Nurse with mask on

After coaching many nurses and leaders over the last year, I have noticed a common theme. When nurses are feeling overwhelmed or out of control, we tend to overfunction. Our inherent role as caregivers and problem solvers make this an obvious way to manage our stress, but it is not a sustainable one.

Overfunctioning is necessary in a crisis, but the problem is, we get so used to this reactionary mode of operating, it becomes our new normal. Chronic overfunctioning leads to underfunctioning, yours and theirs.

When we overdo one area in our life, like work, it comes at the expense of other areas, like our physical and emotional health or connection with loved ones. Ironically, we still feel like we aren’t doing enough, lose our sense of purpose, and exhaustion sets in, leading us to burn out.

Our overfunctioning also prevents others from growing and learning, by encouraging their underfunctioning. Our modeling trains our staff, colleagues, and family how to rely too heavily on us. When we disrespect our time and needs, so does everyone else.

Are you overfunctioning? You probably are if you:

  1. Are always in a rush, running late for the next meeting, appointment, or call
  2. Don’t consider saying no because you jump in to fix something before someone even asks
  3. Continue to take on more, even when you are overwhelmed but still don’t feel like it’s enough
  4. Have trouble asking for and accepting help
  5. Don’t spend your time and energy to socialize, exercise, or recover because you don’t have the time and energy

There is ONE simple self-leadership skill that can help you break the cycle of overfunctioning and it will sound completely counterintuitive. As an emergency room nurse of 23 years whose impatience and need for speed are central to my core, this is what I know works: SLOWING DOWN.

This is not moving in slow motion, it’s slowing down our thinking that is anxious, spinning, and yelling at us to do more, better, faster. When you slow down to connect with yourself, you remember you are the one who chooses your level of functioning.

Take a couple of minutes right now with 10 deep and slow breaths, repeat your favorite affirmation, or try the tapping practice in the video to slow down your busy mind.

4 Comments

  1. Molly Hargarten on April 6, 2021 at 4:38 pm

    The tapping practice was surprising effective. Felt much better after doing this. Thanks.

    • Diane Sieg on April 7, 2021 at 2:04 am

      Good for you Molly! I have found tapping to be very effective.

  2. Kim on April 6, 2021 at 9:04 pm

    Have been feeling overwhelmed which is affecting stomach. This reduced the sensation of stomach hurting

  3. Diane Sieg on April 7, 2021 at 2:05 am

    So happy to hear tapping helped your stomach Kim. Keep practicing!

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