Are you on overload?

From the Winter 2011 issue of Scrubs
Not long ago, I was working 10-hour shifts in a G.I. lab assisting with colonoscopies and upper endoscopies in a windowless room. I had one doctor, a sedated patient and a continuously beeping heart monitor to keep me company. I went to work every day for 20 years knowing all too well the meaning of “nurse stress.”

Eventually I sought out a life coach to help me make sense of my situation. She helped me realize that my position didn’t suit my natural knack for listening to people and solving their problems. I got up the courage to become a life coach myself, helping other nurses in the Denver area de-stress and find balance in their lives, just as someone helped me find mine.

As The Nurse Coach, I give my clients simple assignments geared to help them discover what parts of their lives are out of whack. (You’d be amazed at how many nurses don’t even know they’re on the path to burnout!) We also work on aligning their strengths with their careers and finding ways to take better care of themselves. This rarely means leaving nursing, as it did for me. In fact, I want to keep nurses in nursing (we can’t afford to lose even one of us!).

What needs changing in your life? Take the quiz below to get an idea of where you stand on the overload-o-meter—at work and at home. Then take a look at the six assignments that follow: your call to action. Each is designed to put you on the road to a happier, more fulfilled life.

Take This Stress Test

Rate each of the 12 statements according to the following scale:

1 = never
2 = rarely
3 = sometimes
4 = often
5 = always

_____  I am responsible for so many different tasks at work and at home.

_____  I feel less competent or effective than I used to.

_____  I frequently feel overwhelmed.

_____  I’m achy—head, stomach, muscles.

_____ I have trouble sleeping and feel tired even when I get enough sleep.

_____  I often wish I could play hooky.

_____  I tend to see the glass half empty rather than half full.

_____ I find myself watching the clock throughout my shift.

_____  I get angry and irritated easily.

_____ I stick to myself and avoid conversations with coworkers.

_____  I’m often tempted to calm myself with alcohol, drugs or food.

_____ I rarely take breaks or even vacations.

Total up the numbers.

Your score: _____


12—20: You have little job-related stress. This is a good position to be in, although you can make your life even better. Use the assignments to tweak the area of your life that needs improvement.

21—37: You seem to be under a moderate amount of stress and have a fair chance of becoming overwhelmed. You may want to pay particular attention to Assignment #1 to see what part of your life is out of balance. It’s best to catch and address signs of overload early, before the problem gets away from you.

38—47: You experience a high amount of stress and may be close to overload. All the assignments will be useful, especially #2—people on the verge of burnout often sabotage themselves with negative self-talk.

48 and up: You’re stressed to the max! Use the assignments to determine where you need to make changes, but also ask for help. Contact your hospital’s employee assistance program, find a mentor or seek out a life coach or therapist.


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