OK, maybe it’s too much to expect a nurse to apply the PQRST method to her own pain symptoms. But physical aches are one of the top indicators that you’re neglecting your health. “Maybe what was a new ache, pain or other symptom has become a chronic one, or a worsening one, because we haven’t taken the time to see our own provider,” Woeber suggests.
You’ve gained weight
This is not a beauty contest or shaming game, and there’s certainly no reason to start weighing yourself several times per day. But signs that you’ve gained a few pounds might also be telling you to pay more attention to self care. If your scrubs are getting a bit tight or you’re noticing an extra chin in your selfies, it may be time to examine your diet, work-life balance and exercise habits.
You can’t sleep
This is another rich irony when you work as a nurse. You encourage patients to get the recommended seven-plus hours each night, and, of course, you’re really tired because you work 12-hour shifts. And yet, there you are, staring at the ceiling, willing sleep to come before the alarm rings in a couple of hours.
You’re irritable and angry
“Sometimes instead of physical symptoms, we experience symptoms of compassion fatigue or burnout, which is what happens to empathetic people who don’t take enough breaks from situations that are emotionally intense and challenging,” Woeber notes. “A nurse will know she (or he) has compassion fatigue or burnout if she finds that she’s chronically feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, withdrawn, irritable or angry.”
You can’t focus
So every now and then you forget your clipboard or a change of clothes — that’s natural. But if a nurse “realizes she’s having trouble focusing or getting things done, even everyday tasks that aren’t normally that challenging,” it’s time to examine your health.
Of course, getting your health back on track involves far more than just noticing your health is suffering. But you have to start somewhere.
“If you recognize these symptoms and signs, it’s time to change gears,” Woeber said. “Take some time away, and add in some activities that provide balance. That may be exercise, hobbies, healthy eating, mindfulness. And most importantly, realize that it’s time to make a visit to our own provider, who can provide a reality check about our health status and some encouragement for a jump start on better balance.”