You put your life on hold for two or more years to become a nurse. Now that you’re working as a RN, you expected to get your life back. But something’s wrong. You can’t get work out of your mind. You feel as if you are eating, sleeping and breathing nursing. When you leave work, you can’t stop thinking about your patients or the problems at your job. You are not alone. Difficulty separating work and home is a common problem for nurses. You can learn how by following these three strategies:
1. Learn from others how to compartmentalize.
My husband was good at separating work and home. As an air traffic controller, I know he experienced stress, but he didn’t let any of the pressures at his job affect his home life. Not me. I couldn’t do it. For years, the problems I experienced at work affected the rest of my life. I wanted to stop, but I didn’t know how. I asked my husband for advice.
“It’s like shutting off a valve or turning off a light on my drive home from work. I just do it. Work stays at work and never comes home.” he answered.
My husband helped me find my “shut off valve” by asking me to talk to him about work no more than one hour a day. It was hard for me at first, but I did it. As the years passed, I talked less and less to him about work. I used these two other strategies to stop thinking about work when I was at home:
2. Solve work problems at work as much as possible
Bringing every work problem home to our spouses, can jeopardize our marriages. It’s better to solve most work problems at work rather than bring them home. Unless your spouse works in nursing, he/she will find it hard to understand what you are talking about. Your spouse can empathize, but after awhile will tire of your complaints.
More than once my husband told me, “If work’s that bad, just quit and get another job.”
We nurses know that another job is going to have some of the same problems. So unless this job becomes unbearable, we will stay. Look for most of your emotional support with other nurses at work or friends outside of work.
3. Develop something to look forward to other than work
When work was not going well or was particularly stressful, I found having something to look forward to helped me forget about work when I got home. I started a new hobby or got involved with a home improvement project. I planned a special outing with my family. I called a friend to share a cup of coffee or go on a shopping spree.
Working with sick people day after day is stressful. We nurses possess strong feelings of compassion and empathy. That’s what makes us good at what we do. It is also a trait that makes it difficult to focus on ourselves. To have a normal life, nurses need to learn how to separate work and home. Work only dominates your life if you let it. So don’t let it. You have other things you want to do. So do them. Don’t spend all your waking moments focused on work. You can have a life and be a nurse at the same time.