Nurses have extremely busy schedules, sometimes working as much as 12 hours per day, which can lead to emotional stress and fatigue. Especially when working with patients struggling with chronic conditions, nurses may inadvertently take on some of the patients' negative emotions. Too much stress and fatigue can lead to poor work performance and even personal incidents of depression and anxiety.
Other contributing factors to emotional fatigue
In addition to seeing patients in devastating conditions, nurses may also have to give up certain aspects of their personal lives. Becker's Hospital Review noted that these personal considerations often go unaddressed in the workplace:
- Lack of time for hobbies.
- No time to resolve personal grief and sadness.
- Failure to attend family events such as birthdays and weddings.
- Strained friendships.
- Sleep disturbances.
Although these issues aren't always addressed, they are much easier to fix than the conditions that are intrinsically tied to the job. So while a nurse may not be able to avoid seeing patients with terminal illnesses, they can do something to build friendships or rediscover favorite pastimes. It all starts with a focus on self-care.
Combating emotional fatigue with self-care
Nurses spend so much of their time caring for others that it can be easy to forget about caring for themselves. Self-care is an important way to fight the effects of emotional fatigue and regain some energy and positivity.
Self-care can start with a practical focus. Nurses should examine their dietary habits, sleep patterns and personal health. Becoming healthier will inevitably help nurses feel less physically fatigued. This could mean lowering caffeine intake and increasing the ratio of fruit and vegetables to processed foods.
From a mental health standpoint, some nurses may find meditation a good option. A study from Harvard Medical School found that meditation can improve brain health. Meditating doesn't necessarily mean sitting still and reciting a mantra for an hour – it can simply mean setting aside some time to think about one's own emotions without interference from others.
Going beyond the basics
Busy nurses should try to set aside some time to focus on their emotional needs that go beyond the basics. According to Psychology Today, finding moments to stop and slow down can be a good way to relieve anxious feelings. Best of all, this can be done at opportune times throughout the day.
Similarly, finding time to laugh and relax is very helpful for taking one's mind off the job. Watching a favorite movie, playing with kids or meeting with friends are all easy ways to laugh more and release some endorphins.
No matter what aspects of self-care are most appealing, it's important to make it a priority. Whether that means prioritizing self-care on a daily basis or just a few times a week, it can help to combat the emotional fatigue that comes from spending long days working with patients in difficult circumstances.