Working in any field where you help others in need on a daily basis can be draining. You not only share your time and expertise, but you also potentially offer up your own emotional resources - hope, optimism, compassion, motivation, etc...
In my time as an APRN, I have learned that my emotional reserves are not limitless or even quick to renew. There are days I leave work drained with little motivation to accomplish anything more and I 'tune-out' on my own life until I get the chance to sleep. What drains my reserves the quickest is not what I assumed it would be. I expected that my clients' difficult stories and their consequent suffering would have me fatigued, but that isn't the case.
Instead, I find myself feeling tapped with a host of other events, such as (but not limited to):
- A message with a vague complaint that makes me feel as though I've failed the client somehow or fills me with anticipatory dread about not having the right answer at the right time
- Deciding when to prescribe (and withhold) controlled substances
- Determining that a client's symptoms are primarily characterological and medications have reached their maximum effectiveness
In the beginning, I could rely on my successes at work to replenish my emotional reserves, but as I have progressed this has become less the case. I'm finding that positive patient outcomes have become the new "normal" and are quickly dismissed by my overachieving brain to focus on more problematic matters.
Efficient? Yes. Fulfilling? No.
So... where do I go from here? How do I learn to appreciate the little victories again? I haven't quite figured that out, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it starts with mindfulness.
I know I need to do something. I know that being fully present as a provider is important to me and leads to a better rapport with my clients. I also know that pulling away from genuine empathy and compassion will lead to a cold demeanor and robotic-like care.
So the task ahead... find out what nurtures my emotional reserves and brings a sense of fulfillment to my life. Easier said than done, I think.