Taking a Step Back: An Open Letter to My Readers

 

If you follow me you’ve probably noticed that I have been missing in action. And if so, you’re likely wondering what happened to me, the content, and if I’m ever coming back. I’m going to answer each of these questions, but first I’d like to point out how important it is to me that I stay transparent and authentic with you, my wonderful readers. I see our relationship as a two-way street in which both sides must be traveled on. If you’re going to take time out of your schedule to keep up with me and my business then I’m going to shoot it to you straight, so here’s the truth:

I was experiencing burnout.

Yes, you heard me correctly. I – the nurse burnout guru – got burned out.

Honestly, I’m not even that surprised, as this speaks volumes to everything I have been writing and speaking about for years now. Burnout can strike anyone, anytime, anywhere. I’d say for the past six months or so, something wasn’t quite “right” and I’m sharing this with you for two reasons:

  1. So you can see that I am not above the law when it comes to nursing burnout
  2. So you can read this example and ask yourself questions to reflect on your own circumstances

How Did This Happen to Me?

So, how did this happen to me? The same way anything else “happens” to us. It evolved over time, creeping up on me without notice. Just like when you feel tired or you have that slow creeping itch in your throat…you get subtle signs that burnout is creeping up on you.

This is the very reason why pausing, reflecting, and being in touch with how you feel (physically, mentally, energetically, etc.) is CRUCIAL to your overall health. It’s just like when you are assessing a patient. You look around and observe, listening to the signs. You need to give yourself the same courtesies, as this heightened awareness just may save you from burnout.

So, how did I know that I was in this mess?

I was highly emotional. Everything, even the littlest of things, would set me off. For example, if I was on a call with my social media support gal (who is a ROCK STAR herself, by the way!), I would hear that lump in my throat and be fighting off tears. And all we were doing was talking about posts, blogs, and graphic images for goodness sake! Not exactly life altering topics, right?

I was withdrawn. I didn’t want to engage online. I was avoiding the work that I had to do, even writing content for this blog! I put off deadlines and cancelled meetings, which is highly unlike me. I just didn’t feel social enough to get my online work done.

I felt irritated all of the time. It was as though everything was a pain in the you-know-what. Just to send an email was frustrating. But you know when even the little things that seem so unimportant piss you off? It’s a sign of stress and/or burnout!

Sure, there were many other signs and symptoms that told me it was time for a change, but just re-reading the above has left me with a heavy heart.

There’s a teaching point here for you though. How do you feel? Are you snappy? Emotional? Upset all of the time or just keeping to yourself? Check in here and now and take a self-assessment to see where you’re at in respect to your own signs and symptoms of well-being.

Lessons Learned

Since this has been going on for sometime now, I have had some time to think about the reasons this occurred. Here are some of the “whys” and, again, I encourage you to think about what pushes you over the edge.

Relationships must serve you. Yes, I realize how selfish that sounds, but it truly isn’t. For example, I got into some pretty toxic work relationships. Without giving too much detail in order to protect confidentiality, I made some poor relationship choices. Instead of thinking things through and asking myself “is this partnership going to serve me as much as the other” I went all in with little to no thought.

The outcome? Me not feeling like myself in my work. I need to be passionate about what I do. The teachings and content I share must come from my heart. There must be honesty, respect, and kindness in a relationship. Communication needs to be open, yet respectful towards all parties. If you find yourself in a toxic work relationship you need to either address it or get out.

You cannot compare yourself to others. Oh boy, this is a biggie.

Unfortunately, I started playing the comparison game. I know it is bad for us, but I fell into the trap anyways. Being an online presence focused on leading others towards positive change, I have to be active and aware of what is happening in the communities online. And, if I want to learn and grow, of course I need to look up to my colleagues who have paved the way before me.

That’s all fine and dandy, but I started to compare myself to others’ success and tried to mimic some of the work patterns I observed to be successful. But guess what? I am not them, so this didn’t work for me at all! However, there is a gift here. I learned who I do not want to be and how I do not want to work.

Again, think about your current work situation. Are you comparing yourself to a colleague that you look up to? Finding mentors is a positive thing, but putting yourself down because you are not quite there or trying to work as they do just doesn’t work at all!

