A career in nursing can be deeply satisfying on both a personal and professional level. The nursing care of patients can also be emotionally taxing and spiritually exhausting. How do you strike a balance so that your emotional well-being isn’t compromised by your work as a nurse?
The television show Nurse Jackie gave us a striking example of a nurse who used drugs as a coping mechanism, and most of us know how that worked out. Addiction is questionable way to control your emotional state, and there are plenty of healthier tools that lend themselves to emotional wellness and balance.
One of the first strategies for maintaining your emotional health as a nurse is to have the highest possible level of emotional self-awareness. Self-awareness can come from a variety of sources and strategies, and it’s imperative that nurses succeed in this area by building resiliency and emotional and spiritual reserves.
Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to be aware of — and respond appropriately to — one’s own emotions and the emotions of others. EI is measured by your “Emotional Quotient” (EQ), and has become quite popular in many industries as a means of promoting improved employee wellness. Emotional intelligence can be learned and your EQ can be improved.
While mindfulness may be a buzzword, the cultivation of mindfulness can help individuals to be emotionally stable and less reactive to stressors and difficulties. Like EI, mindfulness can be learned through books, CDs, webinars, podcasts, and courses.
When we work as nurses, the stress can be overwhelming, and we can feel buried in feelings about our patients, the suffering we’ve witnessed, and the pain and death that can be part and parcel of our work.
Burnout and compassion fatigue are real, and we must be vigilant in fighting back against the forces that will drag us down from our true mission as nurses.
Sometimes, a professional counselor or psychotherapist can be incredibly helpful in guiding us in unpacking the trauma of our nursing work, as well as getting to the root of what triggers us in the course of our nursing careers.
Some nurses might find that turning to a trusted faith leader might be the spiritual support that can get them through the rough times; anything that builds resilience can only help you be stronger in the face of adversity and suffering.
Finally, your employer may offer an employee assistance program (EAP) which provides free or low-cost counseling and support.
Emotional and spiritual resilience comes in many forms. Fighting burnout, relieving compassion fatigue, increasing emotional intelligence, and cultivating mindfulness can all be keys to a more emotionally rewarding career and personal life.
Nursing can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to take you down with it. Emotional and spiritual resilience are worth fighting for and creating in the interest of a long, happy, and healthy career.