During the holidays, with the comings and goings of family and friends, I was reminded of the tension between personal self-care and professional self-care. There is this side of work/life balance that is implicitly influenced by the people I grew up with—my family.
I was privileged to grow up in a helping family and it is probably why I became a nurse. If someone needed help, you helped them. If something needed done, you did it. No matter your own fatigue. You just did the work, no matter the cost. The family lesson to self: Always be doing.
In my professional life, I have learned about boundaries, compassion fatigue, moral distress, and burnout. My professional self-care over the years has included a lot of work around self-trust, worthiness, and self-affirmation. It was important for me to understand my development as a helper to become a nurse. I needed to apply my nursing education to a deeper understanding of my strengths and my capacity.
Yet an interesting phenomenon occurs when I am surrounded by my family. I find that I can easily slip into old ways of thinking and do, do, do. How I speak to myself changes as though I have not practiced as a nurse, almost like being a kid again. Suddenly, I am hearing thoughts about “not doing enough,” and my personal self-care is at risk.
I am so glad I am a nurse! When those thoughts arise, my nursing care for myself is to breathe, to recognize the symptom, and to use my nursing interventions from my professional self-care and apply them to my personal self-care. I remember who I am now—an adult, with adult self-awareness and self-management. It means that I come to my family relationships from a present moment perspective, meeting them where they are, and being true to myself, my dignity, and my worth.
I am so grateful and appreciative of my family’s care. Without them, I would not be the person I am today or the nurse I came to be.
Dr. Amy E. Rettig provides nursing care for both professional and non-professional caregivers. She presents, publishes and studies well-being (developing the caregiver within) from the perspectives of holism, caring relationships, and systems.