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Stressed out? Here are 7 ways to get relief

Nursing can be an exceptionally rewarding career. However, nurses often experience high rates of burnout and stress due to long hours, emotional fatigue, and the inherently high-stress nature of patient care. In order to care for others, it’s vital to care for yourself first. Taking the time to unwind and find greater balance in your life ultimately benefits not only you, but also your patients. Here are 7 tips and practices for stress relief for nurses that can help.

1. Meditate

Woman doing yoga on a pier near a lake

Studies show meditation and deep breathing help reduce heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure. So take time to be still, breathe deeply, and reflect. Even 10-15 minutes of quiet meditation, yoga, or prayer in a tranquil place can help provide greater mental clarity and peace.

Ann Davis, a travel nurse specializing in home health, unwinds by finding a quiet spot in nature to think and reflect. “I love to fish, and I find a lot of places to go fish,” says Davis. “I also like to go to the park and sit and people watch.”  

2. Exercise

Woman stretching before a run

Regular exercise is one of the best ways to relax your body and mind, and it helps release mood-enhancing chemicals called endorphins.

Burn ICU travel nurse Allison Bouck turns to fitness to boost her energy and relieve stress.

“I like working out a lot,” says Bouck. “I go to Orange Theory for high intensity interval training, and I love to run and lift weights. I’ve also found a few friends that enjoy rock climbing, so I’ve gone to rock climbing facilities with friends.”

3. Unplug

Woman reads book in front of the fire

Though demands of work and everyday life can make it hard to unplug, look for ways to unwind and relax during your day. This could be anything from listening to music, reading a book, or taking a walk.

Chris Hegglund, a medical surgery and telemetry travel nurse, took advantage of the flexible schedule afforded through travel nursing and found an inventive way to unplug – selling shave ice from a concession truck during the hot Arizona summer.

“Taking some time off to sell shave ice was a really great idea and a lot of fun, but I have to say I wouldn’t have been able to do that without a job like my travel nursing job,” says Hegglund. “The flexibility allowed me to have enough money to invest in my shave ice truck and take a little time off to recoup. In all, I took five months off. I came back to work this November with fully charged batteries. In a sense, I think my patient care stepped up a notch, too.”

4. Be spontaneous

Shave ice shack with people standing in line

Hegglund’s shave ice summer also paved the way for spontaneous fun — another great source of stress relief for nurses.

During a school festival event, Hegglund had the idea to turn the shave ice into snowballs. He molded snowballs with the special shave ice tools and filled coolers for kids to have a snowball fight.

“It was so awesome, because many of these kids have never played with snow,” says Hegglund. “It made me giggle, because here we were having an epic snowball fight in the desert.” 

5. Develop hobbies

Arts and crafts table

Set aside time to develop or discover new hobbies. Scott Carpenter, a telemetry/PCU step-down travel nurse, enjoys acrylic painting and recently started organizing paint nights for colleagues and friends. The classes were so well received that they plan to host bigger events.

“I’ve taught classes for nurses and techs at the hospital; they come to my hotel and we paint,” says Carpenter. “Some people couldn’t make it, so we plan to organize a night with the manager so we can invite everyone and have a big paint night that I’ll teach. It’s a lot of fun.”

6. Spend time with friends and family

Three women laughing and drinking tea

Stress can be isolating and cause us to withdraw from others. It’s important to make social connections with friends and family. Socializing is a great way to provide distraction, receive support, and help weather life’s ups and downs.

Deborah Morton, a cardiopulmonary PCU travel nurse, knows the importance of spending time doing the things she enjoys. And she isn’t a stranger to going to great lengths to do so.

An avid concert goer, Morton enjoys traveling all over the country (and even the world!) with her husband to catch their favorite artists and bands live.

“One night, he and I were listening to Metallica and he told me they were on his bucket list to see in concert,” says Morton. “I told him to look up where they were playing next. He looked it up, closed his laptop, and said, ‘They’re not playing in the United States.’ I said, ‘That’s not what I asked! Where are they playing next?’ They were playing the European leg of their tour and every show was sold out, except for Geneva, Switzerland. So, last March, we went to Geneva to see Metallica in concert. It was amazing!”

7. Seek out new experiences

Two women tandem skydiving

Hospice travel nurse Laurel Dawson seeks stress relief from her nursing career by changing things up and finding joy in trying new things.

“I have gone swimming with sharks (yes, on purpose!), shed tears in Arlington National Cemetery as a U.S. veteran was laid to rest, watched the dying rituals of a Navajo Indian, ridden horseback in the Weminuche Wilderness, gone ice fishing, and established lifelong friendships, all thanks to travel nursing,” says Dawson. “Traveling as a hospice nurse has made me realize that life is too short and precious to be unhappy. We should use the good china every day and make time for those who truly matter.”

What are your stress relief tips for nurses? Share in the comments below!

About the author

Allison Riley

Allison Riley

Allison Riley is a public relations professional with more than 10 years experience in healthcare and corporate communications. She lives in New York City with her better half and two wonderful daughters. She and her girls are currently contending for world's slowest recorded stair climb to a fifth-floor apartment, and she enjoys writing so she can just finish her sentence already.

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