September is Work-Life Balance
Dear Healthy Nurses,
The theme for September is Work-Life Balance.
It is so important for nurses to continue to practice self-care while on the job. This is not always easy to do, considering all the responsibilities nurses undertake while at work. Aside from drinking sufficient amounts of water, eating meals and snacks, and taking bathroom breaks, nurses can implement other basic self-care strategies to satisfy the needs of the mind, body, and spirit while at work, which will in turn help to prevent burnout and promote work-life balance with quality of life. Here are some easy strategies I use when I’m on the job to feel more joyful and energized.
1. Smile while you’re at work:
It’s true; smiling can improve your mood and reduce your stress level plus smiles are contagious! As you start your workday make sure you wear a genuine smile. The act of smiling releases endorphins and neurotransmitters to inspire a joyful feeling and reduces anxiety. If you need a little inspiration to smile, think of a sweet or funny memory or think of something you are grateful for.
Smiles are contagious. Your coworkers and patients will see you smiling and they will not be able to resist smiling themselves. This will reduce the stress in the environment.
2. Look at cute pictures to inspire happiness and to make you smile or laugh:
During my workday, I like to take a mind-break and look at cute pictures of dogs, specifically Yorkies, and other animals and babies (including my sons’ baby pictures)! Looking at these cute pictures warms my heart. While you are at work, take a moment to look at cute pictures on your smartphone or look at a few pictures that are kept in your pocket. The pics will make you smile, and as I mentioned above, smiling will decrease your stress level and make you happy.
The article below states that looking at cute pictures can make you more productive at work due to the psychological response from viewing cuteness. What a great side effect!
3. Give and receive hugs in the workplace:
Hugs are so healthy. A strong hug can connect us to others in an uplifting way since hugs induce the release of the love hormone, oxytocin and endorphins. Hugs do not need to be reserved for your loved ones; hugs in the workplace are appropriate if your coworker is willing to receive them.
I am very lucky to work with a group of hugging coworkers. Most of us welcome them and offer them without giving it a second thought. This simple act reduces our stress levels and bonds us to one another. The bond from hugging your coworkers inspires camaraderie in the workplace and makes a peaceful work environment.
Hugs are healing and research on hugging demonstrates that. Hugs in the workplace is not a farfetched practice. A male nurse from Australia who writes blogs for The Nurse Path developed competencies that allow nurses to become Hug Endorsed Nurses; he did this to promote a nurse culture of “respect and mutual support.” It turns out Australia has the same nursing struggles American nurses have. Nurses all over the world love the idea of the Hug Endorsed Nurse. Please see the links below for more information. Also, try to give or receive a hug from your coworker the next time you’re at work.
4. Inhale Lavender essential oil or other essential oils during your work day to relax or to become energized:
The use of essential oils for aromatherapy is becoming more common in all healthcare settings. Many nurses use aromatherapy to create a relaxing experience for their patients. Lavender essential oil is widely recognized as the relaxing oil. I have used lavender essential oil in nursing practice and have seen the great effects it has in relaxing my patients with a dementia diagnosis. Lavender can do this without the side effects of prescription anxiolytics. Knowing how effective the inhalation of essential oils is with my patients, I will inhale them during my workday to either energize me or calm me.
Put a drop of lavender essential oil on a cotton ball and carry it in your pocket. When you feel yourself getting stressed or overwhelmed, pull out your cotton ball and take a whiff! Experiment with different essential oils before implementing them for yourself in the work place. Use the oils that induce the most peace and joy. Peppermint and lemon essential oils energize me and I use them frequently throughout my work day.
This article refers to the use of aromatherapy in patient care by our most well-known nursing theorists:
The article, Relax with lavender by Martha J. Greenberg, PhD, RN and Anesha Narain , BSN, RN was in the American Nurse Today journal June 2017 Volume 12 Number 6. This article discusses the benefits of lavender essential oil to help reduce anxiety and improve sleep. You can access the article online if you are a member of the ANA. See the link below.
5. Meditate while washing your hands:
Nurses are very busy people. Our days usually go by so fast, that we find it hard to take time for ourselves, but we do have to take the time to wash our hands many times in our workday. While I wash my hands, I meditate by visualizing any negativity I’m experiencing being washed away. I then imagine that a healing protective golden powder is covering my hands and body. I visualize my hands and body as healing medicine to those I interact with. Then when I have my next nurse-patient interaction, I remember that my hands are powerful healing tools. Even though this meditation is a short one, it does allow me to collect myself and continue with my next nursing tasks.
Try a handwashing meditation that resonates with you. The following links may help you start your handwashing meditation practice.
I hope you found the above strategies helpful in creating work-life balance, and I wish you well on your healthy nurse journey!
Tracey Jaworski-Lucas, BSN, RN and the Healthy Nurse Healthy Nation-NJ Team
P.S. Here is a cute picture of my friend’s Yorkie to make you smile! His name is Bentley. He was begging for a bite of my grapefruit when I took this picture!