How to Improve 3 Areas That Cause Distress

No matter what profession you choose, there are aspects outside of the job description that have a negative impact on you. Life is already hard on it’s own without the human tendency of self-sabotage. There are three main areas where distress can seep in through the cracks and slowly erode your happiness. 


1. Poor Boundaries

Sometimes in an effort to be kind or strong, we over-extend ourselves, do not say “no” when we need to, or ignore harmful behavior. This happens both on and off the clock. It is important to understand what your needs are and it is not selfish to take the necessary time to meet your basic needs. Just because you set a boundary does not mean others will respect it. It is up to you to uphold the line. If you let people cross your boundaries, they will keep taking advantage. If you set firm boundaries, it can sometimes upset people who are not used to you sticking up for yourself or they do not have boundaries themselves. However, over time they will know where you stand and press on that boundary line less and less frequently. 

Boundaries are needed in every relationship— personal and professional. They are unique to who it is and their relationship to you. Acquaintances have more boundaries than your best friend. A best friend can show up uninvited and scoop you both bowls of ice cream from your fridge. If someone you met for five minutes at a party barged into your house, you might call the cops. This may be a drastic comparison, but you can be surprised at where you are giving or sharing of yourself too freely. As humans we only have so much physical and mental energy to expend before we hit empty. Take inventory of your relationships and see where boundaries may be blurry or non-existent. 

Whether at home or at work are there people who:

  • Take advantage of your kind nature? 
  • Do not listen or get upset when you say “No”?
  • Have a one-sided relationship with you being the only contributor? 
  • Make you feel guilty when you try to take time for self-care or other relationships that are not them?
  • Fixate on your mistakes more than your accomplishments?

Practice assertiveness when people try to undermine you. It may not be a quick and easy road to everyone accepting your boundaries so remain vigilant. If the relationships you currently have are not a healthy place for you to be at this time of your life, surround yourself with people who are strong where you are weak. Find interpersonal relationships where you feel comfortable discussing personal or workplace issues and allow you to meet your needs.

2. Being Over-critical:

This is common among nurses because our actions frequently have life-or-death outcomes, but it is also common among all high-achievers and perfectionists in every profession. Unfortunately, mistakes happen. Details get overlooked. It might not happen often, but when it does, we beat ourselves up. We need to own our mistakes, accept the consequences, and work to improve ourselves and our environments. When processing mistakes, it is important to maintain realistic expectations of yourself. If you spiral into feeling like you are not enough after a mistake, search for the reason why. Is someone telling you that or is that coming from somewhere deep within? Neither reason is good and may need additional help to process those insecurities. 

Please be gracious to yourself after mistakes because we all make them.

3. Neglecting self-care

Make time for yourself and recharge. I cannot emphasize this enough. Even though someone may seem like the energizer bunny, at some point the batteries will run out of juice and need to be replaced. When you overextend yourself, it increases the risk of becomIng distracted and making mistakes. If consistency with self-care is an issue, try starting small and slowly increase the frequency of your self-care activities until it becomes an ingrained practice. 


No job, person, or relationship is perfect. Even if you love your job, there will be hard days. When you work in a profession like nursing, even good days can have really hard elements to them. To be honest, the money is not worth dealing with the hard aspects of the job— you have to have a passion for helping others in order to survive. We love what we do and see it more as a calling than just a paycheck. When you find an environment that is right for you AND have support from co-workers, family, and leadership, you will develop the strength to withstand the hard days.

The beauty of the nursing profession is most evident when nurses are educated & empowered to THRIVE. When that happens there is nothing nurses cannot accomplish.