There are two things that come up all the time in coaching with my nurse clients, how to find a little time for yourself when you are feeling overwhelmed and how to leave work at work. Many of my nurse clients tell me that they don’t have time for self-care or that they don’t know how to do self-care.
This blog post will share some very practical ways that can help you to leave work at work and to create a little time and space for yourself to help to bring some balance back into your work-life. It is important to recognise that setting yourself a small goal of spending 30 minutes twice a week for example, and building from there is a good place to start. The key to finding time for yourself starts with your mindset and I will share some practical ways to create a positive mindset.
I am not talking about spending lots of money on extravagant spa days or expensive days out. I am talking about learning how to be intentional and set small achievable goals that gradually over time will help you to build up your self-care routine.
How to Leave Work at Work
Leaving work means we psychologically and physically leave work at work and mentally and physically begin our rest and recharge routine the minute that we leave work.
I invite you to stop and think for a moment about your own personal rest and recharge routine. Do you have one?
Don’t worry if you don’t it is never too late to start. Here are some ideas that can help you.
Practical tips to switch off from work
- Changing out of your uniform into your own clothes or putting your coat on is a great psychological way to mentally prepare to leave work at work.
- Make a plan about how you will use travel time on the way home, for example, downloading podcast episodes, audiobooks, mindfulness exercises to your phone, to listen to on your journey home. This requires a little planning to make sure that you take these resources with you so that you can access them on your way home.
- If you travel by train or bus taking a book to read is another good way of mentally winding down after a days work.
- What is your routine once you get home? A great visualisation technique is to imagine as you put the key in your front door that you are locking your work office door behind you. You hear the sound of the office door being closed, then locked. Next, notice the unlocking/opening of your front door what do you see, hear and smell that signals you are home, safe and ready to relax. Savour that moment just for a second before your enter. Then think about what activity you will do for yourself before you do anything else. My example is to make a cup of tea, sit outside and listen to the sounds of nature and think about one thing that I am thankful for today.
One of the nurses that I interviewed recently for my Podcast Real Nurse Stories gave a great example of how she has developed a leaving work at work routine. She describes how as soon as she gets home the first thing that she does is to jump in the shower and mentally visualises washing the problems and difficulties that she has experienced during her shift down the drain in the shower. She describes this as washing away the difficult parts of the day and sending them down the drain. Next, she changes into comfortable clothes and purposefully does think about work. I think that this is a great way to literally wash away the challenges of the day!
Going Home Checklist
A going home checklist is a great way to start to learn how to leave work at work as you head home after a busy shift. What is a going home checklist I hear you ask? It’s a small tool that has been developed in the UK by the NHS. It is a simple checklist that helps you mentally tick off as you prepare to leave work and importantly leave work behind.
You can design your own but to get you started these are the questions that you could ask yourself;
- Take a moment to think about today
- Acknowledge one thing that was difficult on your shift; let it go
- Be proud of the care you gave today
- Consider three things that went well
- Check on your colleagues before you leave are they OK?
- Are you OK? Find someone who can support you if you need to
- Now switch your attention to home: Rest and Recharge
These are great questions to help you master stress after a busy and demanding shift. This technique will also help to keep you resilient.
This checklist can be done individually or as a team exercise where the team can decide what they would like on the team going home checklist that is used at the end of the day.
Rest and recharge is an important part of your ability to be resilient and is something that we all need to be mindful about. Clearing our headspace and mentally preparing to leave work sets you up to be able to relax and leave work behind as you head off home.
How to set yourself up for success
Sometimes as nurses we’re our own worst enemy when it comes to putting ourselves first. The beliefs that we hold can also hold us back from putting ourselves first. For example, you might hold the belief that in order to succeed you have to work hard. This translates to working long hours and as a result, your self-care come last on the list. Another example might be that you believe self-care to be selfish and as a result don’t address your self-care needs.
What is a limiting belief?
A limiting belief is something that sometimes we are not always aware of but can hold us back in so many ways. A limiting belief stops us from doing something partly because of fear, of what others might think or perceived expectations about nurses roles, roles as women and cultural or family values.
How our self-talk limits our self-care
Telling ourselves that we can’t do something almost becomes a self-fulling prophecy. Every time we think about doing something that we want to do our brain says “Hang on a minute you can’t do that” Then we find evidence to support what our brain is saying by finding reasons to back the “I can’t”
For example how many times have you thought:
- I can’t take time off because people might think that I am not committed.
- I can’t delegate because people might think that I am not a good leader.
- I can’t ask for help because people expect me to fix the problem.
- I can’t prioritise my family because work comes first
Simon Sinek reminds us that;
“if we’re not careful, the stories that we tell ourselves can turn into deeply held personal beliefs that limit our potential”
For nurses, it is often the case that we put ourselves last on the list when it comes to taking care of our own needs. This does not help us to prioritise our own self-care and in the longer term can lead to stress, overwhelm and burnout.
The good news is that you change the “I can’t to “I can” and by creating positive inner self-talk you are giving yourself permission to believe that you can do something.
It often helps to add a reason after saying I can for example;
- I can take time off because this helps me to recover, rest and recharge so that I can be effective and compassionate in caring for others
- I can delegate tasks because this helps others to develop their skills and helps me to manage my time effectively
- I can be flexible and prioritise my family time because I want to be present for my loved ones and this provides balance in my work and home life.
The only thing stopping us from having an “I can do” approach is ourselves.
We are fooling ourselves if we think that denying ourselves the care that we need to rest, recover and recharge for fear of what others may think is going to help us get ahead in our work life.
Long term it affects our physical and mental health and we are not able to do the best that we can be both at work and in our personal life.
If you are always telling yourself that you don’t have time for self -care your brain begins to believe what you say and will always find ways to persuade you that you don’t have time! Often we start off with all good intentions and know that as busy nurses we do need to prioritise ourselves in order to function well at work and be a great co-workers.
Watch this short video with three quick wins to help you find a little time for self-care
Are you struggling to leave work at work and to set smart goals around finding time for you? Contact me for a no-obligation discovery call to learn how I can help you. Book Here