Working long hours in a fast-paced environment.
Caring for multiple patients at a time.
Making life and death decisions day in and day out
It’s no surprise that nurses deal with a higher-than-average level of stress.
So, how do you cope? What’s the best way to manage the inevitable stressors of the nursing job you love — while avoiding burnout and keeping your own mental and physical health intact?
In this guide, we share 11 stress-coping strategies you can implement to help keep your life and career manageable and rewarding.
Table of Contents
- Why Do Nursing and Stress Go Hand in Hand?
- Nurses and Stress: Common Symptoms To Watch For
- Why Nursing Stress Management Is So Important
- 11 Stress Management Strategies for Nurses
- Trusted Nurse Staffing: Where the Health and Wellbeing of Our Nurses Is a Priority
Why Do Nursing and Stress Go Hand in Hand?
Stress in the nursing profession became a highlight topic in light of the challenges presented to the healthcare industry during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But now, several years post-pandemic, surveys show that 75% of nurses are still feeling stressed out and frustrated.
And it makes sense. Nurses are inundated shift after shift with stressful issues that affect their mental health, including:
- Working long, irregular hours
- Dealing with the emotional strain, mortality, and grief that come with caring for patients
- Working in demanding, fast-paced environments
- Excessive work-loads due to staff shortages
- Demanding doctors and nursing supervisors
- Nursing shortages
- The stigma around healthcare professionals seeking help for mental health-related concerns
Nurses and Stress: Common Symptoms To Watch For
A stressed nurse may manifest their symptoms in many different ways. Some common signs that you may be feeling over-stressed as a nurse might look like:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Sadness and depression
- Difficulty concentrating
- Emotional burnout
- Frequent illness
- And more
The effects stress can have on your body are immense and can lead to a range of varied physical conditions, such as:
- A weakened immune system
- High blood sugar
- Respiratory issues
- Headaches and migraines
- Gastric issues including heartburn, acid reflux, irritable bowel syndrome
- And more
If you find that you are experiencing any of these symptoms, our stress management tips may help.
In addition to self-managing your stress, consider reaching out to your healthcare provider to see what additional support may be available to you.
Speaking of support, Trusted Nurse Staffing is here to support our nurses every step of the way.
Are you ready to hit the road as a travel nurse? Search Trusted Nurse Staffing’s Pronto job search makes it easy to find available positions and get started today!
Why Nursing Stress Management Is So Important
When you’re on a flight, the stewardess makes it crystal clear that, if an emergency should occur, you’re to put on your oxygen mask before trying to help another passenger. You can’t effectively help someone with their oxygen mask if you don’t have adequate oxygen yourself.
The same concept applies to nursing.
If you aren’t meeting your physical, mental, and emotional needs, it is likely that you will struggle to effectively meet the needs of your patients.
Besides potentially compromising your nursing skills, unmanaged stress in nursing can cause fatigue and difficulty in making decisions — both of which can put the safety of your patients at risk.
If you are experiencing workplace stress, don’t let it go unchecked.
What Coping Strategies Can Nurses Use To Minimize Stress?
If you’re a stressed nurse (or just a nurse who is looking for healthy ways to manage stress), consider trying one or more of the following stress management strategies:
- Deep breathing exercises
- Talking with other nurses
- Taking up a hobby
- Getting enough sleep
- Limiting social media
- Prioritizing self-care
- Seeking professional help
- Speaking to your recruiter
11 Stress Management Strategies for Nurses
#1: Practice Deep Breathing
Deep breathing exercises are a great stress management tool that you can utilize at any time during a shift — whether you have a few minutes to slip away into the break room or just barely enough time to pause and take a couple of deep breaths.
Deep breathing has a host of great benefits, which include:
- Helping to bring oxygen into your brain
- Stimulating your parasympathetic nervous system
- Helping to lower your heart rate
- Relaxing muscle tension throughout your body
- Relieving pain
- Moving lymphatic fluid
- Increasing your energy levels
- Lowering your blood pressure
- Improving your digestion
- Focusing your thoughts
#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 relieve some of the stress and frustration you’ve been bottling inside but can also help you feel validated as you hear others sharing their similar feelings and experiences.
Plus, through fellow nurses and mentors, you will likely learn some helpful coping mechanisms to 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
Do you love photography? Is cooking your thing? Do you love taking a long evening walk? Other than helping people in need, what are a few things that bring you joy?
It has been shown that engaging in a hobby can help to relieve the stress of everyday life by:
- Promoting self-expression
- Improving your overall sense of well-being; and
- Expanding your social connections
And finding a hobby doesn’t have to be a major production, either. Whether it’s something brand new or a hobby from days gone by, carving out time to do what makes you happy is a great way to help relieve stress and promote a healthy work-life balance.
#4: Make Time To Exercise
After a 12-hour shift, a trip to the gym may be the last thing on your mind.
But, exercise has been proven to be a healthy and effective way to manage stress.
Exercise can help boost endorphins in your brain, which can not only help reduce stress but may also help you sleep better. Exercise can also lower the levels of stress hormones in your body, including both 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 YouTube workout, try incorporating some form of non-work-related exercise into your daily routine and see if you notice a difference in your energy levels and capacity to manage stress.
#5: Practice Meditation
The ability to clear your mind and focus on the present can be a great tool in managing the stress of nursing.
