The annoying person who suggests adding in one more thing.
Do you ever have someone suggest you try something and your knee-jerk response is “I don’t have time to do that.” And it’s almost irritating that they can’t seem to grasp that adding one more thing into your life won’t just tip you right over the edge, it is actually a physical impossibility.
I am going to be that person.
Hold the aggravation for one second because while adding it in may seem impossible, it won’t take any time and it can be the difference between work satisfaction and burnout.
Let me explain.
I was recently giving a presentation on nurse burnout, no need to go through all the gory details with you, I know. What was interesting was how the concept of connection kept coming up in the research, not just as a protective factor but as a restorative factor. The reason I found this interesting is because connection cannot be objectively measured, it is a completely subjective experience. As such, we can 100% control our experience of connection.
So I dove into this a little further.
When looking at the protective factors against burnout, this is what nurses reported:
Being part of a good team.
Satisfaction in the efficacy of their patient care/patient relationships.
Social support inside or outside of work.
Membership in groups (community, religious, social)
Ability to discuss difficult cases with colleagues.
If we take the core meaning of each of these, it is connection to other people.
However, there is a tricky force at play here. It starts with the Conservation of Resources Theory as developed by Dr. Stevan E. Hobfoll. This states that stress results from circumstances involving threatened or actual loss of valued resources. (sound familiar?) It also postulates that we have an innate survival mechanism to regain or restore resources, to keep the balance. To maintain homeostasis, resources in have to equal resources out.
It’s not rocket science when you think about it (not to minimize Dr. Hobfoll’s work, of course). We know that you can only give so much without having some type of restoration. Our resources are finite and if we give, give, give without replenishment, we will eventually break down.
That’s not the tricky part. The tricky part is that when we start to feel tapped out, we withdraw as a self-protective strategy to minimize energy expenditure. BUT, all the research shows that leaning into connection is protective. Withdrawing is counter productive because it robs us of a source of resource replenishment.
When we feel we need to lean out, we actually need to lean in.
I know it sounds crazy but I have done it myself and it is true.
This doesn’t mean we need to lean in to working harder. It means we need to lean in to being connected, and we can do that amidst the work we are already doing. Without taking more time. And, despite what our primitive brain programming tells us, without expending more energy.
We chose nursing because of our desire to connect with other people through caregiving. When we are beaten down and frustrated it is hard to do anything other than keep our heads down and get through the day. But then we negate the very reason for being there and that lack of purpose, that lack of connection is like a cancer. It will grow if left unchecked.
Here’s the good news. A little connection goes a long way. You don’t have to be connected all day long. You don’t have to put extra meaning into every interaction, every phone call or moment of the day. (You can if you want to, but that sounds unachievable and like a ton of work.)
When it comes to connection, you could even start with out of work connections, making a phone call on the way home to talk to a friend (hands free of course), taking a quick minute to ask a coworker about their kids rather than avoiding the conversations all together for fear of having to hear complaints. I know for myself that one strategy that has helped has been to think “how can I help this person, today” before I open the door to go into the next appointment. It may seem obvious that that is the whole reason for an appointment but if I am distracted by my schedule, or running behind, or their obnoxious spouse who is talking over them, it is easy to lose the opportunity to be connected to that patient, in that moment.
Connection does not have to be 2 sided, it does not have to be reciprocal. Have you ever spent time writing a meaningful card to someone? In that moment, you experience connection, just by thinking out and writing the words. The other person isn’t even there, they may not ever get the letter. And yet, you are connected.
Or maybe it is taking extra care with a patient with dementia or a patient who is on a vent. They may not know or understand your compassion, but you do, and you can experience it without them having any knowledge.
Today I set an intention to connect with people, to really make an effort to restore myself in this way.
Today I am connecting with you.
Need every possible strategy? Let me help you. Schedule a time here. Or DM me. That works too :)