How to achieve a work life balance

How to achieve a work life balance

If you’re reading this, chances are there’s an element of stress in your life; as a nurse, it’s undoubtedly part of the role. But has the balance in your life tipped too far?

Latest statistics from the Health and Safety Executive show that an astonishing 12.5m working days were lost due to stress, anxiety or depression in 2016-17, with more than half a million workers experiencing a mental health illness. 40% of all work-related ill health was due to stress, anxiety and depression, and public sector staff in human health and social work were found to be most at risk*.

In our profession, we’re used to putting the needs of others first, yet self-care is just as vital in order to rest and recharge ahead of a busy shift. Here are our top tips to help you achieve the right work life balance for you, your family and your patients:

Exercise

The NHS calls it the ‘miracle cure we’ve all been waiting for’, with physical activity being proven to lower stress and reduce your risk of depression by as much as 30% – yet, as a nation, we’re simply not doing enough of it. It’s easy to make excuses and tell yourself you don’t have time at the end of a busy day, but if you pledge to work it into your day instead, you’ll probably find that you do! Take a brisk walk in your lunch break around the hospital grounds or suggest a ‘walking meeting’ to colleagues – Steve Jobs was a big advocate!

Unplug

Set aside time each day to switch your phone off, even if just for half an hour. Modern life conditions us to think we have to be available all the time, but this isn’t the case. The biggest favour you can do yourself is to leave phones and tablets outside your bedroom door as the blue light they emit suppresses melatonin and disrupts natural sleep / wake rhythms. We also think we have to be constantly busy in order to be doing well, so factor in time to do ‘nothing’ and enjoy how well you do then instead!

Ask for help

Qualified counsellors and therapists undergo professional supervision to discuss their caseload and manage their own mental wellbeing – do you? It’s absolutely okay to ask for help when the demands of the job become too much, whether that’s in the form of counselling, online therapy, self-help books or talking to your GP. Mindfulness and stress awareness courses are also prevalent now, with many employers and community organisations offering them for free.

Go home on time…

Effective time management should enable you to leave the ward on time more often than not, so make it one of your goals. Some employers still foster a culture of working beyond paid hours, but the more members of staff who leave on time and without fuss, the better for everyone’s wellbeing. Allocate a specific time for each task throughout the day to ensure your schedule doesn’t slip and focus on working smarter, not longer.

… and leave work behind

Remember the aim isn’t to get home on time simply to switch on your laptop and start responding to work emails! If your workload is too heavy, ask to meet with your manager to explain you have too much to get through in your allocated hours, and learn to say ‘no’ to those meetings you don’t really need to be at. If your mind is on tomorrow’s tasks, writing them down in a list before you leave for the day can be a good way to ‘park’ them until the start of your next shift.

* http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causdis/stress/stress.pdf

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