With all of the things that makes my life extremely busy – teaching multiple college classes, meeting with clients, authoring online nursing content, writing blog articles, providing direct patient care, networking, tending to my vegetable garden, cooking, cleaning, and providing for my adorable kitties and my soon to be husband, people often ask me, “How do you do it all!?” To be honest, on some days, I feel like I am a well-oiled machine, where I easily keep up with all that I do. On other days, I do absolutely nothing productive – except for devoting time to pamper myself and take a mini vacation!
You see, I believe that it’s all about achieving a healthy work-life balance. It is absolutely imperative that we take time out of our hectic lives to SLOW DOWN and take it easy. I mean it’s super easy for me to bust out a 55 hour work week, but that is no longer one of my life goals. Since I have experienced burnout pretty early within my nursing career by not taking the time out to relax and forget about work for a day – or seven, I now make fun and relaxation a regular routine!
Here are some of the strategies that I have implemented in my life that has helped me to gain an extremely satisfying work-life balance:
Dedicate time each day to do something nice for yourself
Even if it’s just an hour or two a day, I make sure I put time to the side to make sure I am doing something that will make me happy. On some days, I take an additional hour in the morning to enjoy a homemade breakfast, or get a little more snuggle time in with my family. On other days, I may put time to the side to engage in exercise, meditation, music therapy (aka singing in the shower or in my car), and/or getting a pedicure, massage or a haircut. I try to spend at least one to three hours per day actively engaging with myself – just me and the outlet(s) of joy I’ve chosen for the day.
Spend more time with those you love – no excuses
Let’s face it… we are all guilty of missing special events, or guilty of spending less time socializing with our family and friends – often allowing “work” to be the scapegoat. The real issue usually isn’t work in itself, but the fact that work has us so exhausted, mentally drained, or even so upset that we choose to rest, rather than meet up or engage in a lengthy telephone conversations. Still, it’s not totally work’s fault. Much of the fault lies in poor planning, or let’s say – a lack of setting work-life balance priorities.
After being guilty of the above listed behavior for a long time, it came to a point where I found myself feeling left out, alone, and even disconnected from those who mean the most to me. As a result, I started planning on taking more frequent trips back home to New Orleans so I can just simply hang with friends and family.
I started reaching out more via texts, telephone calls and social media messaging and posts to boost the time I spend engaged with my loved ones when I am unable to visit in person. To no surprise, once I started engaging more, making my family and friends a priority, I began feeling like I was involved again – a part of the family, closer with my closest friends, and I began to feel better about life in general.
Plan to take several mini vacations throughout the year in addition to big vacations
Who wants to work for every single month of the year? Who wants to only visit a new destination once a year or less? Definitely not me! By taking several mini vacations a year in addition to big vacations, I have found that my overall satisfaction level with life has improved significantly. When I was working a typical weekly schedule at a hospital, I found myself limited in my ability to visit friends and family, make plans, or even attend special events because I was at the mercy of the institution’s staffing management.
Once I was able to shift away from staff nursing into flexible agency nursing, consulting, and adjunct faculty teaching, I vowed to make up for missed time. Now I make sure to spend majority of my down time doing the things that I enjoy with those whom I love! From gardening, to taking weekend trips to NYC to hang with friends, or spending several weeks a year visiting family in other states, I devote at least two full months out of the year to vacationing.
Even if you can’t find the time or money to take all these small vacations in addition to a big one, then focus on taking more small trips. The positive impact of “getting away” on a more regular basis is sure to help bring balance to your busy life!
Don’t be afraid of taking some “recovery time” off of work when burnout starts setting in
There comes a time when you feel the burnout creeping up on you. I learned early on within my nursing career that you have to be honest with yourself and determine if it’s something within your control, or if it’s a systemic problem with a poor prognosis. Sometimes it takes a bit of time to determine this, but most of us know when we are in a toxic work environment – that will most likely not get better despite our efforts. In other circumstances, perhaps it’s just been a really crappy few months, with lots of institutional change, chronic staff shortages, unruly patients and families, on top of the already stressful job of being a nurse. No matter the cause of the stress, don’t be afraid of taking some recovery time off of work.
Some facilities are really good at accommodating leaves of absence, while others often retaliate and attempt to threaten you with termination should you miss so many days. Regardless of the potential consequences that may lie ahead, you have to decide what is best for YOU. In my early experiences with burnout, I learned that no one is going to look out for my health and wellness except for me. Once I fully understood that, I then began to take control over my employment destiny and I happily left jobs that I felt were no longer a good fit, or I if I really liked the job, then I found myself asking for a leave of absence so I could recharge and come back with a new focus.
In either case, I found that taking breaks, or making a shift to a different job altogether was always the best choice for me. If nothing more, these breaks helped to prevent me from becoming a resentful nurse who may have started to take out my job dissatisfaction and frustrations on my clients, patients and residents. I am very cognizant of how my personal wellness can directly impact those whom I care for, and therefore my obligation to my patients begins with the obligation to myself!
So there you have it! These are four key strategies that I have implemented over the years that have really helped me in achieving a healthy work-life balance! I hope you find these strategies helpful in your life, and if you need any further insight, please do not hesitate to reach out!