While the holiday season can be a meaningful opportunity to spend time with family and recharge your batteries, healthcare is one of the few industries exempt from downtime or a more relaxed pace during the winter months. In fact, as many nurses attest, holiday nursing stress can be extremely challenging. By nature, nurses serve patients because of an internal desire to help the sick and vulnerable members of society. It can be extra taxing during the holiday season, as most patients would much rather be home with loved ones. Nurses especially can spend hours or days with the same patients and naturally become even more empathetic to their pain and suffering during the holiday season. As caregivers are already expected to give, the season of giving can leave nurses emotionally and physically exhausted, making the holiday season less enjoyable. These five tips can help to manage holiday nursing stress.
5 Tips for Handling Holiday Nursing Stress
1. Stay realistic and honest
While everyone is pressured to be extra cheerful during the holiday season, keeping a realistic approach to the season can help manage expectations for the winter months. Depression, winter blues, and suicide rates often increase during the holiday season, as does alcohol and drug use. Having an honest expectation of red flags to watch out for and precautions to take for yourself, as well as others, is especially important during this time of year for caregivers. 2. Remember the big picture It's important to keep in mind that the holiday season (as stressful as it can be) is only a matter of weeks in the span of your entire year. When feeling overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle, remember to take a deep breath and know that the chaos will pass. It's also important to keep in mind that not all friends, coworkers, or family members celebrate the same holidays as you might, and they should never feel pressured to participate in activities or traditions that make them feel left out or uncomfortable. Some hospitals make an effort to include staff with different backgrounds and traditions by promoting a "December potluck" or lunch rather than labeling it as a specific holiday celebration. 3. Plan for what you can Although planning ahead is always a good idea, it's perhaps never more helpful than during the holiday season. Taking simple steps to make to-do lists or getting things done ahead of time will help keep nurses (or anyone in general) more organized and present during the holidays. Planning also allows you to keep a clear outline of the various activities and obligations you've committed to. Instead of overburdening yourself with too many gatherings or commitments, keep a calendar to help you decide which ones you will truly enjoy. 4. Give wisely The extra shifts and holiday pay can become enticing for nurses, especially those looking to give expensive gifts to friends and family. Caregivers often become overly ambitious and sign up for multiple overtime or holiday shifts, only to become overfatigued and left scrambling to find a replacement at the last minute -- inevitably creating more stress for themselves and even their colleagues trying to fill the shifts. It's important to remember that while you might have the best of intentions with earning extra pay by picking up overtime or holiday shifts, the gift of your time and your presence (as opposed to presents) is what your friends and family cherish most. 5. Listen to your body The holiday season brings more stress, more travel, and generally less rest. Combined with the peak of cold and flu season, it's incredibly important for nurses to take extra measures to stay healthy. Staying active, hydrated, and well rested are key. But remember to take the time to stay centered and focused within yourself, whether through meditation or even just a quick practice of 10 to 15 deep breaths and relaxation. Your mind and body know best, so stay mindful of what you need.
"Nurses truly deserve so much grace during the holiday season," noted Felicia Sadler, MJ, BSN, RN, CPHQ, LSSBB, Partner in Acute Solutions at Relias. Aside from managing the many additional activities and hectic schedules, making sure you prioritize your well-being is key.
Sadler added, "Your compassion and commitment during the most challenging times will be remembered by your patients. Be kind to yourself and your fellow nurses, knowing that stress and emotions can be heightened during this time of year."
To talk about holiday nursing stress and other topics with your fellow nurses, download the Nurse.com social networking app.