In this week’s edition of the Traveler’s Guide to Nursing and Allied Health, we look at symptoms, effects, and ways to manage stress.
Long, irregular hours, a heavy workload, life or death stakes−nursing is a stressful job on its best days, but on its worst, it can be overwhelming. In a 2021 American Nurses Foundation survey, 34.16 percent of responding nurses described themselves as “not emotionally healthy.”
Nurses interact with co-workers, patients, and patients’ families and shoulder the emotional burdens of being caregivers. Plus, nursing is a high-skilled, technical profession that doesn’t allow one to occasionally “check out” or switch to autopilot.
The job’s physical, mental, and emotional toll can lead to stress. Stress, in turn, can lead to the demise of a nurse’s health and the health of their patients, according to “Nurses’ job stress and its impact on quality of life and caring behaviors: a cross-sectional study,” published earlier this year.
- Anger and Irritation
- Mood Swings
- Anxiety and Fear
- Compassion Fatigue
- Depression and Sadness
- Physical Ailments, Sickness
Impact of Stress
While short term-stress can be beneficial−boosting cognitive function and resistance to infection, according to the 2019 published study “The Short-Term Stress Response,” chronic stress lowers immune resistance and can lead to long-term chronic disease. Ulcers, obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and depression are just some of the many ailments associated with chronic stress. The American Psychological Association found that stress can severely impact the musculoskeletal system, leading to temporary or chronic back, neck and shoulder pain and tension headaches.
Stress in the healthcare profession is expected, but it’s also potentially hazardous. Here are practical steps you can take to manage your stress successfully.
- Identify and track personal stressors or triggers: Which situations, conditions, co-workers, days, etc. cause your stress levels to rise? Keep a journal and take notes. Identify the stressor(s) to avoid or mitigate the effects.
- Healthy Diet and Exercise: You are what you eat. Don’t skip meals or consume a diet high in fatty, salty, or sugary foods. Bring bars, nuts, or other easily carried snacks if you know you won’t be able to break for a meal. Also, drink plenty of water. People are often dehydrated before they get thirsty. Get daily exercise and time outdoors. Exercise releases endorphins that can counteract anxiety and depression.
- Get Plenty of sleep Most adults need seven or more hours of uninterrupted sleep every night. Dozens of studies have confirmed quality sleep is vital to health and survival.
- Meditation, deep breathing Slow, deep breathing techniques have proven to be psychophysiology beneficial.
- Connect with others: Social support and interactions increase oxytocin levels, decreasing anxiety and stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system to calm you down.
- Mental health breaks Take regular breaks throughout the day. Even five minutes can help release the pressure from a tense situation.
- Work-life balance Establish boundaries. When you leave work, turn off workplace email alerts, texts, and notifications unless you’re on call. Likewise, https://www.mhanational.org/work-life-balancedon’t bring personal issues or tasks to work.
- Clarify responsibilities and expectations. Uncertainty can be a huge source of stress. Ask your leader to clarify roles and outline what is expected.
- Clear, concise communication Nursing is a team sport. Nurses are constantly communicating with other nurses, technicians, physicians, patients, and patients’ families. Whether an email, text, or conversation, keep communication as simple, short, and informative as possible.
- Hobbies: Nurses work long hours, so when you have free time, do what you enjoy. Whether it’s reading, pickleball, or listening to music, take time to do what makes you happy.
Stress is an unavoidable part of working in the healthcare industry. That’s why being proactive with your mental, physical, and emotional health is so important. If you recognize one or more of the symptoms of stress, take action and get assistance if necessary.