As I logged off my computer for the day, I sighed deeply and then wondered at myself. It had been a good day, really good actually. Why was I feeling burdened and guilty? As I headed to collect my things, I pushed myself to think a little more on the subject. I realized my sigh and my feeling of defeat were because I had left some minor things undone. While I prioritized well all day, and delegated appropriately, I remembered with niggling clarity the small, less important chores that I had been forced to relegate to the pile of "things left undone."
As I walked toward my car, I forced myself into a positive self-talk conversation, emphasizing the good and closing off the impulse toward perfectionism that threatened to steal my peace and joy in my job.
As nurses, we face this dilemma on an almost daily basis. How do we keep ourselves healthy in mind, body and spirit when the voices of defeat rise up and threaten to undo us? Ghandi once said, ""Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony." Our wholeness and health depend on the balance we maintain, on our ability to have integrity in all we do, say and think. Professionally, this is hard because we often have to chose between important tasks or feel that the tyranny of the urgent circumvents our best efforts and forces us into doing the less important things first.
How can we find the balance we need to continue to be wonderful, caring nurses who maintain our focus on excellence, all the while being well-rounded people in our outside lives?
What is the key to this type of intentional living?
Staying well in spirit. Whether you are a family caregiver or a professional nurse, neglect of spiritual well-being can quickly lead to depletion of the well of emotional energy that we draw from. We have all felt that sense of creeping burn out when we put in too much overtime, when we feel ourselves tearing up on the way into work. Although times of trial come to all of us, they are not maintainable over the long term. Somehow, we have to find ways to re-fuel and re-energize our spirits: through readings, meditation, communion with nature, nurturing relationships, self-care of all types.
I have a friend who works with staffing at a hospital. He said that he has heard nurses say, "There is no amount of money that can make me come in on my day off." He was shocked that they would say this, but I really wasn't. At some point, our emotional/spiritual well-being are in crisis and there really isn't any type of monetary reward that can entice us to give that up. Our dilemma, of course, is when this is in direct conflict with the patients well-being.
Maintaining Our Priorities
To keep our priorities in line, we have to first have some clear idea of what they are. It is sometimes helpful for us to write down our top 10 items. While realizing that these re-order from time to time, most of us will feel more "whole" if we work to keep work, family, spirit, exercise, civic commitments, professional development all in some sort of line up that feels comfortable.
Guilt Can Grab Our Gumption
"Shoulda, coulda, woulda"-the ugly 3-can put us and others into a tailspin of misdirection. It is helpful to remember that most of us do not set out to intentionally make a poor decision. Instead, we consider what we know today-at this moment in time-and do the best we can with the information available right now. Hindsight sometimes reveals that we might have acted differently, but there is great freedom from guilt when we know we tried our best.
Accepting Help On the Way to Health
Sometimes we get too busy during the course of day and others are not quite as busy. When they offer to help, we may pridefully be tempted to say, "No, I think I've got this." Instead, be thinking of ways that others can help, delegate and just say, "Yes!" Working together builds the team and helps us all out in the end.
Comparisons Can Lead to Despair
We are all different. We have a variety of skills, strengths and weaknesses-that is a good thing. However, our human tendency sometimes is to compare ourselves with others and listen to the negative voices in our heads that tell us we are not quite measure up. The truth is, we all excel at something. And we all have weaknesses. Positive self-talk can help us walk through the times of discouragement. All of us, from time to time, feel inadequate, unprepared, less intelligent, forgetful, etc. There will always be someone who is better looking, has healthier relationships, is wealthier, knows all the answers...the list goes on. For us to succeed long term as professionals, it is critical that we understand that others' strengths do not take away from our own and that we, too, have areas of achievement.
By the time I got to my car, I was feeling better about the day. Chin up, shoulders back, I began to look forward to a nice long walk with my dog. Tomorrow was a new day!