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Why I am Grateful for Burning Out as a Nurse

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Specializes in Leadership Development. Has 36 years experience.

This is the season of gratitude and giving. As nurses you may feel like you can't do another thing for anyone else. Then take this time and give to yourself. Be grateful for what is working in your life. A regular practice of gratitude is known to shift perspective, change attitudes and rejuvenate.

Why I am Grateful for Burning Out as a Nurse

Gratitude is medicine. It has the power to heal.

Numerous studies have been done to reflect the significant changes in mood, attitude and even trips to the physician as a result of a regular practice of gratitude. A $6 million dollar research project was undertaken by The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley along with the University of California, Davis, to explore the science of gratitude. This massive effort resulted in numerous grants being given to explore everything from the changes in gene expression to the changes in relationships to neuroscience to heart disease and more as a result of a regular practice of gratitude.

So if gratitude is so great, why is it only talked about at Thanksgiving? Do we really need a holiday to remind ourselves to be grateful? Evidently we do. The problem is that it comes too late in the year and by the time the day rolls around most people are too tired to really make this practice of gratitude part of their day.

That is what happened to me. Instead of being grateful, early in my nursing career I lived off of caffeine and the adrenaline rush that came from working in critical care. I loved the technology and the heroic effort required to do my job. That is until one day I had to wait for furniture to be delivered.

I thought I would go crazy. I did not have a computer or smart phone. Believe it or not it was before they came out. I had to just wait. I was given a window of 4 hours and of course the delivery came at the end of 4 hours. During that time I realized I was hooked on the fast pace of work and desperately needed to reboot myself so I could learn to live life.

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This AHA moment helped me to realize that I was missing out on so much of my life because I was always looking forward to the next thing. Anything that happened in the moment was missed. I did not experience the many moments in the day when someone said, "Thank you" for what I did, nor did I recognize those times when someone needed me to just listen.

In the whirlwind of saving the world and feeling so important, I lost the ability to be grateful and present. Instead I felt cynical. Sarcastic and a believer in Murphy 's Law that nothing ever turned out OK, I went through each day expecting problems until I had to stop and just be with myself. I did not like being with myself.

I am grateful today for hitting this wall and recognizing that life is not best lived at 100 mph. I am grateful to nursing for the holistic framework in which I can view life. It has been decades since I have worked in a clinical setting however in private practice I have considered myself a nurse and love the opportunity to continue to serve others. This is what nursing offers, the opportunity to serve and in doing so to feel a part of something bigger. Before burnout, it was all about me and what I was doing. Having come face to face with the ugly truth of what I had become, I can now say I am grateful for burning out. It was at that point I had the chance to reclaim that part of me I lost along the way.

Mentor to Healthcare Leaders; from US Specialty: 36 year(s) of experience in Leadership Development

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22 Comment(s)

Thanks for sharing this! I can relate to what you have written, and went through my own process of realizing the truth of what you have shared. I was starting to suffer from anxiety attacks both before and during work. Although the anxiety never got in the way of what I needed to do at that moment at work, I took it as a signal that I needed to work on myself and make some positive changes.

I was blessed to have a shift recently where I had the time (and made the time!) to listen for a full 45 minutes to the parent of one of my pediatric critical care patients. She just needed to talk, to vent, express her anger at the situation she was facing. Although I enjoy the medical and intellectual parts of what I do, the reason I am a nurse is ultimately to provide holistic care, not just the medical care.

I also have taken measures to turn off from work when I'm at home. This is the first time I've posted to AN for awhile, as I have taken a deliberate break from my career when I'm clocked out. I don't check work emails very often or think about work. When I'm at work I'm 100% there. When I'm at home my family deserves that I'm 100% at home in my mind, too.

One other thing I have done recently that has made a huge difference is get back in touch with my spiritual needs. To connect to something bigger than myself, lean on something bigger, and refocus my perspective to a wide-view lens rather than magnifying glass.

