Manage Physical and Mental Stress as a Nurse

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It’s no secret that on a list of the nation’s most stressful professions, nursing ranks close to the top. Nurses across every facility type and every area of specialization spend an epic portion of the day on their feet and in constant motion. They often take responsibility for more clients at a time then they should, since many facilities are understaffed. And as they work their way between these clients, nurses need to stay flexible and present, all day long, every single day.

Understandably, this often leads to burnout and exhaustion. But when nurses need to care for themselves so they can care for others, they may face very few options. Managers and hospital systems don’t always offer the counseling and treatment nurses need, so when the going gets rough, most LPNs and RNs are left to their own devices. If you find yourself in this position, here are a few things to keep in mind.

You CAN find help; but you may have to search for it.

Help may be available to you, but you may have to make an active effort to seek it out. It can take extreme courage to ask for (or demand) what you need, especially if you feel this might undermine your standing with your supervisors and coworkers. But sometimes the risk pays off, and you won’t know until you speak up. When you need to ask for help (a break, an answer, someone to talk to, some extra time off, etc), don’t just think about what you might lose; focus on what you might gain and how your sacrifice might help and inspire others around you who may be suffering in silence.

Build sustainable habits into the day.

Of course you CAN stay up very late at night and get up very early in the morning…for a while. But eventually, this habit has to stop. And when that happens, it may be because sleep deprivation leads to a mistake or accident that could have been avoided. Use this as a metaphor for the challenges you face each day. Making it through the day is one thing; making it through the next ten years is another. “Powering through” won’t work in the long run. Instead, give yourself the daily nourishment and renewal you need in order to keep moving, including nutrition, sleep, exercise, and social contact.

Change what isn’t working

If you’re using a stress management technique that isn’t working, stop. Try something else. Don’t keep returning to a dry well. Be ready to let go of habits, thought patterns, and routines that aren’t making your days any easier. This may include your job. If it’s time for a change, let go of the status quo and start looking for an alternative. For help, reach out to the healthcare career management and job search team at CSS.

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