determine priorities and let go of unnecessary obligations that leave us exhausted and overwhelmed.

    Unfortunately stress usually accompanies the holiday season, but if we anticipate some of these stressors, we might be better prepared to adjust our expectations and response.

    A Lack of Goodwill
    • Staff, families, and patients feel the extra strain during the holidays and often nurses are on the receiving end of their frustrations. The gift of extra patience may help in working with those that are sick and increase your gratitude for the good health of family and friends.
    • Patients who have no family may see you as a substitute, taking the time to talk about their holiday traditions can allow you to attempt to recreate a small part for them.

    So, So, So Many Social Obligations
    • Gatherings can be numerous and overwhelming when you're trying to be everywhere and do everything. Make priorities early so you can declare that your schedule is already full.
    • Crowds usually mean stress. The benefit of working different shifts, or having varied days off, means you can consider shopping alternate hours or days, or avoid it by shopping online.
    • Consider changing the day, or time, you celebrate with family if you're working. Make new traditions that are less stressful, or ones that aren't tied to a certain day or time that may not always match your schedule.

    Some Might be Having a Blue Christmas
    • While many of us struggle to fit everything in, others may suffer from social isolation. The holiday season often brings feelings of sadness and grief for many who have lost loved ones. Look for signs of depression in patients and family, and if necessary, refer for treatment.
    • Taking care of yourself is one of the best gifts. Plan for time to relax to deal with the hustle and bustle of the holiday.

    You Don't Have to be Santa Claus
    • Overindulging in food, alcohol, and overspending our holiday budget can result in kicking any healthy habits to the curb. Try to recognize financial and personal triggers to be mindful of eating in moderation, and sticking to a budget to prevent January regrets.
    • The pressure to make goals and resolutions while completely overwhelmed-as if to right all the wrongs in the past month-can be distressing. Instead plan small, monthly goals to avoid unrealistic pressures.

    Memories Aren't Scheduled

    It's not easy working in healthcare, and especially over the holiday season when we feel like we're missing out, or not doing enough. But if we think of our favorite holiday memories, they aren't usually about specific gifts, or attached to one day. The best memories are often unexpected and priceless.

    How Do You Deal with Holiday Stress?
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    About Maureen Bonatch MSN, BSN, RN

    Maureen Bonatch MSN, RN draws from years of experience in nursing administration, leadership and psychiatric nursing to write healthcare content. Her experience as a fiction author helps her to craft engaging and creative content. Learn more about her freelance writing at CharmedType.com and her fiction books at MaureenBonatch.com

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    2 Comments

  3. by   Daisy Joyce
    This won't be the answer for everybody, but this year (I've suffered a couple serious losses and a couple serious personal set-backs in this crappy, crappy year) I'm focusing on Advent, the season of spiritual preparation for Christmas.
    I've cut back to the minimum decorations, and the minimal merrymaking (that is meaningful to me and my dear family), and I'm focusing on God, faith and family.
  4. by   Maureen Bonatch MSN
    Daisy, I hope this helps make your holiday season more joyful.

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