“You can get past the dead end. You can break through the ceiling. I did and so have countless others.”

The Nurse Practitioner Burnout Mini-Series #3

Man Hands Headache Burnout  - geralt / Pixabay

This is the third article in the Nurse Practitioner Burnout Mini-Series. If you are new to the series, please read the 1st and 2nd article here: Article #1, Article #2.

This series is from a contributing author for The Elite NP: Erica Dorn, MSN, APRN. She is a recovering burned out nurse practitioner herself and is the author of a website on nurse practitioner burnout at https://www.ericadornnp.com/. For additional tips and support, check out her Facebook page as well: The Burned-Out Nurse Practitioner.

Erica touches on another great point in her 3rd article, and that is about taking care of yourself. Too many of us do not live a healthy lifestyle. How can you promote health and well-being if you are not healthy yourself? Do you get enough exercise? Do you eat a balanced diet? I credit my exercise routine and daily smoothie to my overall good health and productive lifestyle (plus TRT!). I urge everyone to read the article HERE about what it takes to keep your body in optimal health as a nurse practitioner entrepreneur. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for adequate self-care. With that said, really put serious thought into taking the steps necessary to optimize your body, not only to prevent burnout, but to improve your overall quality of life for the long term. Now, onto the 3rd article…


Has anyone ever been on an airplane? The stewardess stands in front and demonstrates how to put on an oxygen mask. The instructions include the need to place YOUR oxygen mask on before you help others next to you.

When a plane is going down, you have to save yourself BEFORE you help anyone else.

The analogy is a PERFECT example of self-care.

We must be taking care of ourselves before we can even think about taking care of our families, co-workers, or even patients. We are not our best selves if we do not care for ourselves first.

As NPs, we constantly give to others. We have a mentally, emotionally, and physically draining job. If we do not take care of ourselves, how do we expect to care of others?

If you do not schedule time in your day for yourself, then I challenge you to start. Exercise, massage, meditating, working on your latest entrepreneurial project… do something YOU want to do. We just talked about prioritizing time to do what you love!

Now let’s take a deeper dive into a few additional self-care practices. 

Physical activity: We all know the impact of a “sedentary lifestyle” on our bodies. We use it as a diagnosis for goodness sakes! As NPs, we know exercise can manage and prevent debilitating diseases. We know the cardiovascular improvements. We prescribe exercise to help with depression symptoms. We know activity can improve burnout. So, let us do it! Make a small change today! Get your co-workers, spouse, friend to be your accountability partner. Whatever it takes!

Quick tips to increase activity: Park in the farthest parking stall and take the stairs. Get a standing desk. Sneak a quick walk in (even 10 minutes) over your lunch break, the fresh air helps… Make it a goal to get moving at least 20-30 minutes on a daily basis. You must do this for your health!

Nutrition: You are what you eat! Again, with our schooling, we have learned about the importance of nutrition in the development of disease. What about you? Do you feel sluggish and tired all day? Did you sneak a donut from the break room because you felt hypoglycemic? Paying more attention to what we are eating and drinking can have a significant impact on our bodies.

Quick tips to improve nutrition: Drink more water. Give up one food you know you shouldn’t be having (i.e. soda, cookies, etc.) for one week- then try two weeks, and so on. Keep some healthy snacks on your desk to keep you from getting hangry! Think of nuts, fruits, or a protein bar. Whatever it takes to curb your appetite so you do not cheat and eat junk!

Sleep: Nurses are trained not to sleep. We learn early on in our careers to function with little sleep. 12+ hour shifts. Night shift. Going through NP school while working part/full time. Taking night and weekend call. We are trained to assess, diagnose, and treat with a lack of sleep.

And yet we know sleep is so important!

Our bodies need to rest and rebuild during sleep. I’ll be the first to admit I am cranky and impatient when I don’t get enough sleep. My brain doesn’t function at the level I need it to work. I make worse food choices when I am tired. Commit to getting more, consistent sleep.

Quick tips to improve sleep: Start slowly by going to bed 15 minutes earlier at night. Turn the TV and phone off an hour before bed (this is so important). Complete relaxing stretches. Do whatever you must do to get more sleep. It will greatly improve your mood, not to mention prevent disease! 

Rest your mind: Our minds are constantly on the go. From phone calls and medication refills at work to remembering to schedule our dentist appointment, to making sure your child did their homework… The list goes on and never ends.

Our minds are filled with so much information.

I think our moderate age makes it worse than it has ever been for the human species because of the constant noise and information available on the Internet (information overload). To keep balance in our life, we need to remove some of this noise. We need to rest our minds.

We should be working hard and resting harder.

A great example of resting our minds is learning to be truly present in the moment. This is one of the things that has helped me keep balance in my life. When I’m at work, I focus on work. When I’m at home, I focus on my family. By leaving my phone in the drawer, turning the TV off, sitting at the table for supper, I give more attention to myself and my children.

There are so many distractions in the world and our minds are always racing. It takes some practice to shut your mind off and live in the moment.

Quick tips for resting your mind and being present in the moment: Close your email at work. Shut your door if you need to focus on charting. Avoid the gossip and conversations that make you feel more overwhelmed. Leave your phone on the counter, on silent, when you’re at home. Avoid any extra noise that does not bring value to your life.

Self-care does not have to be perfect, but it is such an important component in overcoming burnout. Just remember, small accomplishments fuel you for bigger successes! 

Stay tuned for the final article tomorrow!

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