Nurses perform one of the most stressful yet fulfilling jobs. Caregiving is all about thoughtfulness, understanding, compassion, and empathy. It’s a full-time job that requires immense personal sacrifice. While taking care of others, many nurses forget to prioritize their physical and mental well-being. Stress among nurses was visibly a huge problem during the pandemic of 2019. A 2021 study published in the Journal of Multidisciplinary Healthcare discovered that almost one-third of the nurses were prone to anxiety, stress, and depression during the COVID-19.
There are several reasons why they are so disturbed. Many of them have to work long hours and have hectic schedules with barely any off-work hours. Sometimes, they have continuous night-day shifts with no time to sleep. With such a tough routine, ultimately, nurses feel frustrated, overwhelmed, and irritated. Additionally, they are worried about their families and the transmission of diseases at home. A few nurses have to juggle both jobs and studies together, which further adds to mental strain. As a result, their mental health deteriorates, and they cannot perform well at work. Eventually, they lose focus and quit. To avoid the long-term detrimental effects of stress at work, here are some practical tips for nurses to continue with their jobs without losing their minds:
1. Pursue advanced degrees in nursing
You might wonder why earn your bachelor’s in nursing or a master’s in this field can promote better mental health. Advanced degrees in nursing certainly play an important role in combatting stress at work. With more knowledge, nurses have increased opportunities to manage their work hours and control their professional lives. They can switch to departments with lesser stress or those that don’t strictly adhere to long work hours. A few nurses choose to become educators because it’s comparatively less stressful than being in the middle of medical emergencies all the time. Also, educated nurses from reputable institutes are well-equipped to deal with stressful situations at work. They can create a healthy mental space for themselves and others around them.
2. Stay hydrated
Another important way nurses can manage stress at work is by staying hydrated. Research shows that dehydration is among the leading causes of mental and physical health problems. Because of long-term stress, the body starts producing high cortisol levels, also known as the stress hormone. It starts damaging the adrenal glands and increases electrolytes in the body. Additionally, stress causes the heart rate to shoot up, and hyperventilation occurs. Nurses lose a lot of water during the day and rarely get enough time to drink water. An easy solution is to install proper water coolers at several places in healthcare centers for nurses, so they don’t have to run long distances for a drink. Or nurses can carry water bottles with them at all times.
3. Start journaling
One of the best ways to counter stress at work is by journaling. Journaling is among the healthiest forms of self-care. It can reduce depression, anxiety and boost the body’s immune system. Journaling is also helpful in decreasing blood pressure. Many people with mental health issues experience improved moods after a therapeutic journaling session. Nurses have to deal with a variety of emotions at work. At times, they have to witness situations involving critical injuries and death, which can be difficult to let go of or eradicate from the mind. Journaling is a safe and healthy outlet to deal with raging emotions that are otherwise tricky to discuss with friends or coworkers. Nurses can find peace by writing about how they feel or creating artistic pieces to cope with the numerous emotions. Nurses can either carry a notebook with them at work or develop a journaling habit at the end of the day.
4. Get physically active
Regular workouts and physical activities also benefit the mental well-being of nurses. Having a daily workout session before or after shifts is an effective coping strategy for nurses who undergo immense pressure while dealing with patients. Exercises can be a healthy outlet for anxiety and depression. It helps nurses pour the energy into something useful that improves heart health, digestion, and other body systems. Nurses can also benefit from regular yoga. Physical activities like swimming, cycling, jogging, badminton, and other sports can boost brain power, increase focus, reduce anger, promote better respiration, and even deal with backaches.
5. Meditate every morning
Nurses should also begin their mornings with meditation. Research shows that meditation has numerous benefits for nurses prone to workplace stress. Meditation promotes positive feelings and helps nurses be in charge of their emotions. This practice encourages mindfulness and increases calmness. Meditation makes nurses more satisfied with their job and promotes a more empathic attitude toward their patients. Beginning the day with meditation ensures mental clarity and allows nurses to be more productive and focused during the day. It releases all the tiredness, negativity, and mental pressure. Meditation has also shown incredible benefits for reducing sleeplessness and acts as a natural cure for insomnia. This easy mind-body-soul technique is beneficial for heart health caused by consistent stress. It helps balance blood pressure and decreases the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
6. Eating healthy
Nurses should also pay attention to what they eat to combat stress at work. Most nurses spend hours working hectic shifts and forget to eat proper meals on time. Research shows that nurses with high levels of stress mostly have restricted diets, abnormal eating habits like binge-eating disorders, or succumb to external eating. Many nurses have a low nutrition diet and consume lots of junk foods as it’s quicker to snack upon during tough schedules. As a result, they struggle with being overweight, further increasing mental strain.
Nurses are 11 times more prone to mental disorders than people in other professions. Mental health issues in the nursing staff are more frequent in departments with a lack of proper initiatives for workplace anxiety and stress. Healthcare organizations should conduct monthly sessions to discuss how nurses can cope with depression and create a healthier work-life balance. Nurses should also learn how to switch off after work hours and disconnect. There’s an increased need for encouraging nurses to seek therapy when they want to communicate with a professional. All in all, nurses should prioritize their mental well-being if they wish to perform well at work and want to be happier and satisfied with their careers.