Taking time for yourself is a difficult thing to do when your career is based on giving everything you have to others. I’m a nurse, one that’s a year qualified and transitioning from student to nurse was more difficult than I thought it would be.
Like so many other nurses out there, I faced my first episode of burn out sooner than expected, I remember reading an article on a nursing study by the American Sociological Society, which stated, Nurses who’s primary objective is to care, burn out quicker than those who enjoy the lifestyle.
This made me think about how much of my job I take home with me, how many attachments I’ve made with dying people, how many hands I’ve held and people I’ve hugged, the horrific things I’ve seen but mainly how much I take home and how I’ve always struggled to cope with it all. The only other people that understand are others in the profession, and no one talks about it. I close that door when I get home and I’m left alone, wondering how all these people are.
When I was a kid I used to think I could take away people’s pain, it’s so silly to think this now but I believed that by putting my hands on them or closing my eyes and wishing for the pain to leave them, I could take away a piece of their pain but there was a catch, it would make me weak because until I got strong again, I would have to carry it instead of them.
I used to think that was my superpower! I guess I’m still doing that to myself in ways.
I’ve realised that there are certain things I need to adopt into my lifestyle to ensure I stay healthy, mentally and physically, because if I’m not healthy then I can’t take care of the people who need me.
It meant taking time off to re-evaluate things but I’ve compiled a list of the things I believe will make me a better person and a happier nurse, I also hope someone in the same position reads this and realises, they aren’t alone.
1. Reading more, read more nursing articles, don’t stop learning about new developments in care. Learn to enjoy the job again. Read more self help books.
2. Book a flight, go far away, clear your mind and don’t tell anyone! Spend time in the moment, leave the phone at home and enjoy everything there is to experience. Forget about the Instagram picture! You don’t need to tell the world everything, some things can be left to be, just as they are.
3. Adopt a better fluid intake, just water! No alcohol, fad juice diets or sugary drinks… drink water.
4. Meditate every day, whether it be in the shower, whilst having a cup of coffee, on lunch or in bed. It has to be done daily.
5. Repeat a self healing mantra every day, “Im enough, I’m kind, Im strong” that sort of positive talk. It’ll help eventually to replace the negative dialog, I’ll hold my hands up, I have many negative words I use against myself, which have usually been taken, adapted then anxiously exaggerated from words others have said to me in the past. Let’s face reality though, unless they’re in my life now, their opinion, is none of my business. Adapt this to whatever you need to remind yourself of.
6. They say talking helps, but my experience of this is I often talk to the wrong people, recently I shared my worrying emotions following the suicide of a long term friend, the third person I’ve lost to suicide in three years, along with the death of my grandmother. Unfortunately I was told some negative home truths about myself. I’ve learnt from this. Talking does help, but don’t trust talking to someone you’ve known for less than a year, talk to people who you’ve known long enough and have built up a trustworthy and honest relationship with. You’ll know who they are.
Keep your talking circles small and try not to hurt anyone else in the process of dealing with your own problems (as difficult as this can be).
In a profession where you are surrounded by bad news, death and grief (two very different things) it can be difficult to then come home to this same tragedy. A quote from Robert Webb helps me understand grief, it doesn’t matter who you are grieving, where there is love in this world it is in the hearts of people you care about, so this quote rings true of any loss.
“The sadness that we feel now, we can afford to hold close; safe as we are in the knowledge that grief is love’s echo. We only have to listen and it’s there. Today is a heavy day, but this is just an aftershock. The earthquake, the main event, as usual, was love.”
Perhaps I should write something on what I perceive love to be, one day.
7. Spend more time in the ocean, by the ocean or talking about the ocean! Pick up plastic and take it away, just a small return of gratitude to the beach and ocean for everything it does for us all. Keep it clean.
8. Try yoga! I’ve met a lovely yoga teacher who’s put me at ease about giving this a go! She’s had over 500hrs and I feel pretty positive that this will help in the future. Hopefully I can continue this practice when I’m away.
9. Don’t live around work, work around your life, set long term goals! Besides the trips I have already planned, I’ve decided that around July next year, I am going to quit nursing and go travelling, probably to Australia for a few months (nursing jobs will be there when I return), a friend of mine who lives there is going to help me get involved in a volunteer marine conservation program. Something I’ve always wanted to do! Obviously, I know I need to make certain changes in my life to be able to afford this, so in order to save and be safe, my habits must be quashed, smoking, drinking, eating out, online shopping, negative thinking!
10. Exercise more, walk, gym, swim…. anything, but do it to release the endorphins. If the psychological factors are being addressed then so should the physiological too.
I don’t expect any of this to be easy until it’s become such a routine that no one can spoil it, no negative comments will send me into another spiral of self doubt. These commitments to myself are my own promise, to love myself more than I will ever love anyone else, it’s selfish, but I’ve been doing it the wrong way around for years, I’d do anything for anyone else, but nothing for myself. Now that’s unhealthy to say the least and it’s slowly assisted a descent into unhealthy patterns of living.
Once I get there and I’m stronger, maybe I can let go of the need to self cherish and believe once again like the venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, self cherishing is what keeps us from attaining understanding and true tolerance of others views, you can download a free copy of his book here.
