Working on Fumes? Why Running Out of Gas is more than a Nuisance!

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Elizabeth Scala

By Elizabeth Scala

Have you ever run out of gas? Luckily, I haven’t- in relation to the literal sense of the term. But the way I see it- and what I’ve heard from my father who’s done it a couple of times- running out of gas can be a major nuisance. You’re sitting there on the side of the road, late for work, embarrassed by all of the stares you get as the cars fly by… thinking to yourself: “I knew this was going to happen… I saw the light go on miles ago… how did I let it get this bad? What a pain in the neck!”

Running out of gas isn’t just a small irritation; it can be a real issue of safety as well! Just think about it- a couple of scary things could potentially happen:

  • A stranger approaches (who is less than a good Samaritan) and your life is in danger by the motives of this potentially harmful person;
  • The cars rush by so quickly that debris from the side of the road stirs up and smacks you in the face;
  • An exhausted driver, coming home from a long day of work, falls asleep at the wheel and swerves right into your car.

Tired_FaceOk, ok- so why are we talking about running out of gas on a nursing blog? Well, great question- here’s why… running out of gas is a lot like working on fumes as a busy nurse. Picture the following scenario and see if anything sounds familiar:

Last week I got onto a call with my coach. She asked me for an update: “Tell me about your week; how did your presentation go in Florida; what’s new and exciting?” I blurted out: “I’m exhausted, just irritated… I feel so tired, drained really. I just had family over for the weekend and I’m just done. I’m really, really tired.

As we continued to talk we discovered a couple of things:

  • I had been putting out energy all over the place: preparing a talk, creating a product, promoting my work, practicing my speech, giving a presentation, hosting the in-laws, cooking, cleaning, etc., etc.
  • As you can read in the above statement there are a ton of action verbs, a ton of “doing”.
  • My self-care reservoir was dry.

This is the case for many, many nurses. We give and we give. We do and we do. We are constantly in motion. We are always on-the-go. Working- and quite frankly- living in this way is absolutely unhealthy; it is unsafe.

We have the potential for making a medical error if we are too distracted and tired to concentrate. We might snap at a co-worker and then find ourselves being written up because our frustration level was sky-high. We may even miss a critical lab value or an updated physician order if we are feeling so drained and exhausted that we can barely keep our eyes open.

So let me ask you this: how full is your self-care reservoir? When was the last time you did something just for you? How often during the day, your week, or even the month do you take a moment just to appreciate and congratulate yourself for all that you have done?

My coach and I came to a couple of resolutions- many of which I am having the pleasure of experiencing right now. Maybe some of them will spur your creative juices and give you igas tank emptydeas on how to love yourself up during this month of “self-love”:

  • Wake up each morning saying “Thank-You”, for no particular reason- just because… Thank yourself and your life for all that it has in store for you this day.
  • Make room to just sit in complete silence for five minutes a day- doing absolutely nothing but listening to and watching your body.
  • Sensually observe nature. As you walk, don’t just throw your head down and push through- connect with the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of all that the earth provides us with.
  • Take time every night to write down the ways that you gave yourself self-care during the day. Even if there is just one or two things on the list- even if there are many- write down every single night what you did for yourself.

Enjoy yourself each and every day. Because- if all else fails- it’s better to care for yourself now rather than “run out of gas” later on!

elizabeth scala coachYou can learn more about Nurse Elizabeth Scala and her path to becoming a Nurse Coach here.

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