Are you on overload?

Assignment #1: Find More Balance in Your Life

Mary, the CNO of a hospital, was exhausted. She would get up every day at 4 a.m., worked weekends and was often on call for the whole hospital. Her life revolved around her job. I had Mary draw what’s known as the “Wheel of Life,” a tool for assessing which areas of your life need attention. Mary’s wheel was bumpy, showing where she needed to make changes. She began setting boundaries at work and saying no to overtime. Ultimately, she realized that her hospital didn’t honor its employees’ need for a personal life. She’s now happily working at a different hospital.

Create your wheel: Take out a piece of paper and draw a circle. Divide it into eight sections as if you were cutting a pie, then label each section:

  • Career
  • Money
  • Health
  • Friends & Family—Personal Relationships
  • Romance
  • Personal Growth
  • Fun & Recreation
  • Physical Environment

Using a pencil, draw a line across each section of the wheel to represent your satisfaction with that part of your life. Imagine that the outer edge of the wheel is equal to 10, and the center, where the lines from all sections meet, is a 1. (For example, if you’re in the personal growth section and your satisfaction is a 3, you’d draw a line about one-third of the way up.)

Look at your circle. Is the line across the sections uneven? If so, what areas of your life need improvement? Use this diagram as a roadmap to what needs your attention and redraw it periodically to chart your progress toward balance.

Assignment #2: Don’t Be Your Own Worst Enemy

When Stephanie, a young nurse working nights on a telemetry unit in a hospital, came to me, she was floundering. She was stressed and had gained a lot of weight. It came to light that although Stephanie worked the night shift, she was not a night person—her job went against her internal clock. Whenever she thought about switching jobs, a voice would stop her—and the voice was her own. Workloads are easier at night; you can’t handle the days, the voice would say. There won’t be good people around to mentor you during the day. You’ll lose control of creating the unit’s schedule and won’t be able to get the time off you want.

Negative self-talk, mind chatter, the inner critic—I call this inner voice “the saboteur.” It’s a force that says “you can’t do it” and it keeps you from moving in the direction of your dreams. Before you can make changes in your life, you have to believe in yourself—hard to do if someone (you!) is cutting you down. You need to banish the saboteur. And it’s as easy as A-B-C:

A. Confront your saboteur. When you think about what’s making you unhappy—your job, a relationship, money matters—listen to what you’re saying to yourself. If the phrases “I can’t,” “I need to” or “I don’t deserve” are part of your inner dialogue, you know you have a saboteur. Other signs that you are sabotaging yourself: having difficulty making up your mind, and frequently feeling anxious, depressed or angry.

B. Go in search of the truth. Seek out someone who can help you determine whether your saboteur’s ideas are real. If, for instance, you actuallythink you can’t handle a different type of nursing job, talk to someone in that job. (You might also try working as a PRN (“as needed”) nurse to get a taste of different positions.) If you’re having trouble with a relationship at work, have a frank conversation with that person. Knowing what she honestly thinks—and not what you think she thinkswill quiet the saboteur and will probably help repair the connection.

C. Replace the negative with the positive. Find a new mantra. For Stephanie, who believed she couldn’t deal with the day shift, it was I know enough, I am enough, I can handle anything. After saying it over and over to herself, she eventually switched to days and she’s doing well. Your mantra might be I can stand up to people who are disrespectful to me or I can learn a new skill or I don’t have to say yes. Think about what the naysayer in your head has been telling you and take the opposite tack. When you pay attention to the confident voice in your head, you’ll begin to believe what you’re hearing.

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