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Remember, look after, yourself

Looking after the sick can be demanding so nurses need to keep fit and healthy and plan for holidays.

The normal cycle of events means we return to work after a break feeling refreshed and ready to tackle a new year of work. However, planning how to maintain that feeling and survive the rest of the working year can be more challenging.

Patricia Murray, author, positive life coach and nursing veteran of more than 50 years, gave Nursing Review her tips on how to ensure the year ahead is a good one - on a personal and professional level.

Make a plan

Crafting a plan on how you anticipate and envision the year ahead is the first step. However, it's important to be realistic, Murray said.

"Take baby steps - too grand an ambition could cause early disappointment when things don't go as we hoped," she said. Plans and goals need to be attainable and should focus on both personal and professional development.

Furthering knowledge and skills is an excellent tool for boosting confidence as well as opening up career opportunities and pathways. A key element of the job, professional development courses and training will help nurses stay abreast of new standards, methods and competencies.

Murray said to remember that some of the worst things that happen can turn out to be blessings in disguise - though at the time it never seems that way.

"Often it presents as a 'crossroads' and it is why you make the decision you do that will determine the next path you choose."

Stay motivated and focused

Nurses are constantly exposed to sickness, which is always stressful for the patient and their families, as well as the carers. Murray suggests that it is important to be able to step back and remain strong, in order to successfully help others.

"It is best to be empathetic, however, not involved or we can become emotional wrecks."

Another significant contributor of workplace stress can be other staff. Office politics are rife throughout all industries - and nursing is no exception. Making a conscious decision before you start the year to be professional, and not enter into discussing other staff will bode well for your sanity as well as reputation. When people know that you don't gossip, you build up respect and will not involve you.

Murray explains that the working environment itself poses its own challenges,

"Accident and emergency work has its own problems with inebriated and sometimes violent patients, there should be protocols in place to protect you, report it if not. Join the nurses association, they are there for you."

Realistically, there will be a couple of bad days, but Murray suggests it is how you cope with problems when they arise. "Of course there will be some disappointments, but if we have strategies to turn problems into stepping stones we will grow through the process," she said. "The Zen saying is that the road that appears to be the hardest is often the best road to take."

Work/life balance

If you look at the Wheel of Life the sections are for career, personal growth, friends, money, significant other, fitness, family, fun and recreation, health and physical environment. All segments need to be fulfilled for a well-balanced life.

Creating an effective work/life balance is essential to make it through the working year.
"When you are on duty, be on duty - not discussing the great night out you had with patients having to listen in," Murray explains. "It is inconsiderate and unprofessional but I have seen it happen so often."

Just as important, is not letting work occupy you when you are off duty. Time off is precious and relaxation is a must. If you get the opportunity for a change of scenery, even if it is just for a weekend, this can be a fantastic way to break up routine.

"Hobbies, cultural pursuits, dancing and most important friends and family all help keep us sane and revitalised off duty," Murray said. "It is not called REcreation for nothing!"

Healthy living

Maintaining a healthy diet might sound cliched, but choosing the right foods not only reduces the risk of serious illness but also improves mental and emotional health. Regularly adding fruit, salads and vegetables to your diet will keep you on the right track.

Staying fit will also increase your physical and mental health - we live in a great country where outdoor exercise can be enjoyed nearly all year round.

"Make your own health a top priority, good dietary choices and lots of healthy outdoor exercise is important to maintain wellness so you can care for others," Murray said.

"Plan the years' holidays and breaks as well as the work; get sufficient sleep especially if doing shift work. Our circadian rhythms are really upset with night duty or travelling overseas."

Practical tips for revitalising your career focus

• Make a conscious decision about your career in regard to where you are heading. Consider long-term ambitions and plans on how to get there.
• When you decide what your goals are, decide what you need to do to achieve them. Do you require further training or to complete additional courses?
• Make sure your plans are congruent with your beliefs and ideals in life, not someone else's.
• Eliminate self-limiting behaviours and build up your self-confidence.
• If you decide to undergo further training, make sure you have enough in the bank to fund it.

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