GUEST POST BY CECILIA YEUNG
Who Is Responsible for Your Burnout? Your Boss.
Who’s your boss? You.
You are a bad boss. You lack empathy (for yourself). You are overly critical (of yourself). You believe kindness (to yourself) is unjustified.
Can you relate to this? There’s a good chance if you’re a nurse who spends 12-hour shifts stabilizing critically ill patients yet gets upset over things like a hospital bed sheet having a drop of blood.
For the past year, you’ve been drenched in sweat and your nose has been bruised from wearing a respirator. You’ve spent 10 hours resuscitating patients, only to lose them at the end of the shift. You blame yourself because you felt that you failed the patient, family, and the medical team.
There are many variations of these scenarios. They all revolve around “I am not enough. Did I do the right thing? I don’t deserve to take the time to care for myself.”
Self-criticism doesn’t allow self-care to talk; self-criticism just wants to yell about it. As a result, you suppress the feelings and ignore the physical signs of stress and burnout: exhaustion, irritability, sleep problems, or lack of motivation.
How do you regain control of your life? Self-care. It helps restore, rejuvenate and replenish your health, both physically and psychologically. There are simple tools to help you engage in self-care in the area of self-criticism.
The first step to end the misery and take charge of your life is to know your deficits. You need self-awareness before you can achieve a fulfilling life. You need to be in touch with your body and feelings.
There are a couple of tools I employed to reconstruct my life after I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to a workplace incident. For the two years of recovery from PTSD, I used a poster board to record my ups and downs. Your line should be going up in general with little dips in between. I have found this visual encouraging whenever the feeling of failure pops up. Even though you think you are back to square one, chances are you are only at a mini setback. This poster helps me to focus on the positive and curb the negative talk. ‘You have come so far’ is a literal description of the map.
Did you know out of 60,000 spontaneous thoughts a day, more than 80% are negative, disempowering, and intrusive? A practice that I have adopted from Vishen Lakhiani’s The Code of the Extraordinary Mind is to ask myself two questions:
- ‘Is this really true?’
- ‘Am I 100% sure that this is what’s really going on?’
I take time to challenge myself deliberately to provide proof of every negative thought. After analyzing my thoughts at regular intervals, the answers to the questions are often no. This practice forces me to logically evaluate my thoughts. Eventually, your brain will be trained to become less reactive to discouraging thoughts.
When you transfer kindness to yourself, you can transform your life.
As Brene Brown shares on her website: “After two decades of research on shame, authenticity, and belonging, I’m convinced that loving ourselves is the most difficult and courageous thing we’ll ever do.”
Nurses, are you ready to embrace this difficult and courageous thing?
Nurses, please be kind to yourselves. You have been exposed to intense stress, suffering, and trauma for the past year. You are more than enough. You are worth it. Please take time to recognize your hard work. You have been selflessly saving lives. You have been providing 110% of care during this unprecedented difficult time even though you have been running on empty tanks.
Self-care is not selfish. Self-care saves lives. Engage in self-care today.
Think you are burned out or interested in self-care? Email firstname.lastname@example.org to create your personalized self-care kits to restore resilience and boost happiness.
Cecilia Yeung, an intensive care nurse, is the founder of PTSD Support For Nurses, a service formed after she experienced a traumatic physical assault at work. She submitted this post after this article on a recent study about high rates of PTSD in B.C. nurses during the pandemic.
- Tseng, J., & Poppenk, J. (2020). Brain meta-state transitions demarcate thoughts across task contexts exposing the mental noise of trait neuroticism. Nature Communications, 11(1), 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-17255-9
- Brownstein, B. B. (2019, February 21). Why Positive Thinking Doesn’t Work. Intellectual Takeout.
- Lakhiani, V. (2019). The Code of the Extraordinary Mind: 10 Unconventional Laws to Redefine Your Life and Succeed on Your Own Terms (Reprint ed.). Rodale Books.
- Brown, B. (2019, June 26). The Midlife Unraveling | Brené Brown. Brene Brown. https: //brenebrown.com/blog/2018/05/24/the-midlife-unraveling/