Nursing, whether you’re fresh out of college or have more than 20 years of experience, can be a stressful career, and it can be hard to relax when so many patients are depending on you. Taking time to ease stress, however, is important to the people you’re treating, your career and your health. Below are a few stress-relieving tips that can help:
1. Breathe deeply. It may seem like a waste of time, but taking a few moments to exhale and breathe deeply can instantly improve your mood and help you calm down and put things into focus. For the most effective relief, walk into a quiet space (even a bathroom stall, if necessary) and practice breathing slowly from your diaphragm and exhaling slowly as well, relaxing your shoulders and chest and trying to relieve any tension.
2. Go for a walk. While this obviously isn’t an option during an emergency, simply walking outside or even heading to the cafeteria or an area with a lot of natural light can have a calming effect. Take at least 10 minutes, if possible, to walk briskly, and resist the urge to check your phone or let your mind focus on the tasks you haven’t accomplished yet. Deep breathing is helpful as you walk as well.
3. Think happy thoughts. During those times when you encounter cranky patients or know-it-all coworkers, it can be helpful to have a “happy thought” in mind to distract you from the situation. Think about the day your first child was born, a special family trip or even a funny experience and focus on that when you get upset. Positive thinking when you’re angry or frustrated can also defuse a crisis and help you keep patients calm as well.
4. Talk to another nurse. Take a few minutes to chat with a friend at work — about something other than work, if possible. Ask her about her family, what her plans for the weekend are or even what movies she’s seen lately. Talking with someone else about their life will help you relax and recharge your batteries a bit, and it also helps you build relationships and give someone else a break. Be sure to ask other nurses for advice in hectic situations, too. They may have a different perspective and can help you figure out solutions.
5. Keep yourself hydrated and be sure to eat well. Stress can reach a climax when you’re hungry or dehydrated. Pack snacks like string cheese, crackers and fruit that you can eat quickly on breaks, and keep a hospital-sized mug full of ice water so you can take sips frequently. If you’re feeling lightheaded or weak, eat something immediately and drink plenty of water or juice. You can’t afford to hurt yourself or neglect a patient because you’re not feeling well.
6. Do something you enjoy every day. Get yourself through a hectic day by promising yourself a reward. For example, if you love reality TV, tell yourself that you can watch an episode of The Bachelor on your lunch break if you just get through the next few hours. Even something simple like eating a piece of candy every few hours during your shift can give you something to look forward to and alleviate some stress.
7. Laugh it off. It’s not appropriate in every situation, but humor is a great stress-reliever and can ease tension for you, your patients and other healthcare providers. Find a way to laugh during every work day, whether it’s cracking jokes, recounting funny experiences or tacking a favorite cartoon of the day to the cafeteria bulletin board. Be lighthearted with your patients when possible, as well.
These tips can help you be calmer at work and focus on taking the best care of your patients. Share your suggestions for stress relief below!