Whether you are a beginning nursing student, working your first nursing job, or celebrating 25 years as a nurse, we agree that nursing school is extremely difficult. The process of learning to be a nurse reveals not only our strengths, but our weaknesses. As a perfectionist, and one who deals with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, I quickly discovered those fears, doubts, and insecurities when I ventured into nursing. I struggle with worrying over my performance and wanting to know everything immediately. I care for my patients, but do I care too much? I care about having the knowledge to assist each of my patients' healthcare needs and maintain their safety, while I obsess over perfect paper work (which results in minimal sleep). Sleep is hindered due to excessive caffeine intake and the inevitable insomnia that results from worrying.
As a nursing student, I get off track when I allow anxiety and perfectionism to lead. Then I obsess about getting the right answer and receiving approval. This causes me to overdo and burn out. As a student or practicing nurse, perhaps you take on another demanding task or pull double shifts, which lead to eating poorly, skipping exercise, and canceling on friends. Nurse educators aren't exempt from these struggles either.
Nurses have an incredible gift of caring for those in need. Ironically, nurses are taught to provide care for others and teach the importance of self-care, and in turn, neglect their self-care. Why do nursing students and professionals neglect themselves? An internal dialogue may replay: “There's not enough time!” This can be accurate if one is lazy, procrastinates, or is easily distracted. On a deeper level, a feeling of being invincible or unworthy of self-care may exist. Anxiety, doubts, insecurities, and weaknesses may overcome nurses, steal their joy, and cause burnout. This can lead to missing many of the beautiful things God has orchestrated for personal growth, learning, and enjoyment. Nurses are called to care, and that care includes the self.
Nurses make it a priority to treat patients holistically and address each dimension of their lives—physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. However, when caring for ourselves, we commonly neglect these dimensions. We too are whole beings and need to make self-care a priority. Recognizing our weaknesses and finding balance is key.
Finding balance can be easier said than done. Fears, doubts, weaknesses, and insecurities threaten to overpower. These responses distract our hearts and minds away from God, and eventually lead us to neglect ourselves. God's enemy finds victory when we feel dissociated, deprived, and lost. However, there is always hope. God knows we have flaws and weaknesses. He loves us and desires that we be whole. By welcoming God into our weaknesses, his strength is made perfect (Psalm 28:7), and his virtues can overcome whatever battles may keep us from taking care of ourselves and discovering a more balanced life (Ephesians 6:10-18). We can refocus and remove distractions. “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3, NIV). We can renew our hearts to prevent burnout. “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23, NIV). We can feel refreshed and whole, watchful for what God has in store. We will be ready and available for a deeper adventure, one day at a time.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28, NIV
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.