You wake up from a wonderful night of quality rest. The morning flows smoothly and since you were off last week you’re feeling refreshed and ready for work. You actually feel happy, excited, looking forward to being a nurse again.
Then you walk onto your unit.
Everything collapses. You can slice the tension with a knife. Faces of the nightshift staff look drained, demoralized. No one is happy- in fact, people are even commenting “What are you smiling about? Don’t look so darn cheerful. We’re understaffed- as usual- and didn’t you hear… Mr. Jones (we all know ‘that’ patient) is coming back again.”
I’d like to piggy-back off of an awesome post by Erica MacDonald on the Good Times in Nursing. In Erica’s article she writes about the benefits of laughter and how using humor, feeling silly, and allowing play can lift our wounded nursing spirits.
Not only is laughter fun and energizing, but as Erica points out, it’s good for you! In fact, the creators of Laughter Yoga have scientifically proven one of the reasons it’s so easy to laugh when we see someone else doing it is because of our own brain chemistry. Brain cells called ‘mirror neurons’ are activated, causing you to laugh- even if you’re not sure what’s funny!
So back on the scenario above: You were feeling really, really good and as soon as you hit the work place it’s as if your entire team let the air out of your tires. How come? What caused you to so easily deflate?
In addition to the neurologic science and mirror neurons, something else is happening. Our thoughts, perceptions, and beliefs impact our feelings. Then how we feel turns into our behavior.
Very briefly, let’s apply this to the scenario above.
- You’ve been off on vacation. Your thoughts were focused on enjoyment, rest, and activity outside of work. So you were ‘feeling’ good and thus your behavior was enthusiastic excitement about going back to your job as a nurse, which ultimately you love because you care about people.
- Then you get to the unit. Other people start talking, toning, and projecting their energy onto you. Your thoughts start to race: “I wonder what happened on night shift. What if I have to stay late? That difficult patient stresses me out…” (And so on). These racing thoughts become negative feelings and then influence your outward behavior.
Now as a nurse we’ve got negativity coming at us from all angles. So what can we do about it? Here are two mindset shifts I’d like you to consider as options for protecting yourself:
- Embrace a gratitude ritual at the start of your day. Whenever you wake up (day shift or night shift nurses), as you go through your morning routine, think (and if you can, state aloud) what you’re grateful for. I’m sure many of you have heard of gratitude rituals, but here’s a new twist. To actually have the gratitude impact the rest of your day, you also need to add on how it makes you feel. So your morning gratitude ritual would go something like this: “I’m grateful for (fill in your blank) because it makes me feel (a positive feeling).” The more you can attach a feeling to the gratitude, the better. You raise your vibration and protect yourself from negative energies.
- Create a personal mantra. A mantra is an affirmation or an intention that you can repeat silently to yourself whenever the going gets tough. One of my favorites is “I am open to receive whatever I need in this moment.” This allows me to let go of attachment to what I ‘think’ needs to happen and allow whatever is best to occur. Any time a ‘Debbie Downer’ comes your way, you can pause- inhale and exhale- and repeat your mantra to yourself. An uplifting intention statement can create positive energy in any bad situation.