The Following is a Guest Post
By Cheryl J Reynolds
“CJ” is an RN with over 22 years of experience and a spiritual coach. She has over 13 years teaching and utilizing spiritual concepts to help others. As a previous burned out nurse herself, she has developed the Gentle Art of Burnout Program which utilizes a spiritual approach to help nurses and health professionals ride the waves through work burnout, therefore restoring their healing spirit…gently. You can read more from CJ on burnout by visiting her website Gentle Art of Burnout or you can connect with her via Facebook.
Burnout prevention is always the best medicine, but for some of us, even with our best intentions….prevention doesn’t happen. Are you one of those nurses who went through burnout, thought it was over, and then realized you are back on the stress and burnout road again?
I know how you feel as I drove down that road through burnout…more than once. So, I know how disheartening you feel when those symptoms start coming back again. Burnout is a long winding road, but hopefully this article will help you pack properly for this long drive.
If you are a nurse who has suffered from work stress, compassion fatigue or burnout and worked through it, you may feel great one minute, then realize all of a sudden that you’re dragging a heavy suitcase. Our unresolved burnout symptoms seem to come pre-packed in an overstuffed suitcase that you may be carrying with you from job to job. The 3 dimensions of burnout (exhaustion, low personal accomplishment and depersonalization) have this interesting way of layering upon each other, which is why it is a long process that seems to come and go. Over time, burnout weighs you down emotionally which adds to your already tired mind and body, therefore increasing your exhaustion. Exhaustion is one of the dimensions that tend to affect the travel nurse. You have longer hours, occasionally heavy assignments, and for some the stress of being isolated and away from our home and family can be an exhausting burden to the heart. Being tired and frustrated of the situation can decrease motivation which brings a feeling of being dissatisfied. This directly affects your self-esteem and sense of self, therefore adding to the dimension of low personal accomplishment. This can spiral into questioning your ability and purpose as a nurse. This short analogy shows the layering effect of burnout, even without adding the dimension of depersonalization.
The bottom line, burnout is a process, and with any process there will be baggage.
The suitcase you are carrying is being carried internally …within. This is your “inner suitcase”, the subconscious mind space that holds all of your memories, perceptions, and beliefs. When you start to move beyond burnout, you begin to challenge and change your way of coping and thinking, so it is not uncommon for your ego (that protective side of you) to rattle the suitcase again.
You need to be gentle with yourself as you move forward. A few steps backwards is not the end, if anything it is a confirmation that your mind is recognizing the shift in awareness and acknowledging the changes you have made. Even if all seems lost, moving gently forward and working through it properly is a huge step you’re taking into your future as a nurse, as a healer.
So, how do you unpack and remove the burden of that inner suitcase?
Just like you do inventory of your patients belongs and take special care of their valuable items, you need to take inventory of your own mind and begin to treat your heart and Spirit as valuable too. This inner realization lets you look in those hidden compartment to see what presses your buttons, what aspect of burnout has affected you and where you are now.
Taking a stress/burnout test is another way to determine the extent of your burnout. Regardless of the results, this isn’t the time to be hard on yourself; just be accepting. It can be overwhelming, I know, but you need to be aware so you can see with clarity the subtle changes occurring within. The good news is that travel nurses tend to travel light and they have advantages. For the most part, you are appreciated by the staff members you work with and you have, to a degree, the ability to control your work destination.
“Don’t let your luggage define your travels, each life unravels differently.“
The qualities of the travel nurse that negates burnout is being clear-minded, friendly, open to change and adaptable.So, when you get to your new assignment and the burnout suitcase is weighing you down, here a few tips that just might help lighten it.
- Since giving up is not usually a viable option, acceptance of a tough situation is. It is not easy, but surrendering releases control and lets you flow gently with this process.
- Go with the flow of universe, not against it. One of the issues of burnout is that there is usually a feeling of doom; that there is no end in sight; no reprieve. Since you have short term assignments, there is hope for you; you can see the candle of hope flickering at the end of this assignment tunnel.
- Be gentle with yourself as this is a process. The lenses of exhaustion can skew your visions and thinking.
- Meditation helps; passive meditation as breathing, no-mind, sitting or active meditation like yoga, tai-chi or mindful walking is excellent for bringing clarity and peace. Inner awareness comes with gentle stillness, patience and above all…time.
- Take advantage of the mind-shift you get from being in a new area. When you see new things and places, the conscious mind automatically slows down and expands to understand it’s surrounding, which causes you to become more alert and aware. Then it can become a journey of discovery, of an opportunity to expand your awareness and moves you into the present moment.
- Be creative; find new hobbies and explore different avenues and cultures. The passion of our own creativity can sing to our heart, open the senses, and brings a gently focus which shifts us easily into mindfulness.
As you move beyond burnout, think of your victories and the progress that you have made. Breathe into that…constantly. Fill up your suitcase with praises from coworkers, patients, your family and management. Don’t forget to praise yourself too! Focus on the positive but respect the negative as insight into change. Keep your perspective, be fair, and realize that this is a process.
As you face the challenges of burnout, I want you to consider that there might be grace and purpose for your burnout. Burnout is that forceful reminder that you need to take care of your Spirit; it’s no longer an option not too. Take into consideration that you are still a wounded healer who has scar tissue which need time to heal and fade. By allowing this process to unfold, you open up to new insights about yourself, learn a new way of thinking and perhaps become an even better nurse.
Be gentle, loving and kind to that inner Spirit of yours and above all, do this gently. Now, go unpack.