It is no secret that healthcare workers are having an exceptionally hard time balancing their personal lives and work lives right now. Between long shifts and the resulting exhaustion, it seems they don't have any time left to do the other things that give life meaning, like family gatherings, meeting with friends, doing housework, pursuing a new hobby, or simply relaxing. However, there is always a way to turn things around, so we recently invited Jen Zurbrigg, also known as @happyhealthymommajz online, to talk about five ways healthcare workers can improve their work-life balance. This is what she told us.
"It's hard to do sometimes, especially with so many hours being focused on other people. But if you can take even 5 minutes, 25 minutes, an hour to yourself, to read a book, go for a walk, go into the forest and just walk for 10 minutes with no phones, no emails, no work discussions, no talking to your partner. Just silence, just something for you every single day. It is a game-changer. It is worth the 15 minutes less of sleep overnight if that's the only time of day you can do it in the morning, to wake up early and gift yourself with some 'you' time," says Jen.
"Schedule it in like you schedule in your job. You know the hours of your job, you know the hours of when your kids have to be at activities, you know typically when people want to eat meals. So just look at your day and schedule it in as a non-negotiable and it doesn't have to be an hour workout. It doesn't have to be driving to a gym to do it. It can be anything that your body feels good doing, walking, running on a treadmill, or ten-minute yoga. There are so many amazing online fitness apps now that you can do, and the majority of them are free. So whatever amount of time you can put into it, you have to write it down in your schedule so that it becomes a non-negotiable and you move your body because that physical state of sweating and moving turns into so much more mentally for your health. And it also gives you more energy, which then as well helps you sleep better, which gives you more energy. So it's kind of this cycle."
"Do not skip your meals. I know as healthcare workers so often it's go, go, go... but you need to ensure no matter what time of day you're working, you eat. My biggest thing I love is smoothies because they're quick and easy, and you can pack so many nutrients into them. And even if you just throw a bunch of things in a blender, you can blend it before your shift and take it to work with you. Or if you have a little office or lunch area, bring a Magic Bullet and blend it when you're at work. There is no reason to skip a meal when you have smoothies as an option," suggests Jen.
"I love listing my daily wins and really focusing on what you did do, not what you should have done, not the to-do list that didn't get marked off. It's really looking at things like 'I kept the small humans alive today, woohoo win!' 'I got the laundry done woohoo win!' 'I have a fridge full of food', 'I have a job that pays me money,' etc. Just really focusing on the things that you do have and those little mini daily wins that are often just the typical things that you always do. And you may not think much about it, but right before bed, if you have a little notepad or even mentally in your brain without having to write it down because you're tired, just list your wins and get into that habit every single day. It's such a great tip because so many of us just kind of go, 'well, that's normal. Of course I did that. That's my usual day.' Well, it's not usual for everybody. So if you list it as a win and celebrate it, that just activates that happy hormone in your brain, especially before you go to sleep, so then you'll sleep better."
"Asking for help is so hard because many of us don't want to burden someone. As health care workers, you are so used to being the helpers. You're the ones who fix people's problems and put people back together and help others. But you have to remember that it's OK to ask for help and to make that also a priority. If you have kids and you have the family support, ask them who can come to help you and give you a couple of hours a week so that you can get other things done, or just have a day for yourself. Or ask the kids for help. Tell them 'mommy and daddy need help with this.' They can make dinner, they can help clean up, and they can do things around the house. So it's really just trying to get into that practice of helping."
"Just keep it simple. I always think of the word KISS, as in 'keep it super simple.' Start with one thing. Add it as a habit onto a habit you already have and just start stacking it on top of each other and just really make yourself a priority. Because health care workers, you guys are absolute gems. I've always admired everything that you do and how you support other people all of the time. Just remember that you're important too and you need to make yourself a priority as well," concludes Jen.
Jen also answered some of our questions about how can healthcare workers put her tips to practice, even in the toughest of situations.
JEN ZURBRIGG: Absolutely. I think what often happens with health care, especially in the last couple of years, is that it's draining in ways that we didn't really necessarily see before. And people are having adrenal fatigue and physical and mental fatigue. And so, what I do and how I help with whether you're in health care, working eight to four, or working shifts overnight and you're going to bed when most people are waking up, I just really help you understand how to make yourself a priority. Healthcare workers, you guys are always putting your patients and your clients first and you aren't necessarily doing the self-care because there's no time, there's no energy. A 12-hour shift at the hospital doesn't leave a whole lot of other hours for you once you add in maybe a commute, having to cook supper, take care of kids, and drive kids to and from different activities.
JEN ZURBRIGG: I think the biggest challenge really is just making the decision. Once you make a decision that you want to make some lifestyle changes and you want to put yourself a priority, then it starts to become a little bit simpler. Because we do often say yes to a lot of things. Maybe a shift comes up, and so you want to work that shift and help someone. There are so many ways where you turn around and you're being pulled in different directions. So it's very human and very easy to then say yes to that and no to yourself. So if you make that decision to say 'I'm deciding that I'm putting myself first' and make that a clear boundary for yourself, then it becomes a habit and it becomes a non-negotiable. And then you kind of get out of that vicious cycle of life happens, so to speak."
JEN ZURBRIGG: I really try to gift the time with the person I'm working with to just really sit down and do what I like to call a Vision Call. And so we sit down and we cast a vision of why do you want to make these changes? What are your biggest challenges and how do you want to feel? Then, on those super hard days or on those days where they reach out to me and say 'this sucks, I'm done, I don't want to do it,' we can go back to that original conversation and say 'OK, I hear you. However, remember when you said you wanted to have more energy? Remember when you said you wanted to be able to keep up with your four-year-old or not fall asleep on the couch next to your partner at night? What is standing in your way and what is the most challenging right now?' That's how we can kind of peel back the layers, almost like an onion, and just get really to the core root of what is the number one thing they're trying to accomplish. I also do a lot of one-on-ones where, if you're someone who needs that daily support of having a quick text or a quick conversation or a quick voice note from me, then they love that one of my top values is connection, so the more that I can connect with people and help them on a daily basis, that thrives me. We also have a wonderful Facebook group for anyone who is on social media and wants kind of that bigger accountability group where everybody bands together and you're getting information from nutritionists, homeopaths, dieticians, personal trainers, and people outside of my realm that can help with that daily motivation."
Jen is a wife and momma of 2 girls with a background in hospitality. She is passionate about empowering other shift-working families with tools to let their light shine, with simple nutrition solutions and growing their own food. She is all about learning to shred those habits that are no longer serving us and implement sustainable lifestyle shifts that benefit not just physical, but also mental health and nutrition. She also loves social media as a way to interact with more people, seeing it as a free gift that we get to use and a platform where we can reach out and just share and connect.
Watch the full interview with Jen Zurbrigg on the Caring Support Youtube Channel or listen to it on the Caring Support Podcast. And to learn more about Jen, you can find her on social media as @happyhealthymommajz.
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