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When You Can’t Stop Thinking About Work By Elizabeth Scala BSN, MSN
Date Posted: 13/Jul/2017
No matter how hard you try, there will be times when a nurse just can’t stop thinking about work. We’ve all taken that ride or drive home and replayed our entire shift, or last several shifts, in our heads. It plagues us during dinner, our shower, and even interrupts our sleep -- if we’re able to sleep at all. Short of a drastic measure involving surgery, check out the tips below to put work out of your mind, so you can enjoy life outside of work more.
 
When You Can’t Stop Thinking About Work No matter how hard you try, there will be times when a nurse just can’t stop thinking about work. We’ve all taken that ride or drive home and replayed our entire shift, or last several shifts, in our heads. It plagues us during dinner, our shower, and even interrupts our sleep -- if we’re able to sleep at all. If a lobotomy could erase just the last shift, we’d sign up to get one! Short of a drastic measure involving surgery, check out the tips below to put work out of your mind, so you can enjoy the present more! 
 
Give Yourself a Time Limit. 
Just telling you to leave work at work and that’s that, isn’t empowering you. But allowing yourself time to replay the day, while also setting some parameters to do so, allows you some time to sort out issues, strategize if needed, and then file it away until further action is required -- if it’s necessary at all. Whether it’s the time it takes to get home, or just until you hit the shower, set a time limit of an hour, tops. The shorter the better, but make certain that you can really retire the subject and feel good enough about the time limit, so you’re not constantly trying to work in “just a few more minutes and then I’m done… no seriously, I’m done… wait I forgot about…..” Thinking about work when you’re not actually there creates nurse burnout because you never truly leave the job. There is a point at which done needs to be done, because the rest of your life is waiting.
 
Replace Negative Thoughts with Positive Truth Statements. 
Constantly thinking about work can put us in a negative frame of mind. Whether we consider a negative interaction with a patient or staff member or our overall feelings about the job, negative thinking impacts our personal and professional satisfaction with our lives. If we can reframe our negative feelings with some positive truth and value statements about work, e.g., “I’m so happy to have the opportunity to make a positive impact on patients’ lives”, “I’m happy that my profession gives me job security and helps me provide for my family”, we start to look at our workplace with gratitude instead of dread or animosity. Check out this article from Forbes, “Positive Thinking Doesn’t Always Work, But Negative Thinking Does: The Power of Truth Statements” to learn about replacing negative thinking with truth statements. 
 
Move that body! 
Get some fresh oxygen into your brain and body with an aerobic activity. You don’t have to jump around. Even rigorous housework or gardening can be aerobic, and if done long enough, those feel good endorphins will kick in and immediately pick up your mood. When you engage in an activity that feels good, who wants to think about something that drains energy? I’d rather be in my garden or hula hooping than thinking about some negative experience at work, because the garden and the exercise make me feel better. 
 
Remember, It Will Be There Tomorrow. 
There will always be a next shift and another chance to work out whatever is plaguing you about work. Whenever you have a shift where you feel like a “bad nurse” (and with the demands on a nurse’s work day, we’ve ALL had those types of days), remember that another nurse will pick up where you left off and patients will be cared for. 
 
When you leave work there is nothing you can do to change anything until your next shift, so leave it there. You punched out. You are no longer required to be “at work,” you’ll get another chance to change things, readdress an issue, or simply regroup and reframe your feelings about the job. The only thing you can do about work is to think about it once you’re off the clock. I’m betting you can probably find a few activities more worthy of your time and attention and that they’ll be a lot more enjoyable!
 
About ElizabethScala1, BSN, MSN
As a keynote speaker, bestselling author and Nurse's Week program host, Elizabeth partners with hospitals, organizations, associations, and nursing groups to help transform the field of nursing from the inside out. In her bestselling book, ‘Nursing from Within‘, Elizabeth supports nurses to make those inner shifts that are required to more fully enjoy our nursing careers.
 
ElizabethScala1 has '11' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'psychiatry, community health, wellness'. From 'Jarrettsville, MD

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