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“The past is already gone, the future is not yet here. There's only one moment for you to live, and that is the present moment”

― Gautama Buddha

Edited by anon456

Cynthiahowardrnphd

Specializes in Leadership Development. Has 36 years experience.

anon456 BEautiful! What an awesome discovery to BE 100% where you are... I am so happy for you. Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

sirI, MSN, APRN, NP

Specializes in Education, FP, LNC, Forensics, ED, OB. Has 30 years experience.

Thoroughly enjoyed your Article.

Emergent, RN

Specializes in ER. Has 28 years experience.

I enjoy your contributions. Thankfulness, every day, to vital. It is healing. I've only learned this as I've gotten older and I'm grateful for it. It brings inner peace.

firstinfamily, RN

Has 33 years experience.

This was an eye-opener article. Thank you. I think all of us reach that burnout point but few of us take the time to reflect on it and better ourselves by taking care of ourselves. I learned a few years ago to take time out and give myself a few well earned rewards. Funny how a pedicure or body massage can rejuvenate. Taking time to do creative projects helps me to stay grounded and balances out the demanding parts of my life. I am currently learning to meditate and hope this will also help to give me the balance that I need.

mellowdude

Has 100 years experience.

Thanks for sharing!

TheCommuter, BSN, RN

Specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych. Has 15 years experience.

I admit it: I am the queen of ingratitude. I often fixate on negative occurrences from the distant past that cannot be changed, and it is hindering my ability to live fully in the present. Instead of being genuinely thankful for all the great facets of life, I sometimes seethe.

I am an adult woman in my 30s, so it pains me to disclose my unresolved issues from past childhood traumas. One parent abused alcohol and drugs for a significant length of time, and both parents were verbally abusive at times. I also witnessed scenes of domestic violence. As a result, my self-esteem took a hit and I have regular flashbacks of the violence.

My youth was not that much different from upbringings experienced by other people, but I find myself stewing in unproductive anger and resentment for having experienced the lower aspects of life. I feel a profound sense of ingratitude because I feel I was born at the wrong place, at the wrong time, and to the wrong family. I know that sounded extremely cold.

I know that ingratitude is unhealthy; however, my emotions override my more logical side. Perhaps I could make a new year's resolution to find one thing for which I can be thankful each day. I am very much a work in progress.

CaLLaCoDe, BSN, RN

Specializes in Cardiology, Oncology, Medsurge.

Hurray! You're whole again!

Well, it appears nursing philosophy (or I might call it the healing art) assisted you in the enabling of yourself to seek a better way after reviewing your state of affairs! Fine to see you took the steps to improve your life. Perhaps giving up on immune compromising vaccines would perhaps help as well. I know... I know these boards have lit up several times regarding this topic. So don't go there :singing:

I admit it: I am the queen of ingratitude. I often fixate on negative occurrences from the distant past that cannot be changed, and it is hindering my ability to live fully in the present. Instead of being genuinely thankful for all the great facets of life, I sometimes seethe.

I am an adult woman in my 30s, so it pains me to disclose my unresolved issues from past childhood traumas. One parent abused alcohol and drugs for a significant length of time, and both parents were verbally abusive at times. I also witnessed scenes of domestic violence. As a result, my self-esteem took a hit and I have regular flashbacks of the violence.

My youth was not that much different from upbringings experienced by other people, but I find myself stewing in unproductive anger and resentment for having experienced the lower aspects of life. I feel a profound sense of ingratitude because I feel I was born at the wrong place, at the wrong time, and to the wrong family. I know that sounded extremely cold.

I know that ingratitude is unhealthy; however, my emotions override my more logical side. Perhaps I could make a new year's resolution to find one thing for which I can be thankful each day. I am very much a work in progress.

You're brave and strong for opening up!

(((((((((((hugs)))))))))))) Always remember life is a journey, just keep pressing forward in goodness, love, and kindness and in due time things change for the better both inside of us and around us. I understand how you feel also having a dysfunctional parent myself. All the very best!

