While nursing is a rewarding profession, it can also be a stressful job. Long hours, physically demanding work, and potential life-or-death situations can take a toll, and learning how to manage your stress is critical. By finding ways to cope, you will not only be a better caregiver, but also be able to take better care of your own health.
Colorado is known for its wellness initiatives. In fact, historians say as much as a third of its early settlers came for health reasons. Yet, stress can manifest itself in many ways, and when you’re busy caring for others you may not notice the signs. Some common emotions include anger, fear, sadness, numbness, or nervousness. You may also lose motivation, your appetite, and the ability to focus. And some people turn to alcohol, tobacco, or drug use as a way to self-medicate and mask their feelings.
When you’re working long hours, self-care can feel indulgent or even like one more thing on your to-do list, especially if you are caring for a family in addition to your work responsibilities. Fortunately, there are some things you can do on the job to help relieve stress.
Eat Healthy Meals and Snacks
The sugar rush you get from a vending machine snack or the breakroom doughnut may make you feel good in the moment, but poor dietary habits can actually worsen your feelings of anxiety. Instead, of choosing the morning pastry, try to eat healthy whole foods, like fruits and vegetables and lean proteins. Not only will they help you feel full longer, these good foods can improve your energy and health.
On your break, slip in a few quick moments of meditation or mindfulness. These practices help quiet your mind and allow you to let negative thoughts go. It doesn’t have to be long; just five minutes can reduce stress. Find a quiet place and focus on your breathing. For example, take a deep breath and hold it to the count of four. Then exhale slowly, counting backwards -- four, three, two, one. You can also download a meditation app to your phone that will help you tune out the activity around you. You may even be able to slip in some mindful moments while you’re doing a “mindless” task, such a cleaning up your workstation or folding blankets.
Talk to Co-workers
Sharing your feelings with others can be therapeutic, and no one will understand your situation more than your colleagues. While venting can relieve stress, don’t dwell on negative emotions too long. Instead, find something positive in a situation that can help you reframe your feelings. For example, if you are dealing with a challenging patient or situation, talk to a fellow nurse about the root cause, they may have good suggestions or strategies that you had not considered.
Keep a Gratitude Journal
Finding things to be thankful for can help you reduce your stress. While you’re probably grateful for your job, health, and family, don’t forget to pay attention to the smaller things that can brighten your day. Maybe you made all of the stoplights on your way to work or were able to grab a great parking spot? Or perhaps the cafeteria is serving your favorite lunch? Recognizing and writing down these small moments can help you focus on the positive.
If you need more help, mental health resources are available to nurses including several programs on the American Nursing Association’s website.
Whether you’re just starting out or are looking at gaining advanced certification, Denver College of Nursing can help put you on the path to a rewarding career in nursing. Click here for more information or call us today at (800) 600-6604 and speak to one of our career counselors.