However, right now, I’m ready to take this time to prioritise myself and once again, learn to love myself. I hope to become a more grounded individual and one who is able to cope better with life, death and all the losses in between, that surrounds us caring but struggling, nurses.
Peace and FLY…. (first love yourself)
I’m forever getting lost in my own thoughts, I’ll rethink things from 5 years ago and wonder if I made the right decision or if I said the right thing, but I’m fed up of doing that, this time I decided to get lost in the world, in nature and my own fears.
I traveled to Gran Canaria, alone! I drove myself to the airport, got on a plane and I stayed for 5 nights in a place I’d never been before, all by myself.
It was one of the best experiences of my life.
Turns out, it’s really not hard to make friends, especially when you’re alone, people are nosey by nature and they actually approached me. I had some explaining to do at first, as to why I’d come away alone, but after the initial quiz, they seemed to respect me, and my reasoning for trying to find myself. That and the fact I was NOT a prostitute!
Puerto Rico is a lovely destination, a slightly turbulent landing but nothing I couldn’t handle. It’s quite a hilly area, but there were great views of mount teide from the plane and the hotel! I stayed by the europa centre, taxis were 3 euros to the beach! I spent a few days diving, we dived at a lovely man made beach called Amadores, it’s a sight to see, and at a place near the airport called Tufia….. I dived with 3 stingrays!! I didn’t want those dives to end, I explored nature at its most naturally untouched moments and I didn’t interfere, I just observed, the ocean treated me as if I was invisible, the marine life went about their days exactly as they would have done, had I been there or not, it was a bittersweet moment ascending from those dives. Why can’t oxygen tanks last forever!
This trip away taught me a lot about myself, not to be afraid of the world, that I’m capable of more than I allow myself to believe and that I am honestly at home and peace when I’m in the ocean.
I’ve come back a stronger person, a more determined person and I feel as though I’m on the right track to finally steering my life in the direction it needs to go.
Since coming back I’ve made some changes, I’ve started spending more time with my parents, because I’ve realised above anyone else, they are the ones I love and adore the most (despite not always saying it), I’ve spent more time with friends, and I’ve decided I don’t eat enough vegetables so I’m trying to become a vegetarian, just for a better diet (edit: this lasted a week), but I’m spending time at the beach almost every weekend, that’s my temple, and that’s the place that replenishes my soul.
I’m less paranoid about things and have adopted a mindset of “it’ll all work out in the end”, I’m still making mistakes and taking some steps back but they are minimal compared to before. I’m positive I’ve made huge progress within myself, just by doing something that petrified me.
Alone time can be so beautifully fulfilling!
That was a question by the way, rather than a statement. The answer is, I have no idea. I mean, are we meant to have our shit together by now? Own your own home, car, have beautiful children, Marriage, great paying Job.
Well, that’s exactly how I envisioned it, my twenties were spent trying to work out why I wasn’t even close to achieving all this by my thirties, and now I’m spending my thirties wallowing in the thought, my life has not gone to plan.
Admittedly I’m talking with a bit of sense right now, but there are many nights I’ve spent crying into my wine glass, alone. I think depression and loneliness hit me in my mid 20s, and up until now I just thought it was something I had to accept had happened and will probably stay with me forever.
Anyways, the point I’m trying to make is that I’ve spent so much time, so much precious time, worrying my life hadn’t gone to plan, that I actually stopped living it. I locked myself away, hardly left the house unless accompanied by someone, constantly cancelled plans, I threw myself into my work and university, and coped with that through crying into my glass of wine. About 2 years ago I think I experienced what some people call a “breakdown” now just to be clear this term does not exist, but it’s a way of describing the situation in its easiest form. There is always a way back.
Part of my healing was to take a look at my whole life and try to put certain things right, I went back to my childhood and recognised how traumatic it was for me, I tried therapy but knew the only way to really deal with this situation was to face it head on. It’s been two years and the police are still investigating. Not exactly the “face it head on” experience I was expecting, it’s been long, slow and heartbreaking.
Again, I kept trying to change things. I kept trying to change who I am, what’s made me who I am. Why was I doing this?
I spent my life criticising myself and trying to change things I had no control over, I actually stopped living. I mean I’m here, but I stopped enjoying life a long time ago.
Until recently, after a relationship where there was a hurricane of love, and thunderstorms of passion, it was also unpredictably destructive, and no matter how much each of us tried to fight back against the elements, we fell apart, not just as a couple but as individuals. The hardest thing I have ever had to learn is that sometimes, Love alone isn’t enough.
It is important to remember being in your 30s is still young! There is still so much of the world you haven’t seen, foods you haven’t tried, books unread and films unseen! I have started to look back at my life not with negativity and a need to change it, but with the idea of doing more of what I love, even if it means biting the bullet, stamping over all of my anxieties and doing it alone.
This is my journey of trying to once again enjoy my life, doing new things, doing more of the things I love and telling you a little bit about it along the way.
Thank you for being a part of this!
“People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life.” Liz Gilbert, Eat Pray Love
Thanks for joining me!
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton