What overpacking and dread of work have in common
Have you ever overpacked for vacation? You start out with the best intentions. “I’m just going to bring what I need, I am going to pack light.” You KNOW that it’s annoying to lug around all the extra stuff but somehow you still throw in the extra pair of shoes and the bulky jeans “just in case”. And then, inevitably, at some point in the vacation (usually when you are on day 3 of wearing bathing suits and comfy shorts) you say “WHY DID I BRING ALL THIS STUFF?”
You are probably wondering what this has to do with not wanting to be at work.
Let’s start with 2 questions.
Why are you a nurse?
Do you ever dread going to work?
Over and over again I hear from nurses that they love the idea of caring for people but work is killing them. They don’t know if they can keep doing it or if they even want to. And then, to add the icing to the cake, they have such shame for even thinking about giving up nursing. It feels like a rejection of themselves and all they have worked for.
This is a terrible, terrible way to feel. I know because I have felt this way myself, backed into a corner by the very thing I picked, by the thing that I wanted to love doing.
It’s this shame that can keep us spinning and actually worsen the condition. After all, as nurses we are trained to deal with complicated and emotional situations, so what makes this one so much harder? What makes it seem so insurmountable? It’s the thought that we shouldn’t feel the way we do, that it somehow means we are broken.
We aren’t broken.
Even when it feels that way.
It can be confusing to want something and not want something all at the same time, to feel buffeted by cognitive dissonance. As people who seek clarity in action, this can feel very unsettling. It can feel like something has gone wrong.
What if nothing has gone wrong?
It’s ok to have the thought “I don’t know if I can do this”. I would argue that it is even normal, given the conditions of health care right now.
It’s equally ok to have the thought “I want to be a good nurse”.
Here’s the key: the thoughts are not mutually exclusive.
It’s not a problem to have both.
At the same time.
I would even go so far to say that nothing has gone wrong if you have both thoughts. And if nothing has gone wrong, there is no need for shame, or self-judgment, or despair.
This is where the overpacking comes in. The thought “I don’t know if I can do this” is going to show up as we do this work. It’s the extra jeans and shoes. Not necessary and not useful but once you are on vacation, you are stuck with carrying those things around. It doesn’t mean that you can’t have a great vacation, it just means you brought some stuff you don’t need.
I would love to tell you to just abandon the thought “I can’t do this” but that would be as helpful as me telling you to “just think positive”. Unrealistic, and frankly, somewhat annoying. After all, there are a lot of tough things that maybe, “thinking positive” isn’t the answer to.
The real skill is holding the negative thought and taking action anyway, realizing that it doesn’t determine your success or worth as a nurse. If the negative thought isn’t indicative of anything having gone wrong then it doesn’t need to be an issue. We don’t have to have positive thoughts all the time. Don’t let the old all-or-nothing mentality undermine your self worth.
It’s ok to be aggravated when you overpack for vacation. There are even going to be times that it is really annoying, when your bag weighs too much and you have to pay more, when you are dragging things through the airport. But you aren’t going to spend all of your vacation being mad about it, chastising yourself for thinking there would EVER be a situation where you would OPT to wear jeans.
Negative thoughts about work are the same way, there are times that they are going to vie for all your attention and times that you can disregard them as unimportant. But to make this even doable, the first step is to acknowledge that those thoughts ARE unimportant, not wrong, not an indication of impending doom, just unimportant, a natural result of overpacking.
The best part is, once these thoughts stop being a problem, the dread of work can start going away.
If you can't imaging not dreading work, but want to feel better, reach out to me, I can help you with that.