3 Ways to Deal With Stress in Nursing

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Written by Aislinn Twohig Marketing Campaign Manager, IntelyCare
Stressed nurse sitting on steps and hiding face with hands.

This is not exactly a newsflash, but it bears repeating: There’s a lot of stress in nursing. The long hours, demanding shifts, and fast pace can put a massive strain on your physical, mental, and emotional health. Suffice it to say, if you’re wishing you had better ideas for how to reduce stress at work, you’re not alone.

Over the years, several studies have documented the impact of work stress, but nurse stress is in a category all its own. One study found that nurses experiencing excessive stress from work had double the risk for a heart attack. Another study discovered that workers who put in more than 10 hours a day had a 60% higher risk for heart disease than those who worked a more standard 7 hours per day. Armed with that information, nurses face a myriad of potential poor health outcomes are the result of nursing stress. Articles continue to be written on the topic.

There are many options for dealing with stress as a nurse, but sometimes, it’s what you do away from work that can have a significant impact on how you feel on the job.

Stress not only affects nurses’ well-being but can also impact their ability to provide the best, most compassionate care to their patients. Small acts of self-care can go a long way to help reduce stress in nursing and prevent compassion fatigue and burnout.

Here are a few easy tips you can incorporate to mitigate nurse stress and improve your overall physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

3 Practical Ways to Deal With Stress in Nursing

1. Get Moving

Exercise has psychological benefits in addition to physical ones. When we exercise, our body releases endorphins, chemicals that interact with receptors in our brain and trigger positive feelings in the body.

But that doesn’t mean you have to get off the couch and start running marathons; there are many different exercises that can help reduce nurse stress, like yoga. Whether it’s a challenging yoga class or a slower, relaxing flow, yoga utilizes movements that improve circulation and help calm your mind.

Yoga not your style? Even taking a walk around the block with a friend can help improve cardiovascular and pulmonary fitness, as well as your mood. Whichever form of exercise you choose, it matters less how you move, and matters more that you move.

2. Eat Stress-Relieving Foods

Diet and nutrition play a large role in our ability to manage stress. Unfortunately, the Standard American Diet (SAD — a fitting abbreviation) is a major contributor to health issues, such as obesity, heart disease, and stress, in the U.S. SAD includes high intakes of red meat, pre-packaged foods, fried foods, high-fat dairy products, refined grains, and sugar.

Focusing on incorporating nutrient-dense foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts, fatty fish, and lean proteins can help reduce and manage stress in nursing and in the rest of your life. Go easy on the alcohol and caffeine, and be mindful of drinking enough water.

With busy schedules, nurses can find it hard to shop, prepare, and consume healthier foods; it can be much easier to fall back on pre-packaged, grab-and-go food. Instead of a complete diet overhaul, focus on incorporating fresh, unprocessed foods into your routine, and look for healthier on-the-go options for the busy days.

3. Reduce Screen Time

With new healthcare technologies emerging every day, nurses spend more time looking at screens than ever before. While these technologies aim to improve patient care, they may actually be negatively impacting the professionals who look at them all day. Studies have found significant associations between screen time and moderate to severe depression in adults in the U.S.

To help manage stress in nursing, when you’re off the clock, try to reduce screen time to lessen the likelihood of eye strain, stress, anxiety, and depression. Enjoying time with family and friends, going outdoors, or reading a book are all fulfilling activities that avoid screens and can reduce nurse stress.

Find What Works for You

There’s no single right way to tackle the many types of stress in nursing, and there’s no perfect solution, either. Whether it’s taking a convenient exercise class, preparing a healthy meal, or spending a screen-free day with your loved ones, the most important aspect of embracing self-care is taking time for yourself.

Have a More Manageable Schedule

We know stress in nursing is a big problem. Want to know how IntelyCare can help you create a flexible work schedule that puts you in control? Learn more today.