If there is one word commonly associated with the nursing profession, it’s stress. In fact, one recent study found an overwhelming 92 percent of nurses are experiencing moderate-to-very high stress levels. Medical Staffing Network (MSN) also recently explored a range of issues important to nurses in our Nurses Week survey. When asked the one thing nurses would change about the profession, “make it less stressful to work as a nurse” was the top response.
So, how can you decrease the physical and mental stress that comes with long shifts, fatigue, heavy workloads and patient loss? We’ve identified four common stressors that nurses face day in and day out and provide you some ways you can destress.
Physical burnout is very common among nurses, particularly given the constant lifting, bending, changing shifts and long hours. In addition to the wear and tear on your body, nurses are often exposed to infections or germs which can increase the risk of falling ill. To help ward off the physical stress of the job, make sure to protect your body by staying healthy.
Maintain a healthy diet with regularly scheduled meals whenever possible. Drink lots of water or other healthy liquids.
Stay in top physical condition by using a fitness center or gym, or simply take walks or the stairs during your breaks. Exercising is proven to reduce stress and elevate your mood.
Stress and worry can interrupt your sleep cycle, leading to fatigue and even more stress. Stop this cycle by establishing a routine sleep schedule and stick to it.
Emotions can run high in nursing, from co-workers to interactions with patients and their families. Not to mention the difficulties associated with a dying patient. Often, emotions can cloud your mental focus and lead to unproductivity and potentially mistakes. If you feel yourself overwhelmed with emotions, consider learning relaxation techniques to help you manage your feelings.
Slow, deep and easy breathing is among the most effective stress reducers. It is a rhythmic activity that causes a release of endorphins, similar to exercise, that make you feel calmer. Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth, slowly and deeply.
Choose a positive-thinking friend, co-worker or family member to talk about any emotional challenges you may be facing. This can help put it all in perspective and reduce your feelings of stress.
Laugh if you can. Laughter cuts tension and can lift your spirits. Try using humor when appropriate to defray emotionally-draining moments.
Given the fast-changing healthcare environment, even the most senior nurses can find it difficult to keep up with the best practices, procedures or protocols. Feeling as though you’re behind in the latest nursing trends or tools can erode your confidence and lead to stress. Second-guessing yourself on the job can not only be stressful, but it can lower your job satisfaction overall.
Engage in professional development, such as webinars or industry events in order to feel like you’re on top of the latest changes in the profession.
Be as organized as possible, allowing extra time to complete a morning routine or to leave a few minutes early so you arrive at work in a better frame of mind.
Think positive. Set some goals toward continuous learning and development and celebrate when you achieve them.
For more strategies to combat stress, check out the American Holistic Nurses Association online center for stress management, with toolkits, tips, techniques and resources.
If you feel stress in your current role, learn how the team at Medical Staffing Network can help you find a new, exciting role that fits in line with your career goals.