Everyone has experienced stress at some point in time.
You might have experienced it before a big exam or a job interview. You might have even felt stressed during an argument with a loved one.
But there are little things more stressful than a fast-paced, high-pressure job. Nursing is one of those career paths that are stressful, even for the more resilient folks.
Life is all about balance. That said, below, we’ve come up with a guide to help you manage the stress you experience as a result of your nursing job.
What is Stress?
We all technically know what stress is since each of us experience it.
However, stress can come in many different forms, and we can all feel it differently.
It’s so much more than just a mental or emotional state.
Anyone who has dealt with a considerable amount of stress would know that!
But what exactly is stress? Does it always occur in a similar manner? Is it always easy to detect?
Read on below for answers.
What are the Signs of Stress?
Although none of us are strangers to stress, sometimes we don’t know when we’re experiencing it. As weird as that mind sound, it’s true.
Sometimes it may occur subconsciously before it fully reveals itself. Then when it appears, it can seem like it’s too much to handle.
That’s why it’s important to take charge of stress as soon as you can.
Subtle and not-so-subtle signs of stress might include:
- Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Feeling snappier than usual.
- Little to no sexual desire
- Declining memory
- Low energy and/or sleeping problems
These are often some of the first tell-tale signs of stress. However, everyone experiences stress differently. That said, people’s stress-related symptoms can drastically vary.
What Causes Stress?
The unfortunate thing is, anything can cause stress. A person’s perspective can ultimately dictate whether or not they will be under stress.
But the important thing to realize is, everyone has different mental stress thresholds.
Innately, some people may have a lower tolerance for stress. Thus, they may be more prone to anxiety and frustration when under minor pressure.
For example, people with an existing mental disorder tend to be less stress-resilient.
But one thing’s for sure: nurses of all types deal with a lot of stress. For them, working too long, and dealing with high-pressure situations can cause stress.
Everyone, including nurses, must remember that stress is the body’s way of saying, “Give me a break.”
What Happens When Stress is Unresolved?
A little stress can be a good thing.
Stress in normal amounts in urgent situations can encourage us to act quickly. Emotional stress can also act as a motivator.
But in large quantities, unresolved stress can have serious consequences.
Psychological Effects of Stress
For many people, stress starts on a psychological level before becoming physical.
Common psychological effects of stress include lack of motivation, depression, and racing thoughts.
Other psychological effects can include anger, mood swings, and poor decision making.
Fortunately, when the stress decreases or eliminates, often do the psychological effects too. However, long-term stress may exasperate or lead to a mental health disorder.
Physical Effects of Stress
The physical effects of stress can be temporary or even permanent.
Temporary effects might include chronic headaches, stomachaches, muscle tension, and heart palpitations.
Permanent effects can include cognitive decline, heart issues, or long-term weight problems.
Normally, temporary side effects disappear immediately or not long after one eliminates stress.
As for the long-term or permanent effects, these may be irreversible and/or only treatable.
The best way to ensure physical effects don’t become long term is to reduce stress as it comes.
What Should Nurses Do When Stressed?
Often, dealing with stress can be normal and inevitable. And at times, it can even be necessary.
Although, it can be quite unpleasant. Not to mention, it can hinder one’s physical and psychological health.
That said, beneficial or not, stress needs to be regularly maintained.
With nurses being at high risk for burnout, they especially must learn how to deal with stress with grace.
Below, you’ll learn about some great tips and techniques for handling stress as a nurse.
The right coping and relaxation strategies can greatly aid with job stress.
Coping with stress involves effectively and successfully dealing with it.
Without adequate coping skills, stress management will be difficult.
There are numerous coping strategies one can take advantage of, such as:
- Taking responsibility for your mistakes or shortfalls
- Journaling your thoughts and problems
- Maintaining a positive attitude.
- Sticking to healthy coping habits, such as avoiding the use of drugs and alcohol
- Reflecting on other stressful times and remembering how you conquered them
- Discovering a new hobby to distract you
- Asking others for help
- Venting to a trusted loved one about your problems
A good word of advice is, give multiple coping strategies a “go.” At times, you may notice that one strategy works better for you than others.
Do you ever feel like you can never relax? This is a definite sign that you need to give different relaxation strategies a “go.”
Some of our favorite strategies for relaxation for nurses include:
- Taking a warm bubble bath after work
- Engaging in yoga or meditation
- Turning off electronics at least 30 minutes before bed
- Giving deep-breathing exercises a go
- Listening to soothing music
- Trying progressive muscle relaxation.
- Going on a brisk walk around your neighborhood
- Riding your bike around the block
- Switch into more comfortable clothing
Effective Stress Management Techniques for Nurses
Although the job of a nurse is nothing short of stressful, they must remain calm on the job.
Patients rely on medical professionals to stay grounded and alert at all times. The least amount of stress a nurse deals with, the more efficiently they can do their job duties.
