Self-Care Means Self-Compassion

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You may have heard the adage, “you can’t pour from an empty cup.” It’s true, you know. You can’t give to others something that you don’t possess. But what happens when your “cup of compassion” runs dry? Where do you fill your cup? Who fills it? You may be surrounded by a group of personal cheerleaders who love to encourage you, but if you’re like most of us, you’ll need to find a way to fill your cup yourself. That’s the essence of what self-care is about - finding ways to support yourself and refuel the necessary resources for more of the good, life-changing work that you do every day.

I’m sure you understand the reasons why having compassion is important to what you do as a nurse. You’ve seen people who are hurting and sick, and you’ve done everything that you can do to make their experience as pleasant as possible. But now I want to challenge you to elevate your level of compassion toward yourself. It’s more difficult for people to make time and resources available for self-compassion when they spend most of their lives being compassionate to others, and herein lies the problem. I want to share with you some simple ways to boost your self-care, and in turn, evaluate your self-compassion.

When I meet people who haven’t yet developed a self-care routine, I love to tell them to start out with a simple gratitude practice. Each night before you sleep (or each morning when you wake up) list 3-5 things that you’re grateful for in your life. This list doesn’t need to be too serious, just write whatever comes to mind. Carry your list in your pocket during your shift, and glance at it if you get discouraged. Over time, you’ll notice that your thinking and outlook in general will become much more positive which will help you “show up” at work with your best attitude and intentions each day.

Since you’re a nurse, I would suggest working some kind of self-reflection time into your routine as well. This could look like a simple journaling practice in a notebook or on your phone. You experience so many different things during your shifts such as your patients’ personalities, the irritable families of patients, co-workers who sometimes disappoint you, and so much more... and we haven’t even gotten into things that you experience which could be traumatic. After experiencing all of those things, you need to “download” that information someplace where it can be archived besides your own brain. Through writing these things down, you release thoughts and memories from your consciousness and put them where they belong, with all your other thoughts from the day in your journal. By self-reflecting, you process and release today’s events and experiences in order to make room for tomorrow’s patients and co-workers who need your compassion.

A well planned and executed self-care strategy can help you have a more positive quality of life as a nurse and it can actually affect the way you show up to care for patients. Will you make an effort to be more self-compassionate? If you will, you’ll find your cup doesn’t seem to empty as quickly as it used to, and you can help others stay full as well.

This content was made possible through the generosity of CeraVe.

Tena Brown is an empathy educator, patient advocate, and inspirational speaker at tena.brown.com.

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Posted by Holly E Carpenter, RN, BSN on Nov 2, 2020 10:57 AM America/Chicago

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I think I might try this to download some of the emotions and objectionable thoughts that stem from some of my more unpleasant patient interactions. It will allow me to download the interaction and free my thought process without having to verbalize my disapproval and disdain. Thank you!!
  • Posted Tue 03 Nov 2020 08:56 PM CST

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