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6 Ways to Beat Nurse Burnout Before the Holidays

nurse sitting in hospital hallway

The holidays should be a time for cheer and relaxation, but the reality doesn’t always match the Hallmark movie ideal. In fact, research from Harvard Medical School found that 62% of Americans experience elevated stress levels during the holiday season. That study, of course, wasn’t looking specifically at nurses, who already experience a higher level of stress and burnout than the average population.

When you became a nurse, your goal was to serve patients, not to experience increased stress and burnout levels at the holidays – or any other time of the year. And while nurses do face higher rates of burnout, there are tactical solutions that can help. The six below are easy ways to make the holiday season merry and bright.

Practice Traditional Self Care Measures

In a previous blog post, we discussed the foundational self-care measures that lead to improved mental and emotional health. These include:

  • Getting enough sleep

  • Staying hydrating

  • Working out or moving your body 3-4 times a week

  • Scheduling restorative breaks during shifts instead of scrolling on your phone

  • Practice mindfulness

During the holiday and all year round, you should utilize these strategies, but they aren’t the only way to overcome burnout. There are also more proactive changes you can make to beat nursing burnout or create a better work environment for yourself.

Schedule time off

Most nurses aren’t entirely in control of their shifts. You can’t control whether you’re working a Christmas day or are on the night shift on New Year's Eve. But you can control what you do with your time off.

As the holidays approach, review your calendar and schedule activities that light you up during your time off. Depending on your current energy levels, this could look like attending a friend’s holiday party, organizing a family Secret Santa, or vegging out on the couch for a Christmas movie marathon.

Schedule holiday festivities

Similar to the first tip, you should schedule your holiday festivities around your schedule, not when society says they should be. As you know, holidays in healthcare don’t work the same way they do in other fields. It’s not always possible to have Christmas Day or New Year’s Day off, but those dates are arbitrary.

Instead of celebrating on the official holidays, reach out to friends who work in healthcare about having a holiday party at a time that work for everyone. You could also organize a family Christmas celebration on a weekend you have off near December 25th. That way, you and your family can celebrate the holidays whenever everyone has off.

Weigh the benefits of overtime

When people take off during the holidays, shifts open up–often with overtime or holiday pay. While it can be tempting to take as many overtime or holiday shifts as possible, you want to prioritize rest as well as your finances.

Before taking on overtime shifts, ask yourself:

  • How much can I realistically take on?

  • What am I giving up mentally or socially to take on this extra shift? Am I ok with that sacrifice?

  • Will I be getting enough sleep with this extra shift? And will I have enough time to do the things that bring me joy?

An extra paycheck is great, but you always have to weigh it against what you will have to sacrifice and how it may impact your overall health.

Create your ideal job posting

When combatting burnout or practicing self-care, we often think of ways to feel better in the short term. But there’s only so much getting enough sleep or meditation can do if you’re in an unhealthy work environment.

Sometimes, a new job and work environment is required to beat burnout. If you feel called to look for a new nursing job, take the time to reflect on what you want so your new job supports your health.

One way to do this is to set a timer for 20 minutes and jot down everything you like about your current job and the traits you wish your job had. Factors to consider include:

  • What type of team do you want to work on?

  • What subspecialty or area of nursing are you most passionate about?

  • Do you want to work remotely, in person, or in a hybrid format?

Once you have your ideal job posting, you can begin the job search for in-person, hybrid, or remote nursing roles that fit the description.

Find the right tools to prevent Nurse Burnout

To beat burnout, you need to make proactive changes. But you don’t have to make those changes alone. Consider different free tools and resources that can make it easier to beat burnout.

  • If you’d like mental health support, check out the free resources from Debriefing the Front Lines, a nonprofit devoted to the mental well-being of healthcare workers.

  • Dealing with burnout and wish you didn’t have to do it alone? Now you don’t, thanks to the peer support group started by Don’t Clock Out.

  • Looking for a new, healthier nursing job? The free HireMe Healthcare app is here to make the process easier.

  • For podcasts, a book club, and other resources made by nurses for other nurses who suffer from burnout, explore Operation Happy Nurse’s website.

Nurse burnout is a problem that affects nurses, but they aren’t alone in fighting it. There are employers, startups, and nonprofits engaged in helping nurses find better work/life balance and find jobs that support their health as well as their patients. When you’re connected with the right partners, the ability to relieve stress and burnout during the holidays and after becomes easier.


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