Mental RX for Nurses (for those who have to work the holidays)

How do you improve your holidays?

Of all the days to be a nurse, the holidays is the worst. Being a nurse, you have put aside your own holiday stress to care for patients. Here are four strategies to make your holidays better.


How do you improve your holidays?

Not every holiday season is a Norman Rockwell painting. The holidays are NOT an exciting time of year for many, many people.  To make it worse, people are supposed to be happy; so, folks feel they cannot reveal their true emotions. People walk around putting on a brave face, grappling with loneliness, overwhelmed with the extra work that goes into making the holiday “bright.” 

The truth is that for a large part of the population, the holidays are difficult. Many of your friends may be suffering emotionally (bad memories or missing loved ones that have passed) and financially (the stress of holiday buying). A digital telephone survey completed by Greenberg Quinlan Research sampled 786 people about their holiday stress experience. Key findings from the survey resonated around similar themes. The highest number of responses pointed to women being most affected by holiday stress as they have the responsibility to coordinate the holiday festivities. Other top stressors were spending time with family, finances, the commercialization, and the expectation of the season.

Of all the days to be a nurse, the holidays must be the worst. Being a nurse, you have put aside your own holiday stress to care for your sick patients, who get to spend their holiday in the hospital. Your normal short, staffed situation takes on a whole new meaning during the holidays.  Wow, with all of that stress, is there hope?  Yes!  You can take back the holiday and gain some control of your holiday experience.  Here are four strategies to make it better.

1- Decorate

Everyone appreciates decorations and they can make your heart smile. Remember that your patients do not want to be in the hospital during the holidays either. So, decorate your cart and decorate your patient’s rooms to bring some holiday cheer. Possibly wear some cheery headbands (deer antlers or lights come to mind). Kohl’s, Etsy, eBay, QVC are just a few of the places you can get some fun and inexpensive headbands to brighten your day.

2- Food

A holiday would not be special without all the tasty food that the celebration brings. Conspire with your coworkers that must work the same holiday and do a holiday potluck. I know you are thinking “I don’t need more work during the holidays”. However, nurses are not sitting down at work to have a grand meal –they graze. So set up a holiday graze and make finger foods the theme of the holiday, Taste of Home magazine published fifty quick take-to work recipes. Make the graze festive and include a choice of bringing breakfast or dinner foods.

3- Holiday is Just a Day

The holidays are just that – a random day we all agree to celebrate. So, move your family’s holiday celebration to a different day so you can share the day with your family.

4- Give a Little Grace

Remember that the holidays are not always good for everyone. Some of your coworkers or patients do not have a family to celebrate the holidays with or family they would rather not spend the holidays with at all. There are a lot of financial pressures during the holidays for presents and reduced work hours resulting in reduced paychecks. It is not uncommon for the holidays to be unpleasant as it brings up memories of deceased loved ones. Some folks have experienced distinct types of traumas around the holidays and festivities serve only as a painful memory.

Finally, Place Yourself on the List

Do not forget to put yourself on the Christmas list. Be kind to yourself; try to include at least one activity that feeds your soul, and you can look forward to during the holiday season. Forgive yourself, everyone makes mistakes, and you can only change the future, not the past. Set boundaries with family and friends. It is okay to delegate, ask your children or family members to help. If you have unpleasant memories of the holidays or are missing loved ones, it is time to change the traditions. If you do not have a family to celebrate with, then invite a friend over to share the holiday with you. No need to sit home alone; consider volunteering at a food kitchen or to hand out presents to children with parents in prison. There are many charities that would LOVE your help during the holiday season so choose one that aligns with your values.

Michelle McBride is a healthcare content writer and journalist residing in Cincinnati, OH. Her work as a psychiatric nurse practitioner coupled with her Masters level education in marketing, provides a unique set of skills, rarely found. Michelle’s primary goal is to make healthcare information relatable and useful to the reader, She dreams of days at the beach and delights in her grandchildren.

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