Ways to Build Resilience
Cynda Hylton Rushton, PhD, RN, FAAN, Anne and George L. Bunting Professor of Clinical Ethics and Professor of Nursing and Pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University, said studies show ways to help build resilience include mindfulness, which is developing the neuropathways to support mental and emotional stability by focusing attention, calming the nervous system and resetting when we are knocked out of our resilience zone.
Rushton offers these tips for how nurses can build resilience:
Pause. Do this first to calm your nervous system. You can do this with three slow, deep breaths as you draw up your meds or listen to your patient’s heart or lungs with your stethoscope. As you do this, notice any tension in your body, how you are feeling right now, and what your mind is focused on. Finding space to pause throughout the day helps to reduce the buildup of stress and distress.
Reflect. Once your nervous system has calmed, reflect on why you’re a nurse and why you have chosen this path of service. This is both an anchor and a resource to motivate nurses to continue to show up and serve. This can happen in a breath in the midst of chaos, [when] nurses need the discipline to stay focused on what matters most and what is right in front of them. Nurse can also reflect on where their stress or distress is coming from — where is there dissonance, confusion, or uncertainty? Realistically appraising the situation without being swept away by fear can help them maintain focus.
Respond rather than react. Choose your responses. Being clear about what you are responsible for helps to reduce the burden of over responsibility. When you can respond with compassion rather than judgement, you are more likely to reduce the detrimental effect of the adversity and chaos.
Know yourself and your limits. Learn to say no with integrity and let go of the unrealistic expectations that reinforce martyrdom and self-sacrifice. Extend compassion toward yourself. You are doing the best you can right now.
Conserve energy. Fighting with reality will only add to exhaustion. Notice what depletes you and what nourishes you.
Allow yourself to ask for what you need. Asking for help is a profound act of integrity. Create connections. Pause in a huddle to share something you are grateful for or just to check in. Remind yourself that you are not alone.
Give and receive gratitude. You cannot be grateful and angry at the same time. Find small moments of gratitude during the day. Keep a gratitude journal and say “thank you” when someone offers you appreciation.
Let go of what no longer serves. Create a daily ritual to let go of things left undone, are beyond your control, or require forgiveness.