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As An ICU Nurse, Here's What I Learned About Finding Balance In Life

Tana Amen, R.N.
Written by Tana Amen, R.N.
Woman Standing With Her Back to the Sun, Hands Held Behind Her Back

When I first began working as a neurosurgical ICU trauma nurse, I was taking care of some of the sickest patients in the hospital. For the first six months, I was constantly stressed, to the point that I threw up, had nightmares, and was constantly on edge.   

When things got particularly hectic in the hospital, I found myself getting distracted by menial tasks, like picking up the bloody rags on the floor. Perhaps, this was my way of coping with the general sense of overwhelm I was experiencing on a regular basis.

However, as an ICU nurse, I realized what I really needed to be doing instead was to concentrate on the ABCs—airway, breathing, circulation. Those are the most important elements in life support, not those bloody rags.

It took me time, but I came to discover the same principle applies to life, as well. In my own life, I'd been focusing on trivial things instead of what really mattered to my overall well-being. Over time, focusing on my personal "ABCs" helped me find my life's passion as a leader in the brain-health field.

How about you? Here are three steps to help you find and focus on the most important elements of your own life. Let's consider them, your personal ABCs:

1. Take stock of your habits.

Are you spinning your wheels picking up the bloody rags in your life (metaphorically, of course)? If you find yourself letting small stressors or menial things get in the way of what really matters most to you, it's time to take a pause.

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2. Identify your ABCs.

In order to understand your own life essentials, it's important to go inward. Ask yourself: What's really important to me? To help you find clarity, try writing down your goals for your health, career, and relationships. Getting your inner thoughts down on paper is a great tool for identifying those ABCs.

3. Focus on your ABCs.

Once you've identified your goals and priorities, take a look at them every day. From there, ask yourself if your behavior is helping you get what you want out of life. If not, it may be time to consider what's getting in your way, and begin to reframe your daily practices.

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