Are your friends exhausting you?

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You don’t have to be Buddhist to know the Buddha taught a thing or two about suffering and the end of suffering.  What you might not know is he had several teachings on friendships.

 

Here is what he said:

“With regard to external factors, I don’t envision any other single factor like friendship with admirable people as doing so much for a bikkhu (a monk) in training who has not attained the goal but remains intent on the unsurpassed safety from bondage.  A bikkhu, who is a friend with admirable people, abandons what is unskillful and develops what is skillful.

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I know this is true in my life.  When I spend time with friends who genuinely treat other people with respect and kindness, despite the challenges that life presents them, I am more inclined to act that way.  I am also more likely to abandon unskillful behaviors, such as gossip, for example, when I am around people who unknowingly set the bar high.  Whom  we surround ourselves with influences the actions we take, how we feel about ourselves and impacts our energy level.  We all are ultimately responsible for our own actions, but it is worth taking a look at the people you spend your time with.

 

Contracted energy

While it may work just fine for Garth Brooks to have friends in low places, you might want to think twice if you are feeling depleted by your friends on a regular basis.  Life challenges us all and we count on friends and family to support us through difficult times.  However, if you consistently feel depressed, tired, or negative about yourself after spending time with someone, take note.  The nursing profession puts us at risk for compassion fatigue. We need to be proactive on minimizing that impact in our personal lives.  Be strategic and set limits on how much time you make yourself available to this person. Do you truly need to spend time with him or her?  Are there any hidden benefits you gain, such as feeling needed or avoiding your own problems?

 

Expanded energy

Note where in your life you find yourself laughing, being yourself, and feeling genuinely listened to.  Keep it simple; spend more time with people who expand you.

 

Honor your own needs. 

As an extrovert and a “connector,” as Malcolm Gladwell refers to in his book, The Tipping Point, I am energized by people; but I also benefit from  alone time to recharge.  Figure out the recipe you need to restore your energy, make room for that in your life, and be wiling to disappoint someone to be true to yourself.

 

I recently read a book about horizontal violence in nursing . The author suggested one way of combating workplace toxicity was to avoid creating friendships at work with other nurses.  She suggested fostering friendships outside of work with people who are not affiliated with your employer.  We, as nurses, - myself included- sometimes over-share and get involved in each other’s lives without an invitation.  Is the solution creating stricter boundaries and avoiding friendships at work?

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 I have a wide variety of friends: nursing and non-nursing.  While I certainly can appreciate less drama in the workplace, I can’t imagine my life without the rich friendships I’ve established with co-workers over the years.  What do you think?  I would love to hear your opinions on this.