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It’s not unusual to have some days that are worse than others, but if you feel like you’re a nurse that’s doing the same thing every day without feeling particularly motivated to advance your life further, you might be suffering from burnout. This is sadly all too common in the nursing business – it happens to thousands of Americans every year. It can lead things to feel less exciting than they used to be and take the spark out of your day-to-day life. This can be a highly frustrating time, but it’s important to remember that these feelings can be changed. You can get out of feeling like you’re in a rut by assessing your current situation, forming a long-term but step-by-step plan, and then doing everything you can to implement it.

Analyze your current situation

One of the hardest things about suffering from burnout is that it’s really hard to notice when you have feelings of monotony. It can cause feelings that build slowly as days go on, and you start to feel stuck in your routine. Most humans need some sort of long-term goal to remain mentally healthy, and if this has been lost for you, it can be easy to just feel like you’re not being productive with your time but don’t know what to do about it. There are some other signs that can help you realize that you’re burnt out – either due to overwork or lack of motivation.

  1. You feel unmotivated – this doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t feel like you want to do things; it just means that you might not have the energy to actually go through with creative ideas or new projects. This can manifest by doing a lot of procrastination.
  2. Groundhog Day Syndrome – do you ever forget what day of the week it is? If all your days feel the same and seem to fuse into each other, you might very well be in a rut with your career.
  3. You don’t feel fulfilled – fulfillment is difficult, but if your life feels characteristically dull and colorless, your sense of fulfillment might need a lot of improvement.
  4. You feel like you’re surviving – another sign of being burnt out is when all your goals are short term, and you feel like you’re just getting through the days, trying to survive until tomorrow. This can also be a sign of some mental health difficulties.

It is worth saying that these feelings are similar to that of illnesses like major depressive disorder, persistent depressive disorder, and other similarly depressive disorders. If you feel like that could be the case, it’s worth doing some research on depressive disorders and seeing if you fit the very specific criteria in diagnostic manuals like the DSM or the ICD.

Look Inwards before you Plan

Something that psychiatrists do is to talk with their patients and try to get them to understand the reason why they are having the problems that they’re having – nobody is quite sure how psychodynamic therapy works, but trying to explore the causes for psychological problems is found to be very effective in clinical analyses. Becoming introspective and trying to find the source of your burnout is a good place to start. Start by asking yourself broad questions, getting more and more specific with every answer – e.g., start with “what am I feeling?” before moving on to “how long have I been feeling like this?” and then “is this a common feeling or does it only happen after certain events at work?”

If you don’t have the motivation to ask yourself these questions, or if you start to ruminate, you should consider visiting a therapist, counselor, or life coach to help you through this step. Remember that you should be thinking positively and should accept your feelings – telling yourself that you shouldn’t be feeling a certain way won’t help anybody. You’re feeling what you’re feeling for legitimate reasons – you just need to find out why. Over the past year, many nurses will have been challenged to the point they become burnt out; what you’re feeling isn’t too unusual.

Figure Out the Control You Need

Once you have a better understanding of your current condition, you should take a step back, congratulate yourself for having the motivation to get to the stage you’re at, and then have a think about your career ambitions.

Once you have a few ideas in your head, try to analyze those aspirations. What about them was so attractive to you? Was it the prospect of helping others? Was it doing something creative? Was it just earning enough money to live very comfortably and still spend time with your family? Once you know what was behind the aspirations you previously had, try to think of the direction that you can realistically take your life into.

If you wanted to adopt more of a leadership role while also earning more money, you might want to become a nurse practitioner. Nurse practitioners help people but also earn, on average, $100,000 a year. Another idea could be, if you feel you want more of a charitable lifestyle, you could volunteer to nurse abroad in third-world countries.

Plan into the Long term

Say you’ve found the way that you want to take back control of your life as a nurse, you now need to plan how you’re going to get there. It might seem overwhelming, but don’t panic. If, for example, you want to be a nurse practitioner, start by looking at online nurse practitioner programs. It is here you can learn that the program can be completed in 2.5 years while you’re working. This is a nice time-frame to work with – enough to be a really satisfying aspiration upon completion, but not too long that it gets temporally discounted. The first step in planning for online nurse practitioner programs would be to look at the admissions requirements and plan from there.

