As is true with many nurse leaders, they feel like they have too much on their plate to do and are constantly feeling stressed. These feelings are a way of life in today’s work environment and in modern life. All of us have stress. It is how well we manage it that is important.
There are five strategies that are especially important in nursing leadership and they include the following:
1. Have self-compassion
Most nurses are compassionate people but often their compassion does not extend to themselves. Nurse leaders often expect perfection in themselves and forget that to err is human. Halvoson observes that research has shown that people with self-compassion are more optimistic, less anxious and less prone to depression.
2. Take at least five or ten minutes during every work day to do something that you find interesting
It is important to look for things in your work environment that you can incorporate into your day to make it more interesting. This will replenish your energy. It could be having lunch with colleagues, mentoring a young nurse or visiting with a patient. For some leaders, it might taking time each day to catch up on a few journal articles. Whatever it is that can help energize you – find it and plan it into your day.
3. See your work in terms of progress, not perfection
It is easy to begin to doubt yourself when things don’t seem to be going well. We often measure ourselves by what we have not done versus our accomplishments. The truth is that leadership is a journey. I am a great believer in networking. Leadership can at times feel lonely but when you talk with other leaders, you are likely to gain a better perspective on your progress in your work.
4. Use if-thens for positive self-talk
Often the best way to deal with stress is to be proactive and anticipate it. Planning if-then scenarios can be very helpful. Anticipate a worst case scenario and then think about how you will react. Decide your response in advance. As an example if you will be attending a very stressful budget meeting to discuss staffing, plan in advance how you will react if you are put on the defensive. If you need to do a very difficult employee counseling, think about how you will handle it if things do not go well.
5. Always keep in mind the bigger picture
Within the context of our day to day work, it is easy to forget that work is just one aspect of our lives and all of us are replaceable. There are so many things in today’s health care environment that are beyond our control and stressing about it won’t change it. Steve Job’s the former CEO of Apple Computer may have had the best advice of all. During a 2005 commencement address, Jobs spoke about how remembering that he would soon be dead is the most important tool that he had encountered to help him make the big choices in life. He told these graduating students that “all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking that you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart”.