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A nurse’s 7 tips to combat burnout

Being a former travel nurse provides perspective on what health care workers are going through

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Nurses barely get time to sit down before a new coronavirus variant hits town and forces them back on their feet. Just this past Friday, for example, Georgia set a single-day record for new COVID-19 cases, with 26,033 combined confirmed and probable infections.

An American Medical Association-led study found that reducing burnout might help to retain health care workers who are considering leaving the profession.

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“Life is crazy, our job is stressful and quite unglamorous at times, but it doesn’t always have to weigh heavy on your heart,” Mariam Yazdi, BSN, RN, wrote for Nurse.org. “For those of you who are feeling the burn of this job, here are a few tips to help you overcome.”

Take a deep breath

Inhale, close your eyes, hold it, then exhale.

You might not have time to eat or go to the bathroom, Yazdi points out, but there is always time to take a deep breath.

The key is to link it to a task, she added. “(E)very time you’re at the Pyxsis or the Omnicel, put your finger down on the reader, close your eyes and take a deep breath.”

“And don’t do one of those sighs that leads to a defeated slouch. Sit up straight and make your Respiratory Therapist proud of that big deep breath,” she wrote.

Get a hobby

According to a 2013 study published in the British Journal of Occupational Therapy, knitting has health benefits for nurses. Simply casting on, winding yarn and clacking needles can increase cognitive functioning and make people feel calm and happy.

Not your thing? You can also try photography or gardening. “Whatever has crossed your mental sphere and piqued your interest, do just that,” Yazdi wrote.

ExploreCozy and calming: Health benefits of knitting and sewing as a nurse

Invest in yourself

Whether you’re in to spas or the outdoors, self-care is important.

Physical therapist Brett Sears, the owner of Capital Region Physical Therapy, explained that both wet and dry saunas, or any activity that delivers acute whole-body thermotherapy of 98-110 degrees Fahrenheit helps increase circulation.

Being outside, especially in winter, comes with its own benefits, from getting much needed vitamin D to increasing brown adipose tissue to strengthening your heart.

ExploreSweating out the stress: When saunas are great for nurses

Get away

Breaking up your routine and getting away from work drama can go a long way toward relieving stress.

“Taking a weekend to check out a local retreat, or even a short day trip somewhere close to window shop and eat a nice dinner can help you clear your head and get some distance from work,” Yazdi wrote.

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Focus on why you like your job

It’s not all bad, is it? Maybe you enjoy joking with your patients or learning new technical procedures.

“Whatever it is, enjoy it, dwell on that aspect of the job, and not the parts that drive you nuts,” Yazdi wrote. “Let those parts roll off of you like butter on a hot biscuit.”

Gain perspective

Today’s woes won’t be weighing you down forever, Yazdi wrote.

“Back when I started my nursing career, I fell into a strange depression that came from a place of starting a career I didn’t know if I really liked, working nights, and feeling really alone and incompetent to boot,” she wrote. “Now looking back (that was only a handful of years ago) I realize that those first few years were just a small speck on the timeline of my life.”

If things are difficult right now, remember that you have an essential career that is versatile and can set you up for anything else you’d like to do.

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Stop the negative thoughts

If you’re the type to spiral into negative self-talk whenever something doesn’t go your way, then you’re probably not going to enjoy your job.

“I am learning to catch myself at the beginning of those spirals and stop myself in my tracks,” Yazdi wrote. “I will repeat my mantra: ‘Good job, Mariam! You’re doing a great job.’”

It might feel fake at first, but forcing yourself to say nice things can make a difference, she wrote.

“Remember, if you’re down about nursing, it’s very possible that this feeling won’t last forever,” Yazdi concluded. “Take those deep breaths and do what is best for you in the new year.”

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Mariam Yazdi is a writer and travel nurse from El Paso, Texas. After three years in the intensive care unit, she hit the road with her husband and two pups, living in San Francisco, Tennessee and Los Angeles. Currently in New York City, she is a nurse journalist for Nurse.org.

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