Stress is bad for your health.
As a nurse, you know the stats: over time, stress can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, and more.
Learning ways to lower your stress levels, then, can only be a good thing.
But before getting into ways to relieve your stress, we need to talk about how to first define it, then identify the symptoms of stress.
So, what is stress? It’s a feeling of tension, either physical or emotional.
It can be caused by anything that makes you feel frustrated, angry, or nervous.
Symptoms of stress include headaches, low energy, upset stomach, tense muscles, rapid heartbeat or chest pain, and insomnia.
Together, these symptoms and feelings of tension could indicate unhealthy levels of chronic stress.
If you find yourself in this situation, there are things you can do before stress becomes a problem that interferes with your life and work.
Recognize What You Can’t Change
There are things in life we have no control over.
Recognizing the inability to effect change - whether it’s traffic, workload, or a person’s decisions - can help in letting things go, not getting upset, and finding ways to work through it.
This might be as simple as working through the situation and moving on to the next thing, or it may require something else.
Often, stress-inducing situations are complicated by a refusal to accept that you can’t change the situation and the emotional tension that results.
Avoid Stressful Situations
When it comes to workplace stress, sometimes avoiding the situation isn’t possible.
However, there are times when you can avoid the situation.
If it’s a coworker who causes you stress, you could request to be scheduled on opposite shifts, or in a different area.
Avoiding the situation requires first identifying the stress-inducing situation.
Consider exactly what it is that is causing stress.
Perhaps there is a certain procedure or activity within the larger situation that is causing stress.
By getting granular about the causes of stress, you can then better manage the situation.
Physical activity has many benefits, including stress relief.
As a nurse, you likely walk a lot during the day.
Yes, this is exercise, and if you do more, you’ll feel better.
Exercise, especially moderate to intense exercise, gets the blood flowing, improves oxygen flow, and releases feel-good chemicals in your brain, like endorphins and dopamine.
It may seem counterintuitive, but when you’re feeling lethargic, a burst of activity can give you energy and make you feel better.
Try it, and you’ll realize the benefits for yourself.
In addition to the physical benefits, there are also emotional benefits to exercise as a way to relieve stress.
It’s a great way to let out frustration, for starters.
All that pent-up stress and frustration can be channeled into pushing yourself on your bike, or swimming faster, or punching the heavy bag a bit harder.
You don’t need to carve out a lot of time, either.
You just need to find a half-hour somewhere in your day.
If exercise isn’t a natural part of your day, it can help to find something you really enjoy doing, whether it’s the gym, tennis, or any other activity.
This enjoyment factor also has benefits.
Do Something You Enjoy
A great way to let go of the day’s stress is to immerse yourself in an activity you enjoy after work is done.
This is especially helpful after a tough day when life gets you down.
Make time to do the things that bring you joy, whether it’s a good book, a night out with friends, or doing a hobby.
Something that requires concentration can help to take your attention away from your stressors.
At the same time, making an effort to immerse yourself in the activity by being fully present in the moment – also known as practicing mindfulness – can help.
These activities that bring joy to your life are important for quality of life, and also allow your mind time to reset.
Change Your Outlook
Changing your outlook on life, and the attitude with which you approach situations, can alter the way you perceive situations.
It begins by replacing negative thoughts with positive ones.
A positive, rather than negative, attitude can help you to better deal with potentially stressful situations.
This is, admittedly, not easy.
But it is effective.
To begin, identify negative thoughts, like “this always goes wrong” and focus on creating positive thoughts instead, like “I will get through this.”
Learn to Relax
Meditation, yoga, tai chi, and other relaxation techniques are great stress relievers.
The physical benefits include lowering your heart rate and blood pressure, as well as improving oxygen flow when combined with deep breathing.
Mentally, these methods can help you let go of stressors and find inner calm.
Getting started with relaxation techniques on your own is as simple as searching YouTube.
You could also join an in-person class or one-on-one session if that works better for you.
Classes have an added social benefit.
You might find that these spontaneous interactions are just what you need to help get rid of built-up stress.
Get More Sleep
Being tired all the time negatively affects your health and mood. Simply put, you feel better when well-rested.
Juggling 12-hour shifts with the rest of your life can be difficult, but carving out enough time for sleep is important.
You’ll have more energy, be able to think more clearly, and generally feel better.
This improved attitude can help alleviate stress by approaching things with positivity, which goes back to changing your outlook.
The proper amount of sleep varies for each person but is generally recognized to be in the range of seven to nine hours per night.
Relieving stress requires finding the mix that works best for you.
One approach is to start with lifestyle changes, like getting more sleep, exercising more often, and practicing relaxation methods.
Being confident in your job tasks can also help to alleviate work-related tasks.
Recent training and upgraded skills can go a long way toward helping you feel more confident at work.
ProMed offers a range of courses and certifications to help you become the best nurse you can be.