Studies have shown that practicing meditation and deep breathing may
be proven ways to help:
- Reduce your stress responses
- Promote relaxation
- Improve both your memory and comprehension
- Increase your resilience to stress
- Relieve anxiety; and
- Resolve conflict
Nowadays, integrating meditation exercises into your daily routine is easy. There are many apps like Calm or Headspace that offer guided meditations you can simply follow along with each morning, evening, or even during a particularly stressful shift.
#6: Get Adequate Sleep
It’s a vicious cycle. You toss. You turn. And as you lay there, unable to sleep, you begin to find yourself feeling all stressed out about not being able to sleep.
While getting enough sleep at night can often be easier said than done, it is a critical part of reducing your feelings of stress and anxiety.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults get more than seven hours of sleep each night.
Not only does getting plenty of sleep give your body time to rest it may also help you to:
- Get sick less often
- Have fewer health problems, like diabetes and heart disease
- Reduce stress
- Improve your mood
- Think more clearly
- Improve your ability to focus; and
- Get along better with the people in your life
If you struggle with getting adequate rest, you may benefit from a nightly routine. Try:
- Doing a few breathing exercises or self-guided meditation before bed
- Limiting electronic use an hour before bedtime
- Turning off the TV and reading a book
- Dimming the lights throughout your home
#7: Limit Time on Social Media and News Outlets
It’s no surprise that social media and news can be upsetting and even overwhelming at times.
Studies have shown that negative news from social media and other news outlets goes along with higher levels of anxiety and depression.
Combine the negativity of the daily news with work-related stress, and it is easy to see why you may be left feeling stressed out, hopeless, and defeated.
If you feel like your emotions and stress levels are becoming heightened by negative news, it may be a good time to take a screen break. Try filling your routine with more activities that make you feel happy, like spending time with family, reading a good book, or immersing yourself in a hobby.
#8: Eat a Balanced Diet
Choosing a healthy and balanced diet can go a long way toward building a healthy immune system and providing the extra energy you need to cope with the stress of nursing.
As convenient as a fast food drive-thru may seem after a long shift, try to focus on consuming antioxidant and vitamin-rich, stress-busting foods like:
- Fatty fish
- Nuts and seeds
- Fruits high in vitamin C like oranges, blueberries, and strawberries
- High-fiber veggies, like kale, broccoli, and peas
- Eggs; and
- Grass-fed red meat
#9: Focus on Self-Care
The old adage really is true — you can’t pour from an empty cup.
If you want to be the best nurse you can possibly be, you’ve got to place a high priority on taking care of yourself.
Listen to your body. Are you eating nourishing foods? Are you getting enough rest? Are you spending plenty of time engaging in hobbies and just having fun?
If you struggle with knowing how to give yourself the care you need (and deserve), consider trying a few of these out-of-the-box ways travel nurses can boost their self-care routines:
- Have “unplugged days,” where you are 100% offline.
- Post motivational quotes on your mirror, in your car, or in your locker at work.
- Plant a small, potted herb garden.
- Get a mani or pedi.
- Go to a movie or concert.
- Buy yourself that special “something” you’ve had your eye on
- Stay in touch with family and friends back home.
- Clean your space. Whether you’re staying in a house, apartment, Airbnb, or hotel, you’ll have a better frame of mind when everything is clean and in order.
#10: Seek Help for Managing Stress as a Nurse
Despite the wealth of stress-coping strategies out there, it can still be difficult to manage stress on your own. Don’t be ashamed to admit it if you need a little help!
Seek help from a mental health professional if you begin to:
- Feel a strain on your personal relationships.
- Have feelings of depression or anxiety.
- Notice a decrease in work performance or compromise in patient safety.
- Have the desire to isolate yourself from non-work-related activities.
- Consider harming yourself or others.
- Experience physical symptoms of stress, such as a racing heart or inability to get out of bed.
Someone who has been trained in the field of mental health will be able to recommend additional resources such as cognitive behavioral therapy and/or medication, that can help you deal with stress and get you back to feeling like yourself.
#11: Seek Support From Your Management
Experiencing stress is an all-too-common phenomenon in the nursing profession, and the truth is that stress management for nurses often takes a village.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to lean on the support of your nurse staffing recruiter.
At Trusted Nurse Staffing, our recruiting team makes it a priority to regularly check in with our nurses and see if they need additional support with stress management — or any other work-related issue.
They can talk through any issues, provide advice, and help direct you to resources that will most benefit your specific situation.
Trusted Nurse Staffing: Where the Health and Wellbeing of Our Nurses Is a Priority
As a travel nurse, your well being is of the utmost importance.
At Trusted Nurse Staffing, we understand the common stressors that exist within the nursing profession — and we’re here to help you manage them every step of the way.
Our skilled and compassionate travel nurse recruiters are dedicated to making you feel supported and giving you access to the resources you need to be a successful, happy, and healthy travel nurse.
Getting started as a Trusted Nurse Staffing travel nurse is easy! Simply use the Pronto job search to find an available travel nurse assignment and pack your bags.
Not only can the team at Trusted Nurse Staffing help you keep your mental health on track while on the road, but we also provide:
- A special welcome box, complete with cool swag
- 24/7 access to your recruiter for help with whatever you need, whenever you need it
- Full, prepaid health insurance
- A fully loaded HRA card
- Dental and vision plans with options for both low and high deductibles
- An entire department devoted solely to quality assurance
- A loyalty program where you can accumulate points, redeemable for awesome prizes
Check out Trusted Nurse Staffing today!