Online nurse practitioner programs require the completion of a college-level statistics course, which could be a good first step for you to look towards. Once you have done that, the next step would be to think about different ways that you could fund the online nurse practitioner programs, before clicking that enroll button. A good long-term plan would also think about how motivation will be able to be kept up through the course – plans need to consider emotional challenges as well as the more obvious practical challenges.

In the case of online nurse practitioner programs, you get clinical experience, which could be a great motivator, but if it isn’t, ways of ensuring that motivation is kept could be by leveraging a social group. Humans are very social creatures and become influenced very easily – so the plan could also incorporate trying to connect with and befriend highly motivated people on the same course, participating in forums, or even just telling an existing social group how determined they are to complete this course. Friends should always be supportive of practical and realistic career aspirations, and if they aren’t, then you might want to consider whether they are contributing to your current feelings.

Getting Started

After you have planned your next career steps, and how to get control back, a good place to get started is to practice self-care. Being compassionate towards yourself is the best way to contribute to a healthier mental state. You should assess how well you’ve been taking care of yourself and then look for ways you can take better care of yourself. Putting physical care as a top priority in life, such as exercising more, incorporating more vegetables into your diet, and working on your sleep hygiene to improve your sleeping quality, can make a difference in how you take back control of your nursing career.

After that initial routine change, you’ll feel much more able to start changing your routine in a way that’s focused on your aspirations. In the case of the example, this might be learning the basics of statistics so that you can ace your course and join your online nurse practitioner programs as soon as possible, but it could also be pledging to spend at least an hour looking for part-time jobs so that you can start saving for the online nurse practitioner programs. It’s important at this stage not to overwork yourself – look at your motivation like it is a delicate plant. You want to nurture that motivation so that it grows, as opposed to trying so hard to be motivated that you burn out even further. Make sure you still take care of yourself – allow yourself to spend time with friends and have some healthy fun like going on dates or pursuing a hobby in your spare time. If you let your desire to be a nurse practitioner consume you, you run the risk of getting into a rut if you achieve your aspirations, and they’re not everything you have hyped them up to be.

Keep Going and Keep Growing

Good habits are very hard to form, and bad habits are very easy to form. You need to be aware of this and keep that long-term goal in your head. If your aspiration requires a lot of self-motivation (typical with aims that have less immediate rewards – like wanting to educate others with your nursing know-how), you should get creative in how you can keep that motivation going. Whether you’re writing a nursing blog, or doing online nurse practitioner programs, working in a public place on your laptop is a great way to motivate you as it will help you to resist procrastinating online.

Make sure you set goals and reward yourself. Positive reinforcement may have been pioneered via research with dogs, but it is super effective in humans. The goals you set should get gradually larger as soon as you feel you’ve nailed them, and setting a similar one isn’t a challenge anymore. If you’re really struggling to get motivated, give yourself small rewards for small steps like finishing a page if you’re writing a nursing blog or doing a seminar if you’re doing online nurse practitioner programs. Once this is no longer a challenge for you – reward yourself every two pages or seminars and start to reward yourself less and less frequently.

Many people find it difficult to progress through the steps they need to take due to their perfectionism. Although it’s sometimes considered a good thing, perfectionism can be severely damaging to progress when you feel like what you’re working on isn’t yet good enough. Try to set yourself achievable markers of progression and remind yourself of the reality of the task your facing – does it matter if you’re not the valedictorian on your online nurse practitioner programs? At the end of the day, probably not. By setting small, achievable steps, you will be able to achieve much more than you ever thought possible and firmly, permanently, take back control of your life as a nurse.

An Afterword

When you eventually complete your goal, you will have success in what you do. Be warned that being successful in what you do, it can be hard to hold on to and can leave you feeling empty if you have thrown everything into achieving your aspiration. You might even get imposter syndrome in extreme cases. That’s why it’s so important, throughout your long-term plan to allow yourself to build on things that are auxiliaries to your aspirations.

Try to supplement your career aspirations by coming more to terms with who you are – start reading about subjects that interest you deeply; try mindfulness and meditation; try to impact other people’s lives for the better. There’s a growing body of research that finds that people who feel successful in themselves are also more likely to be successful at what they do.

So if you want to take back control of your career as a nurse, then finding ways to feel more successful is crucial. Start by following the advice in this blog for the best outcome in your nursing career.