Occupational stress comes with the territory in the nursing world. Instead of working to de-stress the work environment, it’s best to learn coping mechanisms to work with the stress and stay productive within your surroundings. From long hours, emotional stresses, physical stress, and feeling overworked, it’s easy for a nurse to feel overwhelmed. In order to deal with emotional stress, it’s best to make plans with your time away from work, take time for you, take care of your body, and find a support system to ease your mind.
Make Plans with Off Time
Off time doesn’t seem to happen as often as we’d like, but when it does it’s important to organize and schedule what that time will mean for you. When dealing with occupational stress it’s a good idea to keep your personal life as stress free as possible and one way to really help to reduce stress is to stay organized. This doesn’t have to mean that you schedule all of your off time for adult obligations like meetings and grocery shopping. Some of your scheduled off time can be scheduled down time – the key is to commit to that downtime as if it’s a meeting.
Work tends to be chaotic and unorganized, so make sure your down time is spent doing the opposite. Control what you can in order to destress during your days off. Spend time making sure life is put together by spending time with family, seeing friends, attending your child’s soccer game, and cleaning the house. However, also schedule time to binge on Netflix, sleeping in, and taking a relaxing bath.
Make it About You
Nurses are caretakers so it’s natural for a nurse to feel overwhelmed with occupational stress but still spend time taking care of family members with their downtime. This is a great way to spend off time and spending time with family is sometimes exactly the de-stressor that nurses need especially if they work shifts that keep them away from their family. However, when occupational stress becomes overwhelming it’s important to take a look at what you need as opposed to what everyone else needs from you. This doesn’t have to mean ignoring family and responsibilities altogether, but if you’re stressed at work make sure you take time to cope with that. Go get a pedicure, go shopping, and learn to lean on others.
Nursing is a stressful career and it’s important for nurses to work through the stress instead of trying to change it because this is a field that will not change any time soon. With baby boomers retiring there is a pretty severe nursing shortage that is just going to get more pronounced. This will create a higher demand for nurses that may result in being even more overworked, so this already stressful career may just get more stressful.
Taking Care of Your Body
Nurses are stressed for many reasons including being overworked, handling high emotions, and handling the physical side of nursing. By focusing on taking care of your body, it’ll help both at work and outside of work. When you can’t control patients, doctors, or other nurses, you can control your diet and what you’re wearing. By taking the time outside of work to meal prep for your week, your day at work will at least feature a healthy meal – just be sure it’s something you can eat on the go as sometimes it’s a matter of grabbing something to eat while doing paperwork and not an actual meal break. Featuring a workout in your schedule is another way to de-stress as exercise produces endorphins. Also, comfortable scrubs and shoes with arch support really make a difference in such a physical position.
Utilize a Support System
Whether you’re feeling overwhelmed, overworked, you have issues with staff, your body hurts, you’re tired, or you’re dealing with the emotions of working with sick people, you need to be able to find a support system and utilize them. Finding the source of the stress will help to find the appropriate coping mechanism. Talking with family, friends, other nurses, or anyone else that you trust is vital in coping with the stress of the job. This can be difficult for caretaking nurses to confide in others and allow themselves to be vulnerable but it’s an important aspect to dealing with occupational stress as a nurse.
The reality of the nursing world is that nurses will rarely see a patient that feels well. They witness a lot of trauma and spend their lives trying to make the right medical decisions for their patients. For this reason it’s important to always take a toll on mental health as well as physical and take the necessary steps toward handling the feelings that go along with working in a distressing environment.
Nurses know going into their profession that they are entering a stressful field. It’s fast paced, it’s dense, it’s a ton of work, it’s emotional, it’s tiring, and it’s not for the faint of heart. It’s helpful for nurses to know what to expect, but that doesn’t mean they can’t utilize certain tactics to help get through the stress. By organizing off time, doing things for yourself, focusing on your health, and utilizing a support system it’s possible to work through the stress instead of succumbing to it.
Chelsy is a writer from Montana who is now settled down in beautiful Boise, Idaho. She graduated with her journalism degree from the University of Montana in 2012. She enjoys talk radio, playing Frisbee with her dog, and drinking fruity wine. Follow her on Twitter!