Thou shalt take care of thyself

Since starting my Bachelor’s program, I have had to read and write quite a few papers related to nursing theory.  The most recent one was on compassion fatigue, aka burnout.  As a new graduate, I thought this was something I wouldn’t have to worry about for at least 5 years.  But, I had the opportunity yesterday to realize that burnout can happen a lot faster if I don’t actively do things now to prevent that from occurring sooner than later. 

As a whole, nurses are seen as caring, trusting, compassionate.  Yet if you walk the halls of a hospital, you may see a lot of overweight, maybe unhappy looking nurses.  I’ve always wondered, “When constantly taking care of people who have serious medical conditions that can be linked to being overweight (heart attack, stroke, hypertension, etc.), why don’t nurses do a better job at taking care of themselves??”  I know now that it is so much easier to take care of someone else than to take care of yourself.

When asked why I run, it’s often for my own stress-relief.  It’s my getaway, my escape, my 30+ minutes to be calm yet focused, empty yet driven.  It’s the only time of the day when I don’t feel that my brain is spinning or holding it’s own conversation.  But, there are other basic needs that the body needs besides stress-relief, such as 1) food, 2) sleep.  This creates a bit of a struggle for me.  I do not like to eat.  I love sleep.  However, a certain teething 5 month of mine likes to prevent the latter (but only on days after I work… strange).  And let’s be clear about something: I don’t do no-sleep well.  I can survive maybe one day with only 4 hours of sleep, but that’s it.  By Day 2, I don’t want to do anything but catch a few more zzz’s.  Often as a result, I miss a meal (or two), I don’t go for a run, I drink more coffee than I should, and by 5pm I wonder why I’m dizzy, shaky, and weak.  Unfortunately, all this happened right around 6:45pm last night.  😦  As a result, I’ve come to recognize a few things.

1.  I am physically incapable of doing my job if I don’t take care of my own basic needs.  At work, it’s easy to say, “Oh, I’m too busy to take a break, but it’s ok – it’s only 8 hours.”  And yes, I’ve said that too many times to count.  I may feel like crap, but if I take even a 15 minute break, that means I will be playing catch-up on all my meds until 12:30, or worse – leaving a long to-do list for the next shift.  I do understand that nursing is 24 hours – we cover for one another.  But at the same time, some things should be done before shift report.  If I don’t get it all done, I will stay until it gets done.  “Do to others as you would have them do” (Luke 6:31). 

2.  Not only will I be unable to care for my patients if I don’t take care of myself, but I will be unable to care for my son – the only one in my life that truly relies on me for his own needs to be met.  When I get very hypoglycemic, I get so weak I can hardly sit straight.  The simple thought of putting food in my mouth and chewing feels overwhelming.  If I allow myself to get like that, there is no way I can feed my son, or hold him when he cries.  That helpless feeling scares me. 

Before I go on, let me clarify something:  No, I’m not anorexic.  I just don’t like food.  I love to cook, but finding something interesting to eat is a chore.  My life is pretty busy these days, so finding the time to eat anything is tricky.  Finding something healthy to eat is even more so!  And honestly, I’d rather wait another hour than buy a McDouble and have my stomach regret it for the rest of the day. 

So, where does this leave me?  Imperfect, but striving to take better care of myself.  I will be starting to do 12hr night shifts, which means someone will need to watch Cole during the day so I can sleep.  I’ll continue looking for the perfect food(s)-for-the-go so I can prevent blood sugar crashes.  And yes, I will keep running.  🙂

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