Life · Nursing

a fine balance

This week I’m diving into a topic that I haven’t always been the best at: balance.

A lot of people use this word talking about how they “diet” or how often they go out with friends, etc. But today I’m going to talk a little about balance as a more broad term that’s applicable to an overall lifestyle than just one component of it.

It’s no secret to anyone that I enjoy being busy- I feel fulfilled in my life when I have lots going on, and things to do. Because I am a motivated person (and probably have a small bit of OCD) I like to be able to check things off my to do list, and organizing my life with my agenda ( yes I still have a paper agenda). But in the past couple years I have also learned some really important lessons about that word called balance.

A couple of years ago, I was finished the course part of my Masters program and at the time was working part time in the hospital as well as the community. I enjoyed all of these things but I was feeling spread very thin and one of my biggest stresses was around arranging my shifts and my life around what everyone else needed from me. Among many other reasons, I was also extremely burnt out from facing some challenging situations at work. And that’s when I realized, that I was living to work not working to live.

A lot of my identity for my first couple years entering the profession was wrapped up in my “being a nurse”. My family would introduce me to people that way, people I met dating would refer to me as “the nurse”. On top of that, almost every day of my life was spent in some capacity of nursing- in my acute care job, community job, school, volunteer work. It was who I was. How was something that I loved so much and a career I had worked so hard to get into making me feel this way?

For many young people, no matter what career you choose I am pretty confident that you don’t who you are truly for a couple years. You’re figuring it out, and life as a young adult can be pretty hard. Add on top of that the first year of nursing being the “hardest” where you are constantly trying to prove yourself and feel incompetent all the time (let alone the number of times you’re reminded of all the things you “don’t know” or your incompetency) – and it’s a recipe for disaster. Of course I felt that way. Now, it makes perfect sense to me but at the time it wasn’t so easy. I took home a great deal of emotional baggage from the patients and families I worked with day in and day out, and felt utterly exhausted. I was giving and giving to everyone when my cup was empty and had nothing to fill it back up.

So, fast forward to a couple years later and I am in a much different place. I made some significant life changes that I feel have made a big difference in how I’m feeling. I left one of my jobs and finally took the plunge of being full time with a real schedule and realized that even if I WANTED to give myself to all of these things, I couldn’t truly do that without caring for me first).

I made a promise to myself also that I would set aside time for me (whether that was to spend time with a friend I wanted to or sit on my couch and do absolutely nothing), knowing that it might impact how long it would take me to finish school or move away like I had previously planned. I came to realize that I had almost no hobbies to bring that balance to my life- I had sacrificed all of that, and a good chunk of my identity just to “be a nurse”.

I think so much of the time when we have deadlines to meet, people to support and all the life things that happen in between, we forget how much taking that 30 minutes for ourselves can actually make us more productive and more resilient. I am guilty of it myself- if I am busy I often let going to the gym or taking that time for self-care fall off my list because when I prioritize these things in my head they are “not as important”. But then I’m reminded almost every time how much BETTER I feel if I do them for myself.

Every once in a while, I slip back into that (old habits die hard!) but what’s important is stepping back to realize where you are at and resetting. I of course, have also had some very supportive and understanding friends and family who have supported me, and given me some reminders along the way to reset and refocus on what’s important. One thing that has worked well for me thus far in 2020 is setting aside one night each week for myself. Not being persuaded to go out and hangout with friends or do something if I haven’t taken that time for self- care. Because you just can’t give to others when your own cup is empty, and it’s going to keep spilling out if you don’t fix the cracks in it regardless of how hard you try to keep filling it up.

As a culture and society here in North America we don’t value our own health and well being nearly enough- when I talk to people from other places who set aside certain days or times each week to separate from work and relax or enjoy the company of friends and family I wonder how we have become the way we have. We are so constantly connected with each other by our phones and social media, it almost seems there is never an end to it.

One of my friends and coworkers recently commented on me starting this little blog jokingly saying “as if you didn’t have enough on your plate!” I laughed because it’s totally true. But what I told her is the very reason I finally got around to it- I did it because I am making a point of setting aside some time for myself, for things I know are going to be a positive outlet other than just the day to day grind. Being the person I am (who likes a little structure, I won’t deny), I’ve also tried to gear some of my personal “goals” to achieving balance in my life rather than jut focusing on work and my career (which I still love and value profoundly, but know my nature often leads me to neglect the other things).

Balance for me has also meant me having to come to terms with my own decisions- knowing school would take me a little bit longer, that life has things beyond your control and being resilient to push through all of them but still remembering to take time for yourself (remember that post about everyone else’s path is not your own?) My health has been one of those things that has been beyond my control the past year and a bit, and while it frustrates me that at times it can be an obstacle to doing the things I want to, I have to be kind and patient to myself. Taking the extra couple hours to sleep instead of working myself ragged on my thesis until 2 in the morning will do me better in the long run. I still struggle with this, because I don’t like to feel like I’m letting others down. But investing the time in yourself will ultimately be the best reward. So choose yourself.

And there you have it.

B A L A N C E with a capital B.

– C

A good little read I thought was fitting this week 😊 

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