How 14 nurses refresh at the end of a hard day

Fourteen nurses share advice for de-stressing after a difficult day.

We invite all nurses and nursing leaders currently working in healthcare settings to participate in a series of Q&As about their experiences.

Next week's question: How is the CDC recommendation to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people affecting your workflow? 

Please send responses to Anuja Vaidya by Tuesday, March 24, 5 p.m. CST.

Note: The following responses were edited for length and clarity.

Question: How do you de-stress and revitalize yourself at the end of a hard day?

Trish Celano, RN. Senior Vice President, Associate Chief Clinical Officer and Chief Nursing Executive at AdventHealth (Altamonte Springs, Fla.): I used to always take calls on my drive home from work. I found that when I got home, I was terrible at making the transition back into family life. My husband and kids would often say, 'Hey, you're not at work anymore.'

So, a few years ago, I talked to some other female leaders about how to be better. How can I leave my day behind and be the wife and mom I want to be when I walk in the door? It got me thinking about using my drive home as a buffer.

Now, when I get in the car, I have no calls scheduled. I put on music and think about the family I love that's waiting at home for me. I've retrained my brain to treat the commute as time to de-stress and prepare to rejoin my family — which has made me a happier mom, nicer wife and better leader.

Sunny Lay. Director of Nursing Operations at St. Anthony Hospital (Gig Harbor, Wash.): To destress and revitalize myself at the end of a hard day, I practice gratitude. I verbalize out loud two things I am grateful for and one thing I am proud of myself for doing that day. I have introduced this practice within my home with my children as well. This consistent practice creates a deep and steadfast trust that goodness exists, even in the face of uncertainty or suffering, which we are often faced with in healthcare. It provides a more optimistic view toward life and a greater sense of connection.

Kristin Christophersen, DNP, RN. Chief Nursing Officer at Fountain Valley (Calif.) Regional Hospital & Medical Center: I have an hour drive home after work. Audible has become my best friend as I lose myself in the narrative of the books. I've read (listened to) more books in the last year than I have in many, many years! Once I'm finally home, a hug from my 10-year-old is all I need to wash all my thoughts away and refocus on what is most important in life.

Maylynn West. Director of Nursing Operations at St. Clare Hospital (Lakewood, Wash.): When it's been a long, hard day, I like to end my workday on a positive note and round with my staff and patients. The first thing I do when I get home is turn off all my devices and make it a point to sit and have dinner with my family. At dinner we've made it a tradition to ask questions from a set of conversation cards, or we ask our favorite question, which is 'What are you grateful for?' The answers from my boys always melt my heart and give me the opportunity to reflect on my 'why' in life.

Lee Woodman, RN. Staff Nurse, Behavioral Health at Shasta Regional Medical Center (Redding, Calif.): I pet and hug my dog and then spend some time alone in my room — some quiet time with no music or TV. Or some quiet time in nature is even better (weather permitting). Peace and quiet is imperative to unwind.

Jeremiah Bame. Chief Nursing Officer at Piedmont Newton Hospital (Covington, Ga.): At the end of a hard day, I make it a point to take some time to disconnect and recharge. With technology being such an integral part of our lives, it's easy to stay connected to work by answering e-mails or making follow-up phone calls. For me, it's important to take some time off — even if it's just a couple of hours.

The ways I like to recharge are by taking my dog for a long walk, playing a game of tennis, or cooking some good food. If there are follow-ups that I must address, I will log back in later in the evening and take care of items that cannot wait until the next day. Taking that time to disconnect and do something that recharges me helps me stay connected to my purpose and ensures that I have the energy to be fully engaged in my work when needed.

Tammy Richards, RN. Assistant Vice President of Professional Practice and Learning at Intermountain Healthcare (Salt Lake City): Reflecting on what went well and possible areas for improvement for about 15 minutes at the end of the day allows me to create a plan for leveraging the successes or figuring out what I can do to improve. This short exercise has always helped me 'let it go' so I can move forward at the end of the day, being truly present for myself and my family.

Nichole Rekowski, RN. Women's Health Ambulatory Care Nurse at Henry Ford Health System (Detroit): Through music and exercise. As a heavy metal-loving rocker chick, I find complete solace in cranking up my favorite songs and just singing and rocking out. I also have a found love for spin, which is a stationary cycling class, that allows me to get lost in the rhythm of the music and the class.

Danielle Isham, RN. Clinical Supervisor at Atrium Health Behavioral Health Charlotte (N.C.): As a nurse, de-stressing and revitalizing myself at the end of a hard day is one of the most important things I can do for myself and the patients I serve. De-stressing helps to put one's emotions back into balance. I do this by setting time aside each day to work out. I take a variety of group fitness classes that allow me to 'leave it all on the floor.' Each night I can walk out of the gym with more energy than I had when I went in. This energy is in an investment. The dividends it pays out help me to continue to be a good wife, mother and nurse.

Kelli Hohenstein, RN. Chief Nurse Officer at Dallas Regional Medical Center (Mesquite, Texas): At the end of a hard day, I tend to drive home in silence — no radio, no stimuli. I find this to be calming. But nothing beats the moment I get home and find my sweet English bulldog, Biscuit, waiting for me, wagging her tail, and acting as if it has been weeks since she last saw me. I find her sweetness and cuddles to be quite revitalizing.

Becca Smith, RN. Learning Specialist in the Neuroscience Trauma Unit at Primary Children's Hospital (Salt Lake City): By giving myself permission to just be. I don't let myself worry about dirty dishes in the sink or the endless todo list that awaits me at home. I just live in the moment with my family. Snuggle for an extra minute with my littles at bedtime. Watch a show with my husband, instead of worrying about laundry. Or do something just for me.

Sandy Vincent, RN. Assistant Vice President of Patient Care Services at Atrium Health (Charlotte, N.C.): The most important thing I do is take a moment to self-reflect and truly get in touch with how I am feeling. A hard day can be positive if I am able to accomplish what I set out to do, or it can be negative if I feel things are not going anywhere. Taking that few minutes to clarify helps me to decide what activity will help me de-stress.

Noise-canceling headphones and listening to my favorite music help with all stress — I just change the type of music I listen to based on the type of stress I am feeling. Taking a walk with my husband and dog, with no phone, does wonders, as the outdoors is calming, and I am with those I care about without work distraction. And lastly, if it is a day that I am asking myself, 'why do I do this job?' I take a minute to write down the positive things about the day to help deflect the negative. Journaling the positive is a great way to redirect ourselves.

Melodie Toll, RN. Executive Director of Medical/Surgical Operations at Intermountain Healthcare (Salt Lake City): I know it is easy to get discouraged and think you are not the right person for the job on hard days, but when I start to head this direction in my thinking I remind myself of all the good things I have been able to achieve, and then know I will put my best foot forward again the next day. Giving yourself time to rest and disconnect is always a must.

Lorraine McDonald, RN. Psychiatric Staff Nurse in the Center for Behavioral Health at Shasta Regional Medical Center (Redding, Calif.): I go home and make a nice meal with my husband, or he and I sit and talk about what has happened for me on an emotional level that day. It's very important to put emotions into perspective to de-stress.


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