Spring cleaning for nurses: Letting go



Clutter comes in more forms than just stacks of newspapers dating back to big hair. Nursing has a unique ability to generate more mental and emotional clutter than most professions. We frequently fight death, agonize over ethics and second-guess our nursing judgment. Letting go can be difficult, but it is essential to avoiding burnout in both our personal and professional lives.

Spring cleaning for nurses: Letting go

1. Let go of (some) obligations.

People with strong personalities abound in our profession. But most of us nurses have a problem with one thing: living within our limits. Obligations are good things, but too many obligations leave no down time for rest and recovery. Reevaluate your commitments, complete what you can, delegate if possible and reduce the obligations that add clutter to your life. Life is not a competition to see who can do the most!

2. Let go of resentment and/or bitterness.

Resentment can be triggered by many things: difficult job assignments, low pay, disrespectful doctors, or negative family situations. Regardless of the cause, nothing can cause emotional clutter like resentment. It is an addictive mindset, one that you have a choice to feed or to starve.

Two things bring peace: perspective and forgiveness. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes to gain a greater understanding, and then forgive yourself and others to gain greater peace. Forgiveness does not mean you are okay with what happened; it means you will allow the good to occupy the mental energy and space that used to be occupied by the bad. It’s a choice.

Recognize that you cannot fix the past, but you can influence the future.

3. Let go of grief.

Grief and regret often go hand in hand. These emotions are most often associated with, but not exclusive to, the death of others. Hiding grief away is not the solution to letting go, but talking or thinking about it nonstop aren’t solutions, either.

With these emotions, knowledge is power. Learn the stages of grief as described by E. Kubler-Ross, and allow yourself to move through them until you reach the end point: acceptance. You may still have feelings of grief and regret periodically, but they will no longer clutter your mind.

4. Let go of past mistakes.

View past mistakes as learning moments. I repeat: You cannot fix the past. You may have to live with the consequences of mistakes far into the future, but if you fail to repeat past mistakes, you can already claim a victory.

5. Define yourself: reality vs. desire.

Letting go of mental and emotional clutter becomes much easier when you’ve already defined what kind of person you wish to be. Make a list of characteristics describing your inner self now, and then make a list of characteristics you’d like to have. Compare the two lists and note what areas need improvement.

Be the change you wish to see.

What seems to clutter up your mind and emotions the most? How do you declutter? Let us know in the comments!

Jessica Ellis
With experience in multiple specialties such as ER, ICU, CVICU, PACU, NICU and case management, Jessica has also been a key contributor for several of the world’s leading healthcare publishers. Jessica has been certified in CPR, BLS Instructor, PHTLS, ACLS, TNCC, CFRN, NRP, PALS and CPS. She previously functioned as an editor and contributor for, and an author/editor of numerous online nursing CEU courses for Coursepark. Jessica accepts ongoing professional nursing writing contracts for both authoring and editing from major textbook and online education publishers internationally.

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