I am tired. Tired in a way that is difficult to explain and in-turn difficult to understand. My full-time job can be mentally, emotionally, and physically draining. This week was the first two in spades. Generally people wonder why nurses work three to four days per week instead of the standard five day work week. The easy answer is we tend to work more hours in a day, so we then have our weekly hours completed sooner. The truthful answer is because of weeks like this one. When we honestly wonder, at the end of our shift, how we will muster the mental and emotional strength to return the next day. Shifts can be soul crushing. And no, I’m not being dramatic. If you know a nurse ask that person if they have cried before during or after a shift. The tears hardly ever happen in-front of non-nurses, these are private moments when we lose our handle on the compartmentalization of our feelings. Nurses are bastions of self control. We do not flinch when we care for people in their most mortifying times of life, we control anger when treated poorly, we summon empathy for and try to see the good in even the most ornery people. All of this takes a toll. It feels like you give away a little piece of yourself every time you do it. Some days it feels like you have given every bit of yourself away and have nothing left. Nothing for the people you love most, nothing left for yourself.
My coping mechanisms aren’t for everyone, but they work for me. I am enthusiastic about them and want to tell people how well they work. I get it, I can be a bit over the top about it. Having found something that works so well I want to share it with others so they too can care for themselves and be healthy.
Some of the ways I cope with this stress, and life stresses in general, are reaching out to others and talking about it, exercise, eating well and nourishing my body, making sleep a priority, meditation, allowing myself to do nothing… these are the main ones. Having varied healthy coping mechanisms in place and part of my toolbox has seen me through some very dark times. I encourage everyone to reach out when in need, to nourish their bodies with food that makes them feel well, to rest, to move every damn day in a way that makes you sweat, to take the time to stop and sit with yourself, to breath deeply, to allow yourself the joy of being content and enough and know that you are loved.
P.S. Leave a comment and let me know how you handle stress. I like learning new skills for life. You never know when your unique idea will be the key to success for another person.