According to a study published in Nursing Research and Practice, “nearly all respondents (92 percent) had moderate, high or very high levels of work-related stress. Only about 8 percent reported low or very low stress levels.”
As a nurse, you are given long hours, a diverse community of patients to care for, and intense challenges on the job – all of which often leads to high stress levels and sometimes, burnout.
Impact of High On-The-Job Stress
High stress levels can be detrimental to your effectiveness and success as a nurse, and as a person. In order to maintain the heavyweight nurses often carry, it is essential to make self-care as well as the service to your patients a priority. The consequence of avoiding this priority often leads to overwhelming situations, and a lack of passion for your career. In order to become the best version as a care provider as well as a professional, you must be able to take note of your stress triggers, heavy workloads and self-reflection habits.
Causes of these stress levels are factors of work life and personal life. Along with the long hours nursing acquires, patient care and paperwork, it’s no wonder nurses are exhausted before and after work.
Finding new strategies to help with getting to the root of your stress triggers and create ways to make your self care a priority.
The professional life of nurses is hectic enough, but with a professional life, comes the stress of personal as well. Before stepping into work, it is important to leave behind those personal stressors before your shift begins, as it can negatively affect your productivity or work day. Most people may feel personal stressors, and ICU nurses are not immune to this. Some people may have candid conversations before their shift and ask for family support, others may be able to put their feelings on-hold until after their shift. Some ways to manage stress before work are:
- Analyze your self-care routine: First things first. Are you providing yourself with the proper care necessary to function with a clear mind? Are you spending your free time with loved ones or filling your time with beloved hobbies? Are you feeling well mentally and physically? If after your analysis, you realize there lays a big gap between work and consistent self-care, your first action is to note all the answers to those questions. Then, you can write down what it is you want to do and how you want to feel everyday.
- Keep a journal: A journal is a great way to express your stress and organize your thoughts. This is an immediate step following step one. A journal can be on any platform accessible and preferable, from a hard copy to an app on your personal phone. This journal will function as a pre-vent for any emotions felt at the time, from writing down your goals for the day. A journal is also a great point of reference if throughout the day, you begin to feel stressed you can look to the journal and be reminded of the goals you want to accomplish to help you get through the day successfully.
During the Shift
- Avoid distractions: Staying true to your set goals is crucial to success, but becoming distracted is common. It is very important as a nurse, to give patients and faculty your full attention, especially in the ICU unit. One way to combat disruption and distraction is to put your phone away for the time of your shift. This limits distracted time, as well as restricts social media from disrupting your productivity, in turn keeping your peace in tact.
- Keep Calm: Maintaining your peace during your shift is a priority, but peace and sound isn’t realistic one hundred percent of the time as a nurse. When situations become hectic or demanding, it can impact your stress levels. It is important to take a brief pause, and lower sudden overwhelming stress with deep breaths. By taking long deep breaths, you are in control of relaxing your body’s tension and clearing your mind. Start with placing your hand on your chest, breathing through the nose and exhaling through the mouth after a few seconds. According to Harvard Health Publishing, saying a phrase as you exhale and inhale can bring you an instant sense of relief. When inhaling, say to yourself “Breathing in peace and calm.” As you exhale, say “Breathing out tension and anxiety.” This strategy can help you get through stressful events at work and feel at your best to complete the task at hand.
- Self-reflect: A difficult work day is often common when unexpected situations arise or if you feeling overwhelmed by the day’s workload. With this, tension in the body builds, thoughts race and your well-being seems to be going downhill. This is where self-reflection is important, as it is a strategy to refresh yourself and provide you with the focus you need. One way to self-reflect is to ask yourself “what are the solutions?” or “what is the next step?” This way allows you to confront and calm the stress immediately. Keeping in mind the purpose and significance of your job as a nurse can also provide you the motivation to deal with a difficult patient or heavy workload. As a nurse you are determined to help those in need, and in order to do that efficiently you must know how to help yourself. These tactics are helpful realigning you with the situation at hand and provide you with resulting stability and a sound mind.
- Maintain your journal: A journal is a great tool for expression before and even after work, allowing you to let go of the day’s weight and enjoy the rest of your day. Unloading your emotions or writing down tomorrow’s goal will help keep you emotionally stable and free of the tension built up from the day. In addition, you are able to keep track of the ups and downs of your day to make adjustments to your goals.
- Develop a Hobby: Through all the paperwork and busy schedules, seeking time to do something you enjoy positively impacts your stress levels. Developing a hobby is a way to express your other passions, and interests. Hobbies are effective in helping you cope with stress, and helping you unwind after a tiresome day. To develop a new hobby, begin figuring out what you love to do or spending time on, whether it is art, playing sports or reading, allow yourself to free from the day.
- Exercise: Exercising regularly will boost your energy, release mental and physical tension and will impact your lifestyle. Different exercise activities can be fun and freeing, such as yoga, cycling, running or just walking through your neighborhood.
Make Managing Your Stress Part Of Your Daily Routine
A routine will help manage your stress levels and keep you fit. By adding new hobbies and activities such as exercise or meditation, you are reducing professional and personal related stress and making self-care a priority. By developing new routines and positive habits, you can become not only the best nurse, but your best self.
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