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Ask yourself what you achieved today, not what you failed to do

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We recently published an article about the use of cognitive behavioural therapy to help depression and low self esteem in post natal mothers. The project was successful in alleviating their symptoms and helping them cope.

When I was reading it I realised that some aspects of the therapy would be helpful to everyone and especially to nurses working in busy and stressful environments. Often at the end of a shift a nurse will feel defeated and frustrated by being unable to complete all the tasks they had wanted to.   

Mothers on the CBT course were encouraged to be gentle with themselves and to soften self-critical thoughts and to regularly use the term “I’m doing the best I can”. That can be a useful message for us all. It can be better when you are looking back over your day to list all the things that you have achieved as well as all those that you have not.

Reflection on where things could have gone better is an important part of the way nurses work but needs to be balanced with things that have gone well.

Mothers in the study found that attending the course helped  them to be less critical with one saying: “Coming to the course has helped me be gentle with myself.”

During the sessions the facilitators and group members regularly use the phrase “I’m doing the best I can” to soften the self-critical thoughts of “I am a failure” or “I’m not good enough” and to address perfectionist tendencies gradually.

I find a to-do list an essential of my working day but I need to accept that not getting through it is likely to be inevitable. Focusing on the tasks that have been ticked at the end of a busy day can help to spur me on for the following day rather than focusing too much on those that were left undone.

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  • This works, I do it on the drive home evry day. Much better than when I used to do the opposite. The only downside is that I don't get to drink as much now!!

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