You need to have fun! Anyone that knows me may find this one disappointing because if you’ve been reading and following along you know that I PRIDE myself on having fun!

But the work hasn’t been fun for awhile. One thing I realized was that my reasons changed. I went into the speaking world to get my name out there and grow my reach. Back in 2014, when I was speaking with my business coach on one of our calls, she suggested that by doing talks I would more quickly grow my social media following, email list, and reach both on and offline.

That was six years ago! And while I LOVE some aspects of speaking, there are parts about that kind of work that I just don’t jive with. Honest truth? I have very thin skin, so if someone says something that hits me the wrong way and I take it HARD.

And the truth is that 97% of the feedback on my talks has been over-the-top positive. In fact, I have been recommended to other groups because of talks I have given and I have been asked back to the same organizations multiple times. However, even a minimal amount of negative feedback has always been rough on me.

Being away from home all of the time can become tiring as well. And then, my speaking career started to grow. So much so, in fact, that a speaking agency began pursuing me, and BAM! Just like that I was overwhelmed and thinking “Is this really what I want to do?”

It may be time to ask yourself the same question. Why are you doing some of the things that you are currently doing in your work? Has the reason you started down the path you’re on changed? Take time to pause from time-to-time to reassess what you’re doing and why you got involved in the first place. If it is no longer fun for you, it may be time to re-think things.

You need time to learn and grow. One of the main challenges with my work is keeping fresh content alive. I have been writing on this blog for close to seven years now. And to be honest? I am out of ideas! I believe that this is natural and just tends to happen from time to time, especially if someone isn’t filling themselves up with new information.

For example, when I started with my online work, I was fresh out of coaching programs and lots of various new training. I had an ample amount of ideas and information and could apply what I learned to my writing. I even started to create books and programs. Then I took a pause from the learning to be able to apply everything I learned and teach it to others.

Right now, my learning is kind of stagnant. I had actually been feeling this even before the burnout started. I ordered some new books and tried to get myself excited about learning fresh things, but so far nothing has stuck. Just as I have said many times, I think that there’s a time to learn and a time to pause and figure out what you want to learn next.

You need to profit first. Being in business for yourself is great, but you have to make money. Otherwise, it is not a business. It’s a hobby.

I’ve never been great at this. I just love what I do and don’t worry too much about the profit margins. However, when I look back at my entrepreneurial journey it’s clear to me that I’ve been paying other professionals to do a lot of what I could learn and/or do myself. This has blocked some of the learning I mentioned above as well as lowered my own profits, which is clearly a no-win situation.

What’s Next?

I wanted to share this with you so you knew where the heck I have been and not so much as to where I am going, but what you can expect next. First of all, I am taking a partial hiatus for the rest of the year (self-care here I come)! This doesn’t mean you won’t hear from me. I have podcasts recorded out for a lot of the year as well as a few new blog posts in the mix. In other words, I’m not gone; I’m just on an extended vacation of sorts!

I am taking this break to give myself the care and attention I deserve, as well as think about all the future holds for me and my business. It’s important to me that I need love what I do and have fun doing it so that I can best serve you! .

With that being said, I’m choosing to be happy. I’m choosing to find the work that will fulfill me and light me up. I am the only one who can take this time to pause and reflect so that I can make it out as my very best self. I think it will be more than interesting to see what’s around the corner and I hope you stick around for the ride! I also hope you’re choosing what’s best for you right now.

p1050390About the Author: Keynote speaker and podcaster, Elizabeth Scala MSN/MBA, RN, partners with hospitals, nursing schools, and nurse associations to transform the field of nursing from the inside out. As the host of the Your Next Shift podcast, Elizabeth supports nursing organizations in celebrating and recognizing their staff in a meaningful way. Elizabeth received her dual master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University. She is also a certified coach and Reiki Master Teacher. Elizabeth lives in Maryland with her supportive husband and playful pit bull.

 

 

 

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“I’m a Nurse, but I’m Not Sure I LOVE Nursing Anymore! Can You Help Me?”

 

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