Simple Ways for Nurses to Reduce Stress at Work

Nurse with her hands in face stressed out at hospital

Working as a nurse has many benefits, like enjoying the satisfaction of helping others and providing a vital service to your community. However, being a nurse also comes with its share of stressors—from juggling patient care to dealing with long hours and heavy workloads. Many healthcare professionals report feeling overwhelmed by these stresses on a daily basis. If you’re feeling stressed out at work or worried about how much is getting done at home during your off time because of work-related obligations, read on for some simple strategies for reducing stress at work:

Recognize the source and symptoms of stress

  • Recognize the source and symptoms of stress. It’s important to recognize what is causing your stress, so you can begin addressing it. If you find yourself struggling with work-related stress, consider the following questions:
  • What’s happening at work that’s causing me to feel this way?
  • How do I feel physically when I am experiencing this stress? (e.g., sweaty palms, tight chest)
  • What thoughts go through my head when I am experiencing this stress? (e.g., “I’m not good enough”)

Make time for yourself

Make time for yourself. It’s important that you take time out of your day to relax and recharge so that you can be the best nurse possible for your patients and colleagues.

Take a break during your shift if necessary. Your job is one where there is no real break, but if things get too stressful or overwhelming, take a few minutes to breathe deeply and collect yourself before returning to work.

Take a walk outside / to meditate /do something else you enjoy (or are good at). A great way to reduce stress both physically and mentally is by exercising regularly (even just walking) or getting into some sort of exercise routine such as yoga or pilates–these activities can help relieve stress while improving overall health as well!

Focus on your breathing

  • Deep breaths. It may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s effective. When you take deep breaths, it helps the body relax and focus on the present moment instead of worries or stressors in your life. It also gives you time to think about what you’re doing with your day, which can help reduce feelings of anxiety.
  • Focus on counting numbers in your head while breathing in and out slowly through your nose and mouth, respectively—inhaling for 4 seconds, holding for 2 seconds, exhaling for 8 seconds—for at least 20 minutes before going to bed every night if possible (or whenever else is convenient). This technique has been shown to lower cortisol levels as well as blood pressure over time!

Practice yoga or meditation

Yoga and meditation are two great ways to reduce stress, but they differ in terms of what they actually do for your body and mind. Yoga is a physical activity that can help you relax your muscles and get into a routine. Meditation is more of an inward-focused activity, where you sit quietly and focus on breathing rhythmically. Both have their benefits: yoga will relax your body while meditation calms down the mind so that it’s easier to think clearly again.

Exercise regularly

Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your mental health. It can reduce stress and anxiety, improve your mood and sleep, help you cope with stress, and deal with negative emotions. You don’t even have to exercise for hours every day—just get moving!

Exercise doesn’t just mean going to the gym so you can lift heavy weights or run on a treadmill until you pass out from exhaustion. There are lots of other exercises that are easy to fit into your schedule (or in between patients), even if there isn’t much room for free time at work: dance classes like Zumba or yoga, walking around the block, doing pushups against the wall when there’s no space available in a break room; taking breaks outside instead of sitting inside all day long; playing team sports like basketball or soccer with coworkers after work hours.

Eat a balanced diet

Mental health is directly affected by what you eat. You need to eat a balanced diet if you want to maintain your mental health—and there’s no better time to start than now.

In addition to getting the vitamins and minerals you need, eating well means focusing on whole foods rather than processed ones. That said, it doesn’t mean you should go gluten-free or eliminate sugar from your diet entirely! A healthy diet means eating healthy fats (like avocados and nuts), fruits, vegetables, and other whole foods in moderation, not depriving yourself of things that make life worth living just because they may not be “approved” by some fad diet guru who doesn’t know anything about real food anyway!

Get plenty of sleep each night

You deserve a good night’s sleep. You work hard and contribute to the well-being of many people, but if you don’t get enough sleep each night, your body and mind will suffer for it.

What exactly does “enough” mean? The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep every night. If that number seems high to you, think about how much time you spend at work during the day—and then think about how much time you spend thinking about work when you’re not at work! It’s no wonder we feel exhausted by the end of our shifts sometimes. For this reason, nurses are just as prone to feeling chronically tired as any other working adult—especially those who work long hours or multiple shifts per week.

How can nurses get more sleep? Here are some helpful tips:

  • Set aside some time for yourself before bed each evening. Take an hour or two away from screens (iPhones included) so that your eyes can relax and rest naturally when they need their most restful state throughout the day; try reading a book instead.

Ask for help when needed

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your coworkers, especially those who have been in the field longer than you, can offer valuable guidance and support. If your particular workplace doesn’t have an employee assistance program (EAP) or on-site counselor, consider finding another resource by asking your nurse manager or human resources department for suggestions.

