Nurses work as superheroes every day, and the high-performance demands of this profession can lead to side effects such as exhaustion, anxiety, and constant stress. However, as leaders in health care, nurses can choose the way they approach their roles and thrive.
Below are nine strategies that can help nurses manage stress and stay positive all year long.
1. Make Self-Care a Priority
Nurses are inclined to focus on the needs of others. However, the American Nurses Association explains, “Self-care is imperative to personal health and professional growth, serving as sustenance to continue to care for others.” Nurses should make a point to squeeze in at least one self-care activity that makes them happy every day, such as drinking a hot cup of tea or taking a bubble bath.
2. Spend Time With Positive People
When work life feels hopeless, nurses can benefit from reaching out to others to gain some positive energy. Increasing social contact and venting to a good listener are great ways to relieve stress and calm anxious nerves. Sharing work concerns, problems, or thoughts with loved ones can also help build trust and strengthen these relationships.
3. Set Aside Relaxation Time
Practicing daily relaxation techniques, such as prayer, meditation, yoga, or deep breathing, can help nurses achieve a state of restfulness. However, it takes daily practice to reap the full benefits. Getting into a habit of engaging in regular relaxation time can lead to improvements in overall health and happiness. These beginner-friendly guided meditations only take five minutes a day.
4. Begin the Day With Positive Self-Talk
Daily positive affirmations, also known as self-talk, can have a significant influence on how we react to our environment, jobs, and other people. Making a habit of this can help increase self-esteem and reduce feelings of anxiety and depression. For instance, write a positive affirmation and keep it handy at work to refer to when starting to feel overwhelmed.
5. Keep a Consistent Exercise Routine
Regular exercise is an excellent way to manage nursing stress and work burnout. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points out, at least 30 minutes of daily physical activity helps to improve mental health, cognitive function, and quality of sleep, as well as decreases depression and the risk of many cardiac diseases.
6. Just Say No to Extra Shifts
Nurses are often eager to assist when someone asks for help. However, working longer hours and agreeing to take on more shifts than necessary can lead to burnout and even compromise patients’ safety. On the other hand, saying no to extra work means saying yes to more meaningful things in life. This could mean more quality time with family, outdoor nature hikes, or starting a new hobby. Plus, when we achieve a better work-life balance, we become more effective as nurses.
7. Take a Break from Social Media and News
When away from work, set a time each day to completely disconnect from social media, technical gadgets, and the news. Aim to also turn off cell phones, put away the laptop, and stop checking email. Instead, try spending some time outdoors, breathing in fresh air while doing something physically active and enjoyable.
8. Aim for 8 Hours of Sleep
Getting enough sleep every day is paramount—particularly for nurses. An article from health.gov discusses several benefits of sleep. This includes an elevated mood, reduced feelings of stress, improved cognitive function, and better maintenance of a healthy weight. Therefore, it’s important to make time for a few calming activities to help unwind after a stressful day.
9. Start a Gratitude Journal
Writing about what we’re thankful for can encourage feelings of optimism and boost overall well-being. Gratitude journaling works by adjusting our focus, and changing how we perceive situations over time. This type of writing allows us to see more of the world around us, deepening our appreciation for the things and experiences we have.
Stress and overwhelm are an inevitable part of every nurse’s life. However, developing healthy habits and coping strategies can help reduce feelings of burnout and boost resilience. Try to implement a few of these actionable steps every week to maintain a better work-life balance and improve overall health.