Rolling Hill nursing

20+ Positive Personal Mantras to Get You Through Your Toughest Nursing Shifts


APRIL, 2020

When I was a new grad nurse, there were definitely shifts that felt like I couldn’t do anything right. A patient yelled at me for being “late” with their PRN pain pills, I didn’t even see all of my patients until after 2300, a surgical resident drilled me for not having an incentive spirometer in their post op patient’s room.

These mistakes and negative feelings would run laps around my head until that’s all I could think of. I would subconsciously repeat a self-defeating mantra in my head. “Why did I even become a nurse?” “I’m never going to be good at being a nurse.”

The thoughts that we let run free in our mind will ultimately drive our reality.

I’ve been guilty of letting too many self-worth crushing and self-hating thoughts run rampant in my brain. 

I’ve been guilty of letting too many self-worth crushing and self-hating thoughts run rampant in my brain. 

The worst is on the shifts where you just feel like you can’t catch up and your sweet, lovely patient won’t stop talking and then asks for a cup of water just when you think you’ve planned your escape from their room. Of course you do it, and of course, deep down you really actually enjoy that patient. So, why do the little inconveniences leave you so frustrated? 

At the start of our shift, our nurse brain or to-do list seems onerous at best, and only continues to grow, seemingly without getting any shorter. When our plan for how the shift is going to go changes (which is, let’s be honest, almost always) it throws us off our tasks and leads to stress. 

This stress is what ruins our shifts. Yes, in nursing school we learned that a little bit of stress is good, because it’s going to be the thing that keeps us alert and learning. 

Stress becomes bad when we let it fester; when we let those negative thoughts creep in. Letting stress and frustration run our shift is going to be a one way ticket to burn out. So how do we push those negative thoughts out when we are having a bad shift?

Burnout is a real thing, and it can happen to any nurse. It can happen at any point in your career – even for new nurses!

Read one of my other posts with a new tool from renowned psychiatrist, Dr. Heim, to prevent burnout.

Reframe your vocabulary. 

Reshape your thoughts. 

Control your emotions.

It’s time to stop being a passenger in your life and take the wheel. You can accomplish this through personal mantras. It might sound a little bit metaphysical and woo-woo, but they actually work! Whether you are a meditation master or a hard-science proponent, mantras can help spin your negative thoughts to be productive.

Mantras originated in Hinduism and Buddhism to help aid in meditation. A personal mantra is simply described as a phrase that is frequently repeated. Changing the vocabulary of your inner dialogue has been shown and proven to help change your mental state and instantly improve your mood. The easiest way to get into the habit of reframing your internal vocabulary is by utilizing simple and positive personal mantras.

I started using a personal mantra in my daily nurse practice when I was a new nurse without even realizing it.

Sometimes I would use different mantras even within the same shift. I guess it just depended on how hard that shift was kicking my butt or not. Like everything with nursing, there will be good shifts that you won’t need to remind yourself of why you started this crazy career, there will be the shifts that you are running to codes and doing too much to even think about the good or bad, and then there will be the shifts that make you really question your decisions and will test your resolve. 

The latter are the shifts that I really benefited from using my mantras. 

The mantra that I use the most and is especially helpful in the situations where I find myself getting frustrated over small requests or when I just plain don’t want to be at work is, “I have to do it anyway (because it’s my job), I might as well be happy about.” 

The doctor just put in an order to place a foley? I might as well be happy about it. 

Telemetry calls me to check my patient’s leads for the hundredth time? I might as well be happy about it. 

That one patient sets off their bed alarm again? I might as well be happy about it.

 For me, this really helped lift my attitude instantly. Nurses are obligated to fulfill physician orders and to provide safe, competent care to their patients. Unless I want to get fired, lose my license, and gosh-forbid kill a patient, I am going to do my job to the best of my ability. 

I might as well be happy about it.

Redirecting my internal monologue to say “I might as well be happy about it” instead of “not again, seriously??” has really helped get me through a lot of shifts as a new grad nurse. Sometimes, I would even have to say it out loud. Fake it till you make it if you have to. I promise at some point, if you keep telling yourself that you might as well be happy, you will find yourself believing it. 

The best part about personal mantras is that yours could be completely different. Find your purpose and connect with it. For some people your mantra could be tied to your faith. If you don’t like the word mantra, call it a prayer, an affirmation, a chant, a battlecry, call it whatever you want. 

There are infinite phrases that you can tell yourself to help lift your mood and elevate your nursing shifts. The only rules are: 1) Make sure you identify strongly enough with it that it will hold power for you. 2) Make it short and specific so you can repeat it to yourself. 3) Make it positive! 

Come up with your own personal mantra that fits you best and make sure to let me know in the comments below, or if you already do this, what’s your mantra? 

Here’s a list of positive personal mantras to get you started:

1. I can and I will.

2. I’ve got this.

3. I am a great nurse.

4. I choose to do this

5. I save lives.

6. I help people.

7. Breathe in calm, breathe out bullshit.

8. Bring it on. 

9. I can get a lot done in twelve hours.

10. I got through nursing school, I can get through this.

11. I’m a badass nurse. 

12. This too shall pass.

13. But did they die? 

14. Not everyone needs to like me, and that’s ok.

15. Do it for the Benjamins.

16. The Lord’s prayer – or whichever alternative you prefer.

17. A doctor definitely couldn’t do this.

18. My bed is at home waiting for me.

19. Every day, I’m a little bit better.

20. I am unstoppable and I am worthy. 

21. I am confident. I am competent. I am capable.

    Just remember, if you are moving forward, then you are winning.

    I hope this has given you inspiration to reshape your shifts and your internal dialogue. Don’t let self doubt trick you. Remember, you’ve got this. Let me know what mantras you have developed to get you through your toughest nursing shifts.

    If you found this post helpful, read my other post on how to improve at any nursing skill!

    As always, I would love to connect with you on social!

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