Emergent, RN

Specializes in ER. Has 28 years experience.

I think issues from childhood haunt a lot of us. Thanks for the post, Commuter. My childhood was not as deprived as yours, but there was lots of middle class dysfunction there (Adopted, Divorce, Swinger father suggested I sleep with him because so and so brought their daughter to an orgy, Stepfather was a domineering prick, mother desperate to stay married and totally emotionally distant, the list goes on and on, I just withdrew into my own world)

Cynthiahowardrnphd

Specializes in Leadership Development. Has 36 years experience.

The Commuter, thank you for your honesty. I do relate to you as I had very similar beginning and one day I decided that the pain of resentment was just not where I wanted to live anymore. Please make that decision! It sounds like you have so much to offer the world and it is hidden beneath all this old anger.

I love the saying resentment is like taking poison and hoping someone else will die.

Thaks for sharing and I hope you will understand that loving and accepting outselves is the fastest way to make the world a better place!

Cynthiahowardrnphd

Specializes in Leadership Development. Has 36 years experience.

Emergent you are not allowing others to define you and yes it takes time however it is worth every bit of effort!

Cynthiahowardrnphd

Specializes in Leadership Development. Has 36 years experience.

firstinfamily, you are so right on about the massage etc and also being creative. This is what our spirit craves... thank you for your comments!

Cynthiahowardrnphd

Specializes in Leadership Development. Has 36 years experience.

I am really not understanding the comment about vaccines?

brown eyed girl

Specializes in LTC/Sub Acute Rehab.

As much as I hate to admit it, I'm currently at this point. It's affecting my classes and test taking abilities. I haven't passed a test yet, I'm expected to pull out the ultimate comeback. I haven't been able to put my finger on what's wrong or why or how "this" is happening to me. Now I know, I'm just plain ole burnt out. It's frustrating to say the least.

Cynthiahowardrnphd

Specializes in Leadership Development. Has 36 years experience.

Browneyed Girl, thanks for posting and getting honest with yourself. Now you can take some action. Just spend a little time thinking about what you ultimately want? Do you want a different job, promotion, more money, more control over your time, travel? What do you want?

Then look at how your everyday choices may be supporting or sabotaging your efforts. Just change one thing - drink more water, decrease sugar... so you will have more energy to go after what you want.

Do things you enjoy! If you let yourself have some fun - you will amazed at how rejuvenated you might feel.

Whatever you do not not give up! If you need to get a tutor to help you... sending love your way and encouragement to LEAN IN!!!!

brown eyed girl

Specializes in LTC/Sub Acute Rehab.

I WANT ALL OF THAT; That's why I go to school. I know in time those things will come. I really want to work in women's health; not to help deliver babies so much as I want to educate young women about their reproductive health and how it relates to their body as a whole. I want to do my part to help young women pursue higher education to attain true self sufficiency for themselves and their children, so that they will feel that they are good examples for their children. I want to be able to blessing and encouragement to someone who needs it and in turn, they will pay it forward and be a blessing and encouragement to someone else.

As far as tutoring goes, I have an amazing OB tutor. I can't speak highly enough of her. She made the "light bulb" go off for me; she has been my blessing, and I am so grateful to have her. I just haven't been able to apply the knowledge that I have in my head onto the test with both classes. I have sought out a former instructor for the class I dropped, since she is certified in that setting.

Browneyed Girl, thanks for posting and getting honest with yourself. Now you can take some action. Just spend a little time thinking about what you ultimately want? Do you want a different job, promotion, more money, more control over your time, travel? What do you want?

Then look at how your everyday choices may be supporting or sabotaging your efforts. Just change one thing - drink more water, decrease sugar... so you will have more energy to go after what you want.

Do things you enjoy! If you let yourself have some fun - you will amazed at how rejuvenated you might feel.

Whatever you do not not give up! If you need to get a tutor to help you... sending love your way and encouragement to LEAN IN!!!!

Edited by brown eyed girl
grammar