If it turns out that there’s nothing wrong with your workload or duties—and that your stress level is a result of other factors—consider talking to management about changing them. Maybe the number of people on staff has changed recently; maybe the hospital policy has changed; maybe there are too many patients being admitted at once, or maybe it’s just an off day in general. Whatever the reason may be, chances are good that someone will be willing to help if you simply ask.

Don’t be afraid to re-evaluate your career path if you’re burned out

If you’re feeling burned out, it’s important to realize that this is not a personal failure. You aren’t weak or lazy—you’re just doing your job in a system that doesn’t always have the best interest of its employees at heart. If you find yourself regularly feeling frustrated and exhausted by your current position, don’t be afraid to re-evaluate your career path.

Nurses are expected to do more with less, which puts them under a lot of pressure. Their work hours are often overworked and underpaid as well; according to the American Nurses Association (ANA), “Nurse turnover rates reached an all-time high in 2016.” Finally, nurses aren’t always respected by management or their patients either—in fact; ANA says 61 percent of nurses say they’ve been verbally abused at work!

If all these factors sound like too much for one person alone to handle, then maybe it’s time for some change in how we treat those who take care of us when we need it most: our healthcare providers!

Set a firm limit on how many hours you’ll work

You might not be able to control how many patients you have, but you can set a firm limit on how many hours you’ll work. The best way to do this is by managing your time well and getting more done in less time. This will help you avoid burnout, as well as manage your workload.

Think about what you can and cannot control

If you’re feeling stressed at work, it’s possible that what you’re trying to control is beyond your control. For example, if the hospital is understaffed and the workload has been piling up for weeks, there isn’t much you can do about it without quitting or talking to a manager about the issue. What you can control is your attitude toward the situation and how hard you work to meet expectations despite these problems—not only will this help alleviate some of your stress during those times, but it also may even lead to future promotion opportunities!

Start strong, end strong

Start the day on a positive note with a few minutes of meditation or visualization. Imagine yourself at the end of your shift and how you want to feel about what you accomplished. Let this picture be motivation for taking care of yourself throughout the day.

End each workday with gratitude for all that has been accomplished, even if it wasn’t perfect.*

Set goals for yourself throughout your shift.* Do one thing at a time and avoid distractions.* Focus on what is in front of you rather than worrying about what might happen later in the day.* Stay organized and keep things running smoothly so there won’t be any surprises later down the road—in other words: “No surprises! No excuses! No regrets!”

Be prepared with everything you need at the start of your shift

Be prepared with everything you need at the start of your shift.

Make sure you have everything you need to do your job before you start. This includes not only having your supplies on hand but also knowing where they are and how to use them. If there are any steps in the process that take the time or are complicated for some reason, don’t wait until later in the shift when time is short and get frustrated because nothing works properly. Take care of it early on so that things run smoothly throughout the day, and there won’t be extra stress caused by trying to figure out what went wrong with the equipment or why something didn’t work as expected.

Don’t forget about safety factors either; check patient charts before starting work so that everyone knows who is going into surgery today (and any other pertinent information), and make sure all equipment is functioning properly before beginning each procedure or treatment session (especially if they’re complicated).

Find some downtime during stressful situations

There’s a reason why people take breaks at work. It’s because they know that taking time to recharge helps them be more productive and less stressed in the long run.

So when you’re under pressure, don’t just grit your teeth and power through it—take a break! Take as many breaks as you need to get through the day. And don’t forget to enjoy them: a 15-minute walk around the block or some fresh air on your lunch break are both great ways to give yourself some downtime without taking too much time away from work.

In fact, if you take regular breaks during stressful situations, those situations may actually end up being less stressful for you overall.

Get your mind off work after your shift

After your shift, it’s important to unwind and get your mind off work. Try doing some of the following:

  • Take a walk
  • Read a book
  • Listen to music
  • Watch a movie or TV show
  • Play with your dog or cat (cats are especially good at helping you relax)
  • Spend time with friends and family if possible, even if it’s just over coffee or lunch! They’re great listeners when you just want to vent about how stressful your day was. If they’re not available right away, try calling them later in the evening so they can comfort you while you fall asleep at night.

If these methods aren’t working for you, consider trying something more relaxing, like getting some exercise or taking a bath/shower (make sure there aren’t any sharp objects in there!)

Final thoughts

As the demand for nursing jobs increases, so does the need for qualified nurses. Those who can manage stress and remain healthy will enjoy more success in their careers than those who don’t maintain such good health practices.

Diane Swanson

Diane has been a professional blogger for more than a decade and has always loved the field of nursing. The information provided in her articles are not medical or legal advice.

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