Working long, irregular hours in a fast-paced environment, caring for multiple patients at a time, making decisions that could be as serious as life and death — it’s no surprise that nurses deal with stress.
There are many stress management strategies that can help you cope with and deliver on the many challenges present in the profession of nursing.
In this guide, we will share ten stress-coping strategies that you can implement to help make your long shifts more manageable and rewarding.
Table of Contents
- Why Do Nurses and Stress Go Hand in Hand?
- Nurses and Stress: Common Symptoms to Watch For
- Why Nursing Stress Management Is So Important
- 10 Strategies for Stress Management for Nurses
- Trusted Nurse Staffing: Where the Health and Wellbeing of Our Nurses Is a Priority
Why Do Nurses and Stress Go Hand in Hand?
Stress in the nursing profession became a highlight topic in light of new challenges presented in the healthcare industry with the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, two years into the COVID-19 pandemic and studies show that nurses are still stressed and frustrated. In a 2022 survey, 75% of participating nurses said that they feel stressed.
Why? Because stress has been a long-held issue in the nursing profession, not just in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
There are many stressful issues that are affecting nurses and their mental health, including:
- Working long, irregular hours, which can be taxing physically and mentally
- Dealing with emotional strain, mortality, and grief that comes with caring for ill patients
- Working in a demanding, fast-paced environment
- Excessive work-loads due to staff shortages
- Stigmas around nurses or other healthcare professionals seeking help for mental health
- And more
Nurses and Stress: Common Symptoms to Watch For
Dealing with stress can manifest in many different ways. Some common signs of feeling over-stressed can include:
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Sadness and depression
- Difficulty concentrating
- Emotional burnout
- And more
The effects stress can have on the body are immense. Too much stress can lead to physical conditions like:
- A weakened immune system
- High blood sugar
- Respiratory issues
- And more
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, there are stress management tips that can help. In addition to self-managing your stress, it is a good idea to reach out to your health provider and see what additional support may be available to you.
Why Nursing Stress Management Is So Important
When oxygen masks drop down in a flight emergency, you are instructed to put your mask on before helping the person next to you. This is because you can’t effectively help someone with their oxygen mask if you don’t have adequate oxygen yourself.
The same applies to nursing.
If you aren’t meeting your physical, mental, and emotional needs, you can struggle to effectively help your patients meet these same needs as well.
Unmanaged stress can cause fatigue, difficulty in making decisions, and other capabilities that can put patient safety at risk.
If you are experiencing workplace stress, don’t let it go unchecked.
10 Strategies for Stress Management for Nurses
#1: Practice Deep Breathing
Deep breathing exercises are a great tool you can utilize at any time, whether you have a minute or two to slip away into the breakroom or just enough time to slow down and take a couple of deep breaths.
Deep breathing helps oxygenate the brain and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps to reduce stress. It can also help lower your heart rate and relax muscle tension in the body.
#2: Talk About Your Stress
You aren’t the first (or last) nurse to experience work-related stress. Talking with fellow staff members may not only help you air some of that stress and frustration you’ve been bottling inside but also help you feel validated in others sharing their similar feelings and experiences. Through fellow nurses and mentors, you can learn some great coping mechanisms you can try out for yourself.
It is also never a bad idea to loop your health provider in if your stress and anxiety are feeling unmanageable. Don’t be afraid to use your resources and seek additional help if needed.
#3: Find a Hobby or Rediscover an Old Passion
Other than helping people in need, what brings you joy?
Studies have shown that hobbies can help relieve stress and promote self-expression. Carving out time to do activities or hobbies that make you happy is a great way to help promote the ever-elusive idea of a work-life balance.
#4: Make Time to Exercise
After a 12-hour shift, exercise may be the last thing on your mind.
However, exercise has been proven to be effective in stress management. Exercise can help boost endorphins in the brain, which can not only help reduce stress but also improve sleep. In addition, exercise can lower stress responses in the body, such as adrenaline and cortisol levels.
And no, the 10,000 steps you tracked on your FitBit during your shift do not count as sufficient exercise for stress relief.
Whether it’s a quick run or a 15-minute workout you followed along with on YouTube, try incorporating exercise into your daily routine and see if you notice any difference in your energy levels and stress management.
#5: Practice Meditation
The ability to clear your mind and focus on the present can be a great tool in managing your stress.
Practicing meditation and deep breathing has been proven to reduce stress responses and promote relaxation, even for adults that have never meditated before.
#6: Get Adequate Sleep
You find it hard to sleep at night due to stress. As you lay in bed, you begin to feel stressed about not being able to sleep. The vicious cycle continues.
Getting enough sleep at night can be easier said than done. However, getting enough sleep at night has been shown to significantly reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.
It is recommended that adults get more than seven hours of sleep at night. To help you get enough sleep at night, try creating a nightly routine. This could involve:
- Practicing breathing exercises or self-guided meditation before bed; or
- Making it a habit not to scroll on your phone in bed
#7: Limit Time on Social Media and News Outlets
It’s no surprise that media and news can be unpleasant, even overwhelming, at times.
Studies have shown that negative news from social media and news outlets can be correlated with higher levels of anxiety and depression.
Negative news toppled with work-related stress can make one feel downright hopeless and defeated. If you feel like your emotions and stress are becoming heightened by negative news, it may be a good time to take a screen break. Try to fill your routine with more activities that make you feel happy, like spending time with family or enjoying a hobby.
#8: Focus on Self-Care
The old adage is true — you can’t pour from an empty cup. You need to take care of yourself to be able to take care of other people.
Listen to your body. Are you eating food that nourishes you? Are you getting enough rest? Are you taking time to do activities that you love doing?
Make sure that you are making your self-care a priority in your life. Click here to read about 8 outside-of-the-box ways to boost your self-care.
#9: Seek Help for Managing Stress as a Nurse
Despite the wealth of stress-coping strategies that exist, it can still be difficult to manage stress on your own.
If you begin to feel …
- A strain on your personal relationships due to work-related stress
- Physical symptoms of stress
- A decrease in work performance or patient safety
- Depression or anxiety brought on by work-related stress
… seek help from your healthcare provider. There are many additional resources available to you that stem outside of self-care, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and medications for anxiety.
#10: Seek Support From Your Management
Experiencing stress is an all-too-common phenomenon in the nursing profession. If you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, lean on the support of your mentors and management. There are many resources for stress management for nursing they can point you to.
At Trusted Nurse Staffing, our recruiters make it a priority to check in on our nurses and see if they need additional support with stress management or any other work-related issue.
Stress management for nurses can sometimes take a village. Make sure that you are utilizing resources available to you and leaning on your “village” for support when needed.
Trusted Nurse Staffing: Where the Health and Wellbeing of Our Nurses Is a Priority
At Trusted Nurse Staffing, we understand the common stressors that exist within the nursing profession, and your well-being is a priority to us.
Our skilled and compassionate recruiters are dedicated to ensuring you feel supported and have access to any resources you need to be a successful, happy, and healthy travel nurse. We also offer 24/7 support. We are just a phone call away to help with whatever you need.
Create a free travel nursing profile today to begin searching for travel nursing positions and to speak with one of our recruiters about travel nursing today. We guarantee that our passion for supporting our nurses throughout their travel-nursing journey will shine through.