When you’re a nurse, you know your day is going to have some stress. It’s the nature of the work, one that nurses accept so they can can have a career doing the incredible work they do.
But when stress gets to you at work, you aren’t just impacting yourself. When a nurse is running on empty and feeling the pressure build, it changes everything from their focus on medication math to patient interactions.
When you feel a particularly stressful day turning into an even worse one, what can you do to stop it or at least make it less awful?
No, this isn’t one about stopping and taking nice cleansing breaths. That would, of course, be ideal and would go a long way toward helping bring down your stress levels. But very few nurses stop for anything in their day. You can do this one without even having to slow down, since you probably don’t have that option anyhow.
Breathe means focus – focus on your breath, focus on your feet walking in the hall, focus on a color. If you struggle with this, rub your hands together to bring your attention to one thing and ground you. Gaining that focus can help you stay in the moment and not become overwhelmed with a task ahead of you.
2. Walk Away
If you can escape to a quiet area – yes, even a bathroom stall works in a pinch – to close your eyes and count to 60, do it. Removing yourself from the stressful situation (obviously you can’t walk away from a patient you are caring for or responsible for) for a quick break can snap you back to a better place. Walk outside, walk down the hall, pop into the supply closet if that’s the only place–just pull yourself away so you can get a little perspective.
3. Think Ahead
When your mood is particularly bleak, plan something enjoyable. Whether that means looking forward to picking up a gossipy magazine, planning a charity run, taking your family out for an ice cream, or working on a puzzle, thinking about something you enjoy and can look forward to doing can make your current day a little more bearable.
4. Listen to Something
You can’t blast your favorite tunes at work, but you can listen to some that are especially meaningful or calming. If you need energy, there’s nothing like an old-fashioned rock anthem to pump up your mood. One song on your headphones can take you to another place. If music isn’t your thing, try a comedy channel to give you a laugh instead.
5. Plan for Stress
You’re a nurse and your job is stressful. You can’t get around that. But it’s not a surprise, so you can plan for ways to help combat the potential for crashing and burning when you have a bad day.
If your company offers any kind of wellness benefits, take advantage of them. Can you get a quick 15-minute chair massage to ease your aching muscles? Do they have yoga classes, nutrition seminars, or even lectures on how to reduce stress? Take advantage of these benefits because they can help you. Do you have a coworker who always says the right thing to cheer you? Seek that person out.
One of life’s hardest lessons is when you realize no one else is going to take care of your stress for you. When you show up for work, you’re needed immediately and entirely. If your well is running low, you need to take steps to fill it up again. Try a few things to see what works best to dampen your stress and then keep doing it.