Stress is a fact of life for many of us in today’s high-stress and performance-based society. However, high-stress levels permeate healthcare and nursing professions perhaps more than any other work environment.
Stress is how the body responds under high-intensity situations, which activate the fight or flight response.
Nurses are responsible for the lives of their patients. This means they work in a consistently high-stakes environment, which leads to high levels of stress.
When nurses succumb to stress, not only does it affect their well-being but also their ability to care for their patients. Because of this, it is important that nurses working in the ER or other high-pressure situations are familiar with methods and techniques for dealing with stress.
Symptoms of Stress and Nursing
Signs of stress are exhibited differently by everyone, but some of the most common symptoms of stress for nurses include anxiety, mood swings, loss of appetite, and difficulty sleeping.
Stress can also manifest in physical ailments, including
- High blood pressure
The longer a person feels overwhelmed by stress, the worse it becomes, and some nurses can even become mentally and physically burnt out if stress is not dealt with once the symptoms have been recognized.
Stress-Relieving Tips for Nurses
Unfortunately, stress is a natural part of life, and there is no way to avoid it entirely. However, it is possible to manage stress levels so that it does not take over your life. The following techniques and tricks can help nurses feel less stressed in the workplace:
Take a Deep Breath
Though it may seem redundant, one of the most effective stress relief techniques is to simply pause and take deep breaths. Deep, slow, and easy breathing can be performed anywhere at any time.
When you feel overwhelmed, take a deep breath in through the nostrils for four seconds, hold for five seconds, and then breathe out through the mouth for five seconds. Deep breathing releases endorphins into the bloodstream, which can help you feel calmer.
Watch Your Diet
What you eat and how often you eat can affect your stress levels. Some nurses have such a large workload that they skip meals. This can make your body more susceptible to stress.
Eating a healthy combination of fruits and vegetables, as well as staying hydrated, can assist in reducing stress levels.
You may also want to limit your intake of white carbohydrates, fried foods, and unnatural sugars, as these can make you feel sluggish and tired, which will intensify your levels of stress.
Get Some Sleep
Make sure you are getting eight hours of sleep per night. Stress can lead to a lack of sleep, which causes more stress. Set a time to turn off all electronics and go to bed and a time to wake up and stick to a schedule.
Related content: How Important is Sleep for Women’s Health
Laugh Out Loud
One symptom of stress is a loss of humor and, when you are feeling stressed, the last thing you probably want is to be told is to laugh. However, laughter can make you feel better immediately by releasing feel-good endorphins into the bloodstream.
Whether you feel like it or not, putting some comedy on and laughing until your stomach hurts is a great way to relieve stress.
Related content: Laughter: A Low-Cost Therapy that Works
Use Positive Thinking
Your thoughts control your emotions. Try to be aware of when you start to feel the emotions related to stress and change your mindset to think of something positive. This will boost your mood and help to reduce stress levels.
Break Down Your Tasks
Due to the shortage of nurses working today, they are often overworked, and this in itself causes stress. On days you are given a long to-do list, try to focus on one thing at a time. Break each task down into a manageable, step-by-step process. Move on to the next step only after completing the one that comes before it.
Take a Walk Outside
Research has found that being outside in nature can have a positive effect on your mental health. It relieves stress, lowers blood pressure, and intensifies feelings of well-being.
Related content: When Things Get Tough, Birding Might Save You
Stay Organized and Prepared
A messy work environment can increase stress levels. Always keep your work area neat and tidy. If things start to get messy throughout the day, take a minute to straighten things out.
It is best to tidy your desk at the end of the day so you do not walk into a messy environment first thing in the morning. Always start off the day in an orderly, calming environment.
Be prepared for the day of work ahead. The night before, lay out your favorite pair of scrubs, tools, and everything you might need for a successful day at work.
Use Essential Oils
Hospitals have a very specific, unpleasant smell that nurses are exposed to daily. The smell of essential oils, on the other hand, is uplifting and purifying.
Pour a few drops of lavender, sandalwood, lemon, tangerine, or rose oil onto a handkerchief and smell it as you go throughout your day. Another option is to pour the essential oil of your choice into a diffuser and inhale it at home.
Take a Break
No matter how much work you have left to do, always make sure you take breaks throughout the day to recharge.
Taking a break doesn’t mean having a cup of coffee over paperwork
Leave everything behind, and relax and unwind for the full duration of your break. You will return to work feeling refreshed and re-energized.
Take Time to Relax
You might find it useful to take a warm bath for an hour, spend time with friends and family, or listen to music to relax after a long day at work. Incorporate whatever method makes you feel the most relaxed into a daily routine. It is important to invest in what makes you feel good during your downtime.
Get Regular Exercise
Several studies have found that exercise is a powerful stress reliever. Intense physical activity releases endorphins into the bloodstream, which is why healthcare professionals recommend at least 30 minutes of exercise per day.
Find a Mentor
Nurses tend to build up concerns due to the emotional demands and requirements placed upon them. A mentor is someone you can speak to during these tough times who can offer advice based on their own experiences.
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If you are still feeling overwhelmed because of your nursing job, you might need to seek professional help. Stress built up over the long term can cause health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, personality disorders, anxiety, or depression. It is best to take the time to invest in your mental health and mitigate these issues before they develop.
Adela Ellis, BSN, RN
Adela Ellis is a full-time nurse and part-time ambassador for Infinity Scrubs. Adela attended the University of Arizona and has been a travel nurse for the last 6 years. She enjoys working with different doctors, nurses, and patients from all over the country and blogging about her experiences. In her free time, she loves true-crime podcasts and cooking for friends and family.