Easy phrases to calm, focus and invigorate a nurse mind


iStock | Rufous52iStock | Rufous52

Are you having a tough day? Have you had just about as much as you can take? Are you stressed, overwhelmed and in the weeds? Sometimes what you need on one of Those Days is a simple mantra—something that will calm, focus and invigorate your mind. Try one of these:

  • “The worst day out of bed is better than the best day in bed.” I often shorten this in my mind to “worst out/best in.” It works because it’s true: No matter how bad your day is, it’s still better than any of your patients’ days. Your feet might hurt, you might have missed lunch or several bathroom breaks, but you’re up and moving. Your goals for the shift are loftier than having a bowel movement and working for 20 minutes with physical therapy.
  • “This is somebody’s mother/daughter/father/son/friend.” Reminding yourself that the person in the bed is a person rather than a patient can help you deal with annoyances more calmly. Often, we get so wrapped up in a diagnosis or a care plan that we miss the fact that the patient in question has a life outside the hospital. Remembering that makes them human again and not just a bundle of irritating demands.
  • “It’s a bad day for X.” I find this particularly helpful when a family member (or multiple family members) are doing a Riverdance jig on my last nerve. Let’s face it: Nobody can have a truly good day when somebody they love is stuck in a hospital bed. Therefore, nobody you meet in the hospital is ever going to be at their best. It’s easier to stay calm and forgive them if you can keep that in mind.
  • “I can leave at the end of the shift.” You can leave. You can walk out, go home to kids or dogs or cats or a peacefully empty house. Your patient can’t. Your patient’s family can, but even so, they’ll be sleeping fitfully, waiting for the phone to ring. All things considered, no matter how chaotic things are right now, you have the better end of the deal by a good margin.
  • “Twenty-five dollars an hour.” (Or whatever your current rate of pay is.) This is the one I use when all other mantras fail. If nothing else helps, if things are truly pear-shaped, if I’ve run my feet off all day, I remind myself how much money I’m making. Sometimes I go a step further and do some simple math: Every interaction with the person who’s making me nuts will buy a pint of strawberries or a new lipstick. Granted, I don’t use this one often, but in emergency situations, it really makes a difference.

What are your personal mantras? Is there something you tell yourself consistently to help you get through rough spots?

Agatha Lellis
Agatha Lellis is a nurse whose coffee is brought to her every morning by a chipmunk. Bluebirds help her to dress, and small woodland creatures sing her to sleep each night. She writes a monthly advice column, "Ask Aunt Agatha," here on Scrubs; you can send her questions to be answered at

    Humor: You may be a nurse if…

    Previous article

    Why this Veterinarian is Convinced that Crafting is the New Mindfulness

    Next article

    You may also like

    More in Scrubs