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4 tips for overwhelmed nurses on the frontline

Updated: Nov 12, 2021

I’m seeing a lot of posts from totally demoralised nurses at the moment online so I wanted to do a quick coaching video in the hope that it might help you (scroll down).

Obviously I can’t do anything to help with staff/patient ratios or do anything about the workload, but what I can help you with is to help you build your own inner resilience so that you feel better able to handle the challenges of work while you are at work, and then LEAVE IT BEHIND when you get home.

So, when you are at work there are 4 things I want you to try to remember:

  1. You are only one person, you can only do the work of one person. I know you are prioritising work at the moment and scraping the surface, but it’s important to try to focus on that one task while you are doing it, even if you are only focusing for a minute each time. If you can park the other 200 things you need to do for just that minute and bring all your awareness and attention to the patient you are with right now, you will complete that task and you will complete it properly and you won’t be left with a sinking feeling later on that you have forgotten something.  When you have completed it, tell yourself in your head that you have done that now and then park it.  I know this sounds simplistic and I know only too well how much multi-tasking you have to do physically and also mentally, but if you can try to be mindful and present with each single thing you do, it will help you to leave work behind later on.

  2. Remember that every single thing you do at work is of benefit to your patient. I know it’s hard, but try not to focus too much on what is left to do, or what you can’t get around to. Notice how much you are doing, how much you did do today, the things you accomplished, the patients who are better because you were there.

  3. As you rush around, you are probably not breathing very deeply because you are forgetting! Try to remember to breathe and to breathe more deeply, using your belly rather than your chest. This will stimulate your vagus nerve to regulate your heart rate and it will also flood your pre-frontal cortex or the executive part of your brain with oxygen.  When we are stressed, the physiology of stress means that it’s often deprived of oxygen, just when we need it most to think things through and find solutions.  So breathe deeply every chance you get.  Use triggers such as call bells, a patient answering your question, meal breaks, toilet breaks etc.  Breathe and breathe some more.  You tell your patients to breathe…you need to do it too!

  4. When you leave work, pick a point on the way home where you ‘step’ back into your own personal life, where you park work, park the worries, park the unfinished jobs. It might help to breathe in the air outside and as you exhale let the breath take those worries out of your body. Do something that you enjoy as soon as you can.  This is crucial!  Our bodies take 26 hours to metabolise stress hormones.  26 hours!  Which is why we often ‘take work home with us’ in the form of irritability and other unpleasant effects.  So help your body to metabolise those stress hormones.  Exercise, breathing, mindfulness, having fun, watch a comedy to stimulate laughter, hug someone (find a willing volunteer or your child or your pet).  These all help to release happy hormones and to deal with stress hormones.

I hope these tips help.  What’s needed is for you not just to read them here, but to actually do them, so please do them, do them now to give it a whirl and picture my face telling you to do them next time you are at work!

So again, they are to 1. Be in the moment, 2. Notice what you did not rather than what you didn’t get around to, 3. Breathe and 4. Leave it behind when you leave work.

Lisa, x


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