5 ways to find personal happiness as a nurse practitioner

personal happiness as a nurse practitioner

I’ve been struggling with contentment and personal happiness as a nurse practitioner.

Feeling content in my personal and professional life is always something I have struggled with. I am naturally a hard working, goal focused person who is always dreaming a bigger dream. But lately I have been driving myself crazy.

I have been questioning my life’s purpose and my professional path as a nurse practitioner. I have life stressors (like most people) that have been consuming my thoughts. I am to the point that the uncertain and anxious feelings have taken over my mind. Everyday seems to be a rollercoaster of thoughts. I have been feeling unsatisfied and like I never have enough. This fixed mindset can cause negative emotions and thoughts.

Can any of you relate? 

Lack of personal happiness as a nurse practitioner

As nurse practitioners, we are predisposed to work related challenges that can negatively impact our personal happiness as a nurse practitioner. I usually talk about these professional obstacles but in this article I wanted to address personal happiness.

I will break down some of my own fears and then give steps I have used to improve my personal happiness as a nurse practitioner. 

I have been feeling unsatisfied.

I am all about setting bigger goals and achieving our dreams. But I have struggled with never feeling content for what I have already achieved. I am often in a fixed mindset and always feeling like I don’t have enough. While it is our human nature to never feel satisfied and always want more, it is not helpful to have this fixed mindset. If we stay in the negative space, we never will have enough (even if we already do). 

I am anxious about the future.

I have noticed that I can become extremely anxious about things that have not happened (or may never happen). This is common for most people to feel anxious about the unknown. I am constantly stressing about what I should do with my life and restless about what my future holds.  

“Our anxiety does not come from thinking about the future but wanting to control it.” Kahlil Gibran. 

I was stressed about the things I don’t have.

There are some financial milestones that I want to achieve but have not yet reached. I have been stressing myself out and noticing everything I am lacking. This has definitely left me frustrated, discouraged, and experiencing a lack of personal happiness as a nurse practitioner. 

I think many APRNs can relate to these feelings and lack of personal happiness as nurse practitioners. No worries, you are not alone! You are a human and it is our human nature to have these feelings! But realize that you are also in control of changing this negative inner talk.

Ways to find personal happiness

Here are a few tips I have been working on to improve my happiness as a nurse practitioner.

Please note I said “working on.” I know I will never completely resolve the negative feelings, but I know it is something I can improve. I have had a growth mindset in the past. Where I was pleased with my current success and had a healthy dose of striving for new goals.

But I have also had times like now, struggling with personal happiness as a nurse practitioner. It is something I will always work on improving. But ultimately I know I can change my mindset!

Identify the cause. 

I took some time to identify why I was not finding personal happiness as a nurse practitioner. One of the reasons for my negative mindset was that I was comparing myself to others. I chatted with a friend about her new nurse practitioner job and I immediately felt like my current job was not good enough. I wasn’t making enough money. I wasn’t getting a good enough experience. It wasn’t a very good job.

But I realized that my thoughts of comparison were causing my lack of personal happiness as a nurse practitioner. Helping to identify the thoughts allows me to know what to focus on to overcome. 

Gratitude practice. 

Writing a gratitude list is something I did to help resolve my own burnout. It is something I recommend to other nurse practitioners to overcome nurse practitioner burnout. I used to wake up early and complete a daily gratitude practice.

But for whatever reason, I lost the consistency. I didn’t initially realize how much I relied on this daily practice to improve my personal happiness as a nurse practitioner. It is so important to acknowledge the small (or big) things for which we are thankful. I have restarted the practice and already noticed a difference!

I encourage nurse practitioners to give it a try! Dedicate a specific time to completing this gratitude practice. Grab a journal and write down 5-10 things that you are grateful for. It can be “a warm cup of coffee on a cold morning, a heartfelt conversation with a patient, release of your favorite show on Netflix, ability to get out of work on time to attend a child’s sporting event, etc.”

Implement a daily gratitude practice and see an increase of personal happiness as a nurse practitioner. 

Compare life to a year ago. 

Now usually I don’t recommend nurse practitioners compare their lives, but sometimes it is necessary to see the progress. As previously mentioned, I have been struggling with the financial goals that I have not achieved. I keep thinking about the lack in my life instead of seeing the progress I have already made.

I took a step back and compared it to the progress I made over the past 1 year, 5 years, and even 10 years. I am way farther in finances, confidence, professional development, all personal aspects. I had to take a step back to see how far I have come.

This helped me to acknowledge that even though I am not yet where I want to be, I am way farther than I was before!

Improve physical health. 

I have always found a positive correlation of my physical health and improvement of happiness as a nurse practitioner. There are essentially three pillars of health: physical, mental, and emotional. I have found when I am struggling with one of these pillars, I can ensure I am meeting the other pillars.

When I was feeling frustrated and lacking strong mental and emotional health, I put more focus on my physical health. I make sure I get 7-8 hours of sleep a night. I exercise daily because I have found it improves my emotional health and anxious feelings. Improving my physical health was an easy intervention for me and it helped improve my mental and emotional health. 

Don’t forget to live your goal. 

One of my goals is to reach a level of financial freedom that would allow me more flexibility in my job. I crave this flexibility so I can spend more time with my family. I want to be able to attend my children’s games and activities. I want to give them experiences I have never even had. I want to be there when they need me.

Part of my lack of personal happiness as a nurse practitioner is because I am not yet to that point. But then I realized that instead of working hard and waiting to achieve that, I should be thankful for the time I do have.

Even though I am working full time and do not make it to every child’s activity, I am very thankful for the events I am able to attend. I am thankful for the opportunities I have to be present in my children’s lives. I am currently living out a portion of my ultimate goal and I need to acknowledge this!

Live in the moment. 

I was feeling very frustrated and had a lack of personal happiness as a nurse practitioner. But I took a few minutes to truly live in the moment. I sat down on the couch with my son as we looked through pictures when he was a baby. We laughed and smiled and truly lived in the moment.

I would usually cut this time short (it was after both of our bedtimes!) but I decided to live in the moment! It meant so much to spend quality time with my son and he told me how much he appreciated getting to look at old pictures! It is so worth it to take time out of our busy lives and truly live in the moment!

Improving my personal happiness as a nurse practitioner is still a work in progress. Managing contentment in life is something I will always have to work on and I think many nurse practitioners will agree.

We go through seasons of life where some days are more difficult than others. But as humans we have to continue to work on our own personal development. While I still have days that I am more anxious than others, I have been able to improve my personal happiness as a nurse practitioner.

Which one of these tips will you use to improve your personal happiness as a nurse practitioner?

Erica D the NP is a family nurse practitioner and burnout coach. Erica created The Burned-out Nurse Practitioner to help overwhelmed APRNs create work-life balance, overcome nurse practitioner burnout, and advocate for themselves. The Burned-out Nurse Practitioner offers online courses, coaching, and support. Learn more at www.burnedoutnp.com

For time management and charting tips, check out The Nurse Practitioner Charting School– The one stop for all documentation resources created specifically for nurse practitioners. Learn more at www.npchartingschool.com

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