Stress Management for Nurses

Nurse looking stressed with eyes closed

Nurses Week is the time to appreciate, remember and thank all nurses who give so much of themselves to make the lives of strangers just a little bit better.

Many times, in their efforts to care for others during long shifts and also juggle a busy personal life outside of work, a lot of Nurses ignore their own stress levels or discount the effects of stress, all in the name of taking care of others and living up to that life calling that they’ve answered in this profession.

Because Nursing is stressful work, Mallory Hatmaker, MSN, BSN, CNP has written that it’s important to acknowledge your stress rather than ignore it and, doing so is an important first step in learning how to manage your stress as a nurse.

Taking care of yourself is a priority and one that should be remembered not just during this week of honoring Nurses, but everyday throughout the year.

Here are Mallory Hatmaker’s Seven Stress Management Techniques for Nurses.  Read through and give some of them a try for a while.  Remember, taking care of yourself first is vital to being able to take care of others.

Seven Stress Management Techniques

Knowing how to control your body’s reactions to stressful situations will make you a mindful nurse – one who can prioritize tasks and make sound medical decisions for patients. To get on the path to becoming a mindful nurse, consider these seven tips to reduce daily stress:

  1. Meditate – Calm your mind. Close your eyes for one minute, and count how many thoughts come into your mind. Now try for three minutes to “not think.” When a thought enters your mind, let it go and simply be present without distractions. Be aware of your breathing. To stay in the moment, I find it helpful to focus on one soothing word as I inhale and exhale, such as “calm” when I breathe in and “release” when I breathe out.
  2. Practice deep breathing – Have you ever counted your breaths? Try inhaling on a count of four and exhaling on a count of six. Repeat this five times when you need to slow down, relax and be present in a stressful situation. These deep breathing exercises on your commute to and from work can calm your body before your shift begins and help you de-stress on the car ride home.
  3. Use guided imagery – Think back to a peaceful moment on your last vacation. Maybe you were on a beach, enjoying the sounds of the waves crashing against the shore. How did it look, feel, smell and sound to be there? Or imagine yourself as a 5-year-old child, playing tag or rolling down a grassy hill. Go back to that beach or be that carefree kid in your mind for five to 10 minutes to calm your body and mind.
  4. Exercise – Working out releases those feel-good hormones (endorphins) and helps take your mind off the stressful events of the day. You don’t have to be a “workout king or queen”.
  5. Do yoga or Tai Chi – You don’t need a mat and 60 minutes to reap the benefits. Chair yoga exercises are the next best thing for those of us stuck at a computer for most of our shift
  6. Eat nutritious food – Increasing foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, albacore tuna, walnuts and flaxseed, can help combat high cortisol levels that are released when we are stressed.
  7. Consider spiritual practices – There is no right or wrong way to practice your spiritual beliefs. Whatever path you choose, prayer and spiritual practices help increase your self-worth and self-control.

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