Career Resources

4 Easy Ways for Nurses to Stop Over-Scheduling Themselves

As a floor nurse in a neonatal ICU, I’m no stranger to feeling burned out. It’s difficult to find a balance between work and personal life. As nurses we work long shifts that are mentally, emotionally, and physically tiring. Not to mention, there’s usually little downtime in between each shift. Now that I’m in my thirties, I’ve noticed the exhaustion and fatigue from working three 12s in a row can hit super hard. I often need a full day to recover physically from sleep deprivation. 

The burnout is sometimes my own choice because I choose to burn the candle from both ends. I’m definitely guilty of working three 12s Sunday-Tuesday, hopping on a plane (pre-COVID) or in the car to take a trip to my next bucket-list hotspot for a week, then returning to work Thursday-Saturday so I could save PTO. This kind of over-scheduling is exhausting for anyone. On top of everything, we’re dealing with other people’s lives on the job. It’s important to show up to work well-rested and in the right head-space.

Over the years, my ability to keep up a crazy schedule has dwindled, and I end up exhausted and overwhelmed. I’ve adopted some habits that make it easier to balance my time and create space for myself. 

1. Schedule “Me-Time” and Self-Care
I can’t say enough positive things about it. Self-care could range from turning off the notifications on your electronics and taking a bubble bath with a face mask on. When I have time, something that helps me start my day off on the right foot is sitting for a quiet meditation followed by a long savasana yoga pose. Cozying up on the couch for a Netflix binge, reading a book, or getting a professional massage or facial are other wonderful ways to treat yourself. After “me-time”, I feel rejuvenated and recharged. I’m also much more productive when I give time back to myself.

2. Put limits on scheduling social commitments.
It’s really helpful to limit social gatherings to two or three social gatherings during the usual workweek (Monday-Friday). This includes things like having dinner out with friends, grabbing coffee or drinks with a coworker, any work-related events, meeting a friend for a spin class, etc.  As a result, placing limits on the number of social outings I plan each week allows me to find a balance and be more aware when I overbook myself. Working every other weekend, I try to give myself the freedom to do anything I’d like with that time.
In the past, I felt like social gatherings were another thing to check off my to-do list. Now, I find myself more present in the moment, and I no longer run from one calendar booking to the next. Now the things I say “yes” to are social events I really enjoy and look forward to.

3. Be kind to yourself. Know it’s okay to do absolutely nothing.
We weren’t made to constantly be on-the-go. Yet I feel an overwhelming sense that I need to “keep up”. Sometimes I don’t even know what I’m keeping up with. I struggle with the idea that if I’m not doing something, even chores or errands, I’m not productive and wasting my time.
I’ve noticed it’s beneficial for me to take a break from social media every once in a while. FOMO is definitely real sometimes. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve woken up from night shift and seen people on IG stories out having fun at dinner, traveling, or engaging in other enjoyable things and felt bummed that I wasn’t indulging too. It’s ok to sleep in, it’s ok to pass up on social gatherings, it’s ok to say no sometimes, and it’s ok to do absolutely nothing. Do what’s best for you. Over time, we start to learn our limits and find balance. Listen to your mind and body.

4. Use that PTO.
I often feel like I need a vacation after my vacation. Don’t make the same mistake I did. What are you really saving your PTO for anyway? It’s crucial to schedule PTO every now and then to lighten our work schedule. Even using one day of PTO can make a huge difference. If you’re planning a big trip, don’t be afraid to take a full week of PTO. This way you can fully recharge and come back as the great nurse you are! 

Written by Claire Lang BSN, RN from Operation Happy Nurse

Operation Happy Nurse

Operation Happy Nurse is a nonprofit group that provides mental health and wellness resources for healthcare professionals. Their mission is to help all nurses struggling with stress, anxiety and/or depression by creating a community focused on improving overall mental health and physical well-being.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Most Popular on Community Hub