5 Ways to Stop Stress from Ruining Your Day at Work

5 Ways to Stop Stress from Ruining Your Day at Work

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?

1. Breathe

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.

Back to the Past: Recognizing Our Potential in the Moment

Back to the Past: Recognizing Our Potential in the Moment

Every now and again, I find myself thinking about the next routine or task seemingly without any recognition of the present moment. I’m at first a little shocked, then pleased, that all the education and training has paid off–doing that  right thing at just the right time without any unnecessary surprises. Done. On to the next item while still thinking a few steps ahead. We get used to the mechanics of our work and it becomes easier to deal with challenging situations (or, at least the daily responsibilities). Sometimes we’re just in the flow, and that gets us through the shift. I think we’ve all had moments like these, only stopping to ask how‘d we do that? after the fact.

There we are, piecing together the details of a shift that pushed us to the limit and questioning how we managed to pull through without so much as a second thought to our actions. What if we could slow down time to reveal something valuable about ourselves when it mattered the most? The next time you’re confronted with a challenge, try some of the following tips on mindfulness to get the most out each moment. Each of these simple tricks and tips are aimed at helping remind us to focus, recompose, and grow in order to always be on the path to becoming  better nurses, individuals, and contributors to the communities that matter to us.

Learning to Recognize the Wandering Mind
“Treat every moment as your last. It is not preparation for something else.” – Shunryu Suzuki
You know that  autopilot mode I was referring to? It’s pretty cool, right? Definitely. There’s a risk, however. All the learning and hard work we’ve put into our jobs affords us the ability to rely on rote memorization or practice, but be careful not to let the moment slip by without taking something valuable from the present. The great difficulty is that our work, like other daily tasks (i.e., dishes, driving, laundry, taking the dogs out, etc.), risks becoming stagnant. When we begin to notice that time is rushing by and we’re oblivious to it, take a deep breath and find your center. Doing this helps keep us on track to find beauty and opportunity in even the most mundane task because we’re being vigilant with our awareness.

Helpful Bonus Tip: As simple as it might seem, one of the best ways to create an understanding of our own psychology and mindfulness is to make it a habit of writing down a short reflection of the day before going to bed. Plan on keeping the task incredibly straight-forward, just writing the essentials and noting any significant moments wherein you had noticed your mind wandering and how you reigned it back again. At the end of a few weeks, find a time to read over your writing to see patterns emerge that can help us identity how to maintain mindful awareness in similar situations or in the midst of familiar difficulties.

Mindfulness Takes Repetition
Think about your day, in detail. What did you do? What was said or overheard? What happened around you? Chances are, you’re probably missing a huge amount of detail because of the natural limitations of the brain. We like to imagine that we are astute and paying attention, even that these characteristics make us the nurses we are on the job. In reality, the brain is only capable of so much before it fills in the gaps of our awareness with mental static–bits of imagery or words or base emotional recognition that fill in the spaces around our significant memories. The trick to harnessing the power of mindfulness is to realize the limitation of the brain and work to circumvent them:

1) Start making more significant memories by working with intent, communicating with presence, and practicing with meaning.

2) Try this for the next week, each time you step through a doorway, pause and acknowledge your gratitude for someone or something precious in your life.

3) Approach a familiar task with renewed awareness by slowing down and finding pleasure in the individual  parts of an experience, as well as the whole.

4) Reach out for a mindfulness buddy who can help you enjoy and commit to mindfulness as a way of life–enjoying more of our life, loves, and work.

Combating Stress and Anxiety With Three Smart Strategies

Combating Stress and Anxiety With Three Smart Strategies

Well, another week is upon us and–if you’re anything like me–you’re probably feeling that familiar hint of anxiety that precedes the start of the Monday routine. We’re not alone. In fact, many people suffer from this type of anticipatory anxiety and stress. Thankfully, we have a choice to shift our approach.

How do we go about changing our perception of this stress and anxiety? It’s important to remind ourselves that we experience this particular type of anxiety because it seems almost reasonable and logical. After all, we worry about the things in our lives we can’t see, know, or face directly. The night before a big speech, the instant before opening a gift, the heavy silence in a waiting room, or even the unsettling quiet of a Sunday evening—all share a similarly common psychological origin.

Uncertain of our ability to know the outcome, we feel overwhelmed. The first step in changing this pattern is to actively disregard expectation. That is, it is not so much the event that causes distress, but more so the speculation surrounding it. I know this is easier said than done, but I won’t leave you to go about the task without offering some friendly ideas to get you started on your journey to calm:

1. Let Go of the Story

Expectation is about the stories we tell ourselves. Sometimes we find ourselves building stories around the events in our lives that otherwise would be difficult to understand or rationalize. Storytelling is a valuable skill because it helps create order out the unfamiliar. However, these very same stories can involve unreasonable expectations that set us towards disappointment or anxiety. Today, try to let go of the aspects of your story that you cannot fully know or change yet.

2. Learn to Embrace Simplicity

Don’t forget to breathe. We hear that advice frequently, and for good reason. It just so happens that now more than ever it’s easy to get caught up in the details and miss the big picture. Identifying stress triggers can help us set clear boundaries that streamline our daily tasks and interactions (i.e., e-mail, networking, commutes, etc.). Be sure to create space to openly communicate your needs, rework the degree to which you give of your time, and concentrate on the beauty of a single moment.

3. Cultivate Your Happiness

As we set out on the path to reduce our stress by bringing attention to triggers, expectations, and our present experience, let us not forget to augment our newly acquired peace of mind with habits that engender joy. Try not to replace anxiety or expectation with yet more anxiety and expectation—I know that seems obvious, but (trust me) it’s worth repeating. Happiness can be a mercurial thing, don’t spend another moment trying to limit it or force it. Explore the absence of unnecessary stress as an opening for new means of satisfaction.