It should come as no surprise that stress is common — especially when it comes to the workplace. With the right strategies, however, even the most stress-inducing roles, like those in nursing, can be proactive in managing their stress levels.
From focusing on your preparedness and professional image to reduce anxiety and promote confidence (think crisp and cute scrubs for women that you lay out the night before and fall wrinkle-free) to focusing on getting your brain and body strong enough to deal with a little stress (think short and inspiring walks outside that refresh your brain and body and boost your mood on your lunch break), conquering stress shouldn’t be stress-inducing! Before we can jump into conquering work-related stress, though, we should take a look at the cause and effect of it and why it’s important to challenge.
Cause and Effect
Understanding what causes stress in nurses is crucial in addressing it effectively. Along with common issues like balancing work and life, clashing with colleagues and being worn out that accompany most professions, nurses tend to struggle with:
- The constant use of high-level skills and tech
- The constant physical energy demand
- The constant and intense emotional toll of the role
- The often chaotic and urgent work environments
The cumulative effect of these stressors can take a serious toll on a nurse’s health and well-being. As a result, most nurses also tend to struggle with anxiety, a lack of energy left for themselves and burnout. And while stress is absolutely a common part of the role, it should be monitored to avoid reaching dangerous levels, and certain steps should be taken to combat it.
Conquering and Managing Stress
Considering that stress can come from so many different areas, you’ll want to take a look at your workplace environment, your role and yourself in order to identify and combat stressors as a nurse.
1. Your Workplace
Accept That You Can’t Control Everything
Accepting that you can’t control everything is healthy and needed for your well-being. For example, you can’t control the long hours that you often have to work — and dwelling on it only makes it worse. There are, however, always certain things that you CAN control and that’s where you should be putting your energy! While you may not be able to control your long hours, for example, you can embrace more short breaks throughout it and make sure you indulge in simple self-care after it.
Communicate Clearly and Concisely
Communicate responsibilities, directions and expectations clearly. Confusion can lead to stress, and so will having to backtrack because of it. When everybody knows what they’re doing, they can do it best.
Create Open Lines of Communication
Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and don’t close yourself off to any! Creating open lines of communication will not only reduce stress, thanks to improved understanding in work, but will encourage improved understanding in personal things that are impacting or conflicting with work. It could possibly help lead to solutions.
2. Your Role
It’s important to establish boundaries with yourself and with others. You’ll want to establish to yourself that when you wear your favorite Carhartt scrubs, you’re in your role and ready to work. When they’re off, so are you. This might include your cell phone and email if you have a hard time honoring this. From here, you’ll want to communicate and set these boundaries with your colleagues and the people in your personal life, too. If they don’t respect these boundaries, then how can you?
Identify Role-Related Stressors
More often than not, it’s what we’re doing or the situations we are put into that stress us out. As a nurse, it’s important to take the time to identify personal stressors by noting the tasks and situations that are contributing to any negative feelings. By identifying specific stressors like this, it becomes much easier to identify how to avoid, manage or resolve them as well.
Always Be Prepared
Being underprepared comes with a certain amount of anxiety and stress — especially in a role like this. From coming into work in your wrinkled scrubs and being surrounded by nurses in crisp cotton scrubs that look cute and professional, to having a pen in your pocket all day that you keep needing and trying to use but it doesn’t work, even the smallest things can cause significant stress. Eliminate them before they can become an issue and always be prepared for your shift! The night before your shift, consider getting yourself prepared for a good day by restocking and repacking your bag, laying out/hanging your scrubs that you’ll wear (this is a good way to ensure you HAVE scrubs and dont need to urgently do laundry, as well as get your uniform wrinkle-free), possibly showering and, of course, getting a good night’s sleep!
Self-Care Is Key
You can’t take care of others without taking care of yourself, plain and simple. As a nurse, you know what to do. It’s just a matter of getting yourself to do it. So consider tricks like gradually working more and more self-care tasks into your bedtime routine, telling your family and friends about your efforts so that they can respect your time and even possibly help you somehow and even scheduling self-care time to ensure it happens.
Identify Personal Stressors
Does your usual heavy lunch make you groggy and grumpy? Are super early mornings just too early to manage? Know thyself and cater to that amazing person! Help yourself excel at what you do by doing it how and when you want — to a certain extent. While you may not be able to take that much freedom from your facilities, you could likely request, for example, more afternoon shifts if you’re the nurse who has issues with early mornings that we mentioned above.
Get Your Brain and Body Strong Enough to Deal with Stressors
While you don’t want to endure too much every day and there comes a level of stress that’s no longer healthy to deal with or push through, neglecting your health will lower this limit. Make sure to keep a good diet and practice regular exercise that’s NOT work-based. These types of initiatives are also known to help your brain release more “feel good” hormones that will combat stress alongside you.
Sustaining a Less-Stress Lifestyle
There’s no doubt that the role of a nurse is often very stressful — but that doesn’t mean that you always have to be stressed out as a person. The role of a nurse is also extremely fulfilling, inspiring and fun, and by taking the time to look after yourself the way that you look after your patients, you can integrate these characteristics back into yourself, too!
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