Mental Clutter

Perhaps I have no business writing about clutter, because I am a clutterer. I’m clean. You won’t stick to any surface in our home, but you may have to move some magazines to find a spot for your glass on the coffee table.

Sometimes My Surgical Mask Feels Like a Gag by jparadisi

Sometimes My Surgical Mask Feels Like a Gag by jparadisi

The topic of clutter is larger than that unwieldy pile of unopened mail on the dining room table. In the words of Newman, the mentally unbalanced postal worker on Seinfeld, “The mail never stops. It just keeps coming.”

The relentless flood of mail is not unlike the emotional barrage facing nurses during a typical shift. The tragic diagnosis of a new patient, recurring cancer in a well-known patient, too many patients, not enough nurses, phones constantly ringing, and unfamiliar chemotherapy regimens are just part of it. Then there’s the work environment: difficult coworkers, budget cuts, and, oh, no time for lunch today. At times, it’s overwhelming.

These things create a work day mental clutter difficult to shed at the end of a shift. Mental clutter paralyzes creativity, interferes with relationships, and impedes sleep. Managing stress is essential to happiness.

Having a mental clutter shut-off switch between work and home is effective. A mental clutter shut-off switch is a ritual activity, which when performed, tells your brain that:

  1.  The shift is over.
  2. You are going home.
  3.  You are leaving the workday craziness at work.

Easier said than done, but it can be done. Don’t we teach patients methods for managing stress?

Here are ideas for creating a mental clutter shut-off switch between work and home:

  • Join a gym or yoga class near work, and avoid rush-hour traffic by exercising before driving home.
  • When driving home, turn off the car radio. Listen to soothing CDs or a book on CD, such as God On A Harley by Joan Brady. It’s the story of a nurse learning to simplify her life.
  • As soon as you get home, take a 20-minute walk. Put your walking clothes and shoes on your bed before you leave for work, so they’re ready and waiting for you.
  • Create a personal sanctuary in your home. Mine is a comfortable chair with an ottoman. Next to it are my laptop, paper, pens, a sketchpad, knitting supplies, reading glasses, and several books. A small table holds a cup of coffee or tea.
  • Limit discussions at home about work to 30 minutes. Set a timer if you have to, and then stop when time is up.
  • Limit your time watching the evening news. Avoid it before bedtime. Be informed, but remember that you can’t fix the world.

That brings me to my last point: You deliver the best care reasonably possible to your patients, but you are not responsible for their outcome. You are a nurse, not a superhero.

What would you add to this list?

One thought on “Mental Clutter

  1. You hit my favourite which is exercise. I also find that if I’m low on sleep, I like a shower then a nap, but then I currently am working eight – not twelve – hours, so there is time for the nap.

Comments are closed.