12 Steps to Nurse Work–Life Balance
You might be a great nurse, but you never have time to exercise or clean your house. You may be a great parent or spouse, but you never seem to find the time to do the volunteer work that you love so much. You may love your work and your family, but you always seem to neglect yourself and your own needs.
All three of those situations are examples of a life that lacks balance. And that’s a significant problem, according to Sharon Weinstein, MS, RN. Nurses’ work–life balance is especially difficult to achieve.
“Balance is imperative in everyone’s life,” said Weinstein, the lead author of the newly revised and updated book B is for Balance: 12 Steps Toward a More Balanced Life at Home and at Work, published by Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International.
Many nurses aren’t even close to achieving balance. Without balance, you may be harming yourself, and you may not be able to be the excellent nurse, or parent, or spouse, or volunteer that you want to be or are able to be.
The balancing act needs to include time carved out specifically for your needs. It’s worth it, Weinstein maintains. “You’re only as good as you are balanced,” she said. “If you don’t take the time for yourself, even with the array of responsibilities that pressure you now, you will not be the best that you can be.”
B is for Balance outlines 12 areas in which nurses can take steps to simplify and improve their lives, including:
1. Defining your overarching purpose in life
2. Simplifying your life
3. Addressing your major stressors
4. Focusing and envisioning possibilities
5. Increasing engagement in your life
6. Harnessing technology
7. Dealing with fatigue
8. Gaining better balance at work
9. Improving sleep health
10. Living a happier, healthier life
11. Reinventing your life
12. Finding destiny in balance
For example, take living a healthier life. Are you exercising, eating healthy foods and taking good care of your body? If you’re not, that’s an area rife with potential for improvement.
“You cannot inhale your McDonald’s at the nurse’s station and sit and drink soft drinks all day long and think that your body is going to reward you for that behavior,” said Weinstein. “Your body will retaliate.”
One of the first things that you can do to assess your current state and determine where you want to take your life is to figure out your purpose. Ask yourself: who do you want to be? What contributions do you want to make during your life?
Weinstein’s co-author Debbie Reynolds Hughes, MSN, FNP, suggests writing down the things that you value and the strengths that they show--and prioritizing them. Then write down the distractions or impediments that keep you from doing the things you care about.
Once you have your purpose and priorities, you can start setting some goals for yourself. Choose goals that will stretch you without overwhelming you. Use the mnemonic SMART to help you remember: Smart, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.
With the busy lives we live, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. That’s why Weinstein believes in the importance of simplifying your life. A few ways to help you do that:
• Learn to say “no.” You can’t do everything. Sometimes you just need to let someone know that you’re not available to take on a new project or attend another meeting. “’No’ can be a complete sentence,” said Weinstein.
• Let technology help you. There’s an app for that. Find the applications and computer programs, or other technology that can help you streamline your to-do list. Weinstein suggests Dropbox to maintain your computer files and photos Key Ring to manage your rewards and loyalty cards, Evernote to help you manage your paperwork and LastPass to consolidate all your passwords.
• Examine your habits. Do your habits help you, or do they hinder you?
Another point that Weinstein makes several times in the book is the value of positive thinking. If you have a positive attitude, it will get you through the challenges.
“An attitude of gratitude is critical to success in life,” she wrote. “Some call it a winning or a positive attitude. Everything flows from it. Basically, things work best for those who make the best of the way things work out.”
The third co-author for the book is Marla Vannucci, PhD.
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