But you can develop an ability to be more optimistic, and here are tips from upbeat nurses and psychology experts to help you jump-start the process:
Don't fret about genetics. According to the Mayo Clinic, optimism is only 25-30 percent reliant on genetics. That gives you plenty of leeway in finding a way to be more optimistic even if it's contrary to your personality.
Prepare to pay it forward. If you are in a bad mood and inflict it on the next person, it can have a ripple effect, according to Cherry. "If you see 20 or 30 people a day, you are having a pretty big impact, negative or positive." To make sure she's using her influence over all those people for good, Cherry pauses and lets the last situation ebb away if it was negative. "Take a breath, center yourself before you go into the next patient or to talk to a co-worker," she said.
Don't expect the best from patients. Cardiac nurse Anetra Wilhoite reminds herself constantly that it's her job to stay positive. "Remember that we often see patients at their worst," said Wilhoite, a 12-year nursing veteran in Knoxville, Tennessee. "They are exhausted and don't feel good. They're scared, depressed, physically hurt, malnourished, and feel hopeless. So it is up to the medical staff to try to help or even change some or all of these feelings and circumstances."
Remember who you're dealing with. When Wilhoite is having a tough time staying positive, she tries to put herself in the patient's shoes. "How would I want to be treated if I were the patient? Or how would I want my mom to be treated?" she said. "Also I try to remember that nursing is not 'just a job.' I help people. I can make a big impact on people's lives. And ultimately, I remember I am working for the Lord and caring for his children."
Do something nice for yourself before you begin. According to the Elite Learning Resource Center nursing blog, it's a good idea to start the day with a positive attitude. But don't expect that to happen effortlessly. Instead, start the morning (or preshift) with something that brings you peace, comfort or cheer. "Maybe you could eat breakfast with the family, sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee or read a chapter of a favorite novel," the blog advises.
Don't work all the time. Cherry likes her current job because she no longer works up to 100 hours in one week as she did in her last position. She recommended that any nurse try to find a work-life balance to improve optimism. "Now that I have some personal time, hours when I don't have to think about work, it makes me a better nurse and a more pleasant person," she says. "It's hard to be optimistic when you work somewhere like my old job, where co-workers were afraid to call in sick because they were so understaffed someone else would have had to pick up their work burden."
Journal out the pessimistic thinking. Elite Learning also recommends the time-honored tradition of journaling to improve your outlook. "It can help you keep track of negative thoughts and discover the reason behind these feelings," EL notes. "For example, you might notice that you're upset at certain times of the day or only in certain places. Take a closer look at these factors and figure out what you can change and what you can't. For elements you have little to no control over, such as your heavy workload, you may want to talk to your boss or make a list of actions you can take."
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