That said, below are some recommended stress management techniques nurses should try regularly.
One way to reduce current and future stress is to try a technique known as belly breathing.
The thing is, many people don’t breathe properly. In turn, this can exasperate stress even more.
However, just through the act of adequate breathing, one can lower stress naturally.
Higher levels of oxygen and a lower heart rate, thanks to proper breathing, trigger the body to relax.
One way to ensure you’re breathing properly on the job is to engage in belly breathing.
To do this, simply breathe with your stomach rather than your chest.
It can take a while to get used to it. However, this is the correct way to breathe. Most other people breathe by contracting their chest instead. This can only set them up for more stress.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, overworked, and burnt out while working as a nurse.
One good way to remind yourself to stay positive under stress is to try gratitude expression.
Gratitude expression involves thinking about the things you’re thankful for in life. These can be things related to your job or even unrelated.
As you think of the things you’re grateful for, this can help train your brain to remain optimistic.
Optimism can help reduce stress and make things seem less hopeless and frustrating.
While on the job, the 5-4-3-2-1 Method is a great technique to engage in. It’s something anyone can do. But it’s highly recommended for nurses.
Best of all, nobody has to know that you’re doing it as it’s quite subtle.
This method involves scanning the room with each of your five senses.
You’ll first find five things that you can see. Then, look for four things you can touch. Lastly, look for three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.
This is a type of mindfulness technique. It can quickly help stressed-out nurses feel more grounded and calm as it helps distract the mind.
Loving Kindness Meditation
When you’re stressed out at work, do you ever find yourself snapping at others? Maybe you get short with patients or give an attitude to your coworkers.
One way to readjust your attitude under stress is to try loving-kindness meditation.
This type of meditation is incredibly easy yet effective.
The meditator must come up with different affirmations to say out loud or in their head. Loving kindness-related affirmations might include:
- “I am strong.”
- “I am at peace.”
- “I will be successful.”
- “Everything will be okay.”
By saying positive affirmations several times, this can help one feel more optimistic. In turn, these can help eliminate stress and encourage a kind, compassionate state of mind.
Frequently Asked Questions:
1. How Can Nurses Reduce Stress While Working?
Not only can nurses learn to manage their post-work stress, but they can reduce their stress while on the job.
Fortunately, there are many things a nurse can do to release stress while at work.
One way to reduce nursing-related stress is to properly communicate with coworkers.
Not only should nurses communicate their problems but also ensure their team is on the same page.
With proper communication comes fewer mistakes and fewer opportunities for stress.
Staying organized is another thing nurses can do to eliminate work stress. Trying to juggle too many tasks at once and misplacing important tools are no-gos.
A third thing nurses must do while working to eliminate stress? Ditch the perfectionism.
The more a nurse strives to do things perfectly at all times, the more pressure they’ll feel. In turn, the more stress they’ve end up dealing with.
2. What is the Least Stressful Nursing Job?
Everyone has a different idea of what’s stressful and what isn’t.
Many, though, would agree that nursing is one of the most stressful career paths around. Long shifts, tricky patients, strict regulations, and fast-paced work make it a hard job.
But the truth is, some nursing jobs are more or less stressful than others. This is because different nurses have different tasks, clientele, environments, and work paces.
The nursing jobs that many would agree are less stressful include:
- Travel nurse
- School nurse
- Clinic nurse
- Nurse administrator
Choosing a nursing job like one of these might be good for people who are less stress-resilient.
3. What is the Easiest Way to Cope with Stress?
The simplest way to beat stress is to accept it and take it on as it comes.
Waiting until the last minute to handle it can lead to unsuccessful results.
Some easy ways to cope with stress include:
- Getting enough sleep each night
- Taking plenty of breaks
- Consuming well-balanced meals
Generally, taking proper care of yourself is key when it comes to dealing with stress head-on.
And it may not seem like it, but it’s one of the easiest ways to cope with stress.
Taking care of your body can lead to a more peaceful mind. And when your mind is at peace, coping with stress naturally will be a breeze.
This way, you will be more resilient to stress overall.
4. What is the Most Effective Stress Management Technique?
Some stress management techniques will work for some more than others.
However, one of the most effective stress management techniques is practicing mindfulness.
Through the act of mindfulness, one focuses on the present. Any thoughts or feelings tied to the past or future are not the focus.
This helps stress, how?
For one, this practice helps the mind focus on what’s important at the moment being. What one is doing, how one is breathing, and current thoughts might be the emphasis.
Besides, this practice teaches one how to steer clear of any stresses that may be on their mind.
Also, mindfulness helps practitioners deal with one thing at a time. This is critical, as too many of us are so used to constantly multitasking and focusing on too many things at once.
Think of mindfulness as a way to bring the mind back to equilibrium. When the brain is dealing with too many highs, mindfulness exercises can help even things back out.