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Feeling overwhelmed?

By: Lillee Gelinas, MSN, RN, CPPS, FAAN

Try replacing busyness with critical habits.

I DONT THINK the title of the song “Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer” is accurate. Your days, like mine, may be hazy and crazy, but certainly not lazy. We can all relate to the busy life. Most of us live in a near-constant state of busyness. Between the demands of job and career, home and family, church and community—not to mention our own health and sanity—things such as open schedules, appointment-free calendars, and zero commitments are a rarity. Has the phrase “It’s what you do that matters” succumbed to“It’s how much you do”?

Constant busyness has become the norm for many of us, especially nurses who already juggle a high-demand job with little free time. High priorities win over personal or health needs, and we mostly do okay juggling it all. But what happens when an event takes your topped-out schedule to a whole new level? Events such as a child’s birth, a return to higher education, a move to a new city, a stressful job transition, a major health diagnosis, or an elderly parent needing your care can leave you overwhelmed.

Whatever the event may be, sometimes routines get hijacked and it’s all you can do to keep your head above water. When this happens, it may be time for a sanity check and hitting “pause” on long-term goals. At these times, a focus on daily and weekly practices becomes critical to well-being. This concept is highlighted in an article by Jackie and John Coleman, who recommend focusing on a few key habits: “Daily or weekly habits aligned with your long-term goals can keep you on track even when it’s hard to think ahead, and they can add stability in an otherwise unsteady time. Each of us have regular practices we try to maintain to give our lives structure, to remain mentally and physically healthy, and to assure we’re approaching life consciously. These habits, important at any time, are essential in our busiest and most chaotic periods.”

So, what should you be focusing on? If you sense that busyness has taken over your life and feeling overwhelmed is the emotion of the day, try this: Find your most critical habits and concentrate on them. The Colemans point to four key areas where we typically find our most critical habits:

  personal reflection: times of quiet and solitude, journaling

  professional reflection: planning and prioritizing tasks, projects, meetings

  building and maintaining relationships: simple routines and time spent with children, spouse/partner, friends

  physical and mental health: exercise, sleep, and healthy food.

What are your critical habits? Do you know? Take a few minutes to identify them and figure out how you can keep them incorporated into even your most chaotic day. These habits can build your personal resilience. And did you know that August 10 is “National Lazy Day”? Think about slowing down for a while, even if it’s just for a day.

If you want to learn other ways to deal with your stress and challenges, don’t miss the article in this month’s Healthy Nurse section: “Building personal resilience.” Coping with chaos is a skill we all need to master, all the time. Enjoy your summer.





Selected reference

Coleman J, Coleman J. When life gets busy, focus on a few key habits. Harvard Business Review. May 28, 2019. hbr.org/2019/05/when-life-gets-busy-focus-on-a-few-key-habits

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