In our monthly Vitality Circle, we were sharing about working with the affirmations that were provided at the start of the VIP program (Vitality in Progress: Healing and Preventing Burnout for Nurses). Working with and building upon strengths in you and in the environment means doing more than just recognizing your successes and good work. It means taking the time to celebrate you and your accomplishments and victories. As a nurse, you often have the privilege of seeing the big picture. You see the patient/client in the context of their environment. There are physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual, cultural, and economic factors that impact and influence their health. You help them find ways to maximize their strengths and wellbeing. Sometimes they invite you to come back and share in their celebration. However, when it comes to looking at your own bigger picture, you may need support in reframing your experience if you are not celebrating. Let’s give it a try~~
Nurses on the edge of Vital exhaustion or burnout are juggling lots of roles, duties, and tasks. They are accomplishing career goals yet experience a sense of “something’s not right here”. They are like a horse with a dangling carrot in front of their noses, never getting any closer to the carrot while covering lots of territories. Drawn by something outside, the horse or nurse doesn’t really get the satisfaction of getting the carrot. The carrot, in this case, would be enjoying a sense of accomplishment.
How often have you left a client/patient knowing you did excellent work? You were present for them in a special way given their situation, or you prevented a big mistake and then went on to the next task without stopping? You did the required 20-second-hand wash, documented the interaction, took a breath and moved on to the next “to do”.
Woah! Wait! Stop!
Leaving work at work, after your shift, how often do you continue and go on to the next thing? You take a class, walk the dog, get to the gym, or take your child to a class or sports game. Leaving work at work is good boundary setting and useful for being present for the next moment. But going from one moment to the next and the next and the next, until you fall asleep is a set up for exhaustion. Sleep comes and then a few hours later time to put on the harness, get the carrot in front of your nose and start moving forward in your life again being pushed and pulled by outside forces. Work, School, Family, Exercise, Work, School, Family, Exercise… meals and other things interspersed. Something is not right. Something is missing.
Woah! Slow Down! Stop! You are not a horse!
Let’s reframe by using a metaphor from Mother Nature. You are actually a gardener. You are planting seeds, tending the environment, and caring about the bigger picture. Caring for the gardener is as important as caring for the garden. While tending your garden, you focus on the flowers, the veggies and yourself. Your experience is expansive. The celebration of small successes as they occur; watching seedlings sprout and grow, abundant pollinators decorating your flowers, the colors of the blossoms are a feast for your eyes. You have your knee pads and the right tools. You have protection for your back and protection for your skin with your hat and sunscreen. Now the tasks of providing good soil, weeding, watering, and pruning do not feel like chores. In the end, you have a lovely garden with a potential harvest.
Celebrating your successes and accomplishments as they occur and savoring them rather than just rushing on to the next activity can become a healthy habit to apply in all aspects of your life.
Gardeners make time to celebrate the bountiful harvest and flowers. Taking time to celebrate is how you savor the accomplishment. Listening and responding to intuitions, feelings, and your sense of worthiness, rather than being drawn to that carrot outside, you discover a you that is very worth celebrating. From this space, the acknowledgments you may or may not receive from outside are not so essential. To start, even the shift from the outside carrot focus to a gardener focus deserves celebration. After my 10 hour shift the other day, I went for a long walk in nature celebrating the hard work and successful challenges I met. After completing this blog, I will sit with a cup of tea watching the bees, savoring another accomplishment. Periodically I go on retreats.
How do you celebrate? Is it a weekend retreat, a day in nature, a special meal, a feast for your eyes in a museum, a day with a dear friend, making a journal entry or playing music and dancing?
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Celebrate you, building on your strengths as you pause, de-stress, and learn new ways to care for the gardener inside.
With love, Padma