Almost any nurse knows 2020 can’t be compared to any other point of time they have lived through. And 2021’s progress is in sight, but it’s slow going getting there. Vaccines are on the horizon and some nurses have even completed both doses, but hospitals are still seeing more patients than they can sometimes handle and the new strains of COVID-19 bring the threat additional surges. Nurses are seeking short bursts of stress relief to combat the burnout they are feeling.
The COVID-19 pandemic has left a path of devastation few are equipped to deal with physically, emotionally, or spiritually. As front-line workers, nurses bear the brunt of overwhelming stress, grief, and exhaustion. Stress relief is a priority, but hard to come by for most nurses.
Minority Nurse recently spoke with Crystal Miller RN, past president of the Infusion Nurses Society (INS) about the ways nurses are just trying to get through these times when days blur together and overtaxed is the normal state.
The emotional toll on nurses can’t be overlooked, she says. “Anyone in health care has been impacted,” says Miller. “Even if it’s not every shift, it has challenged us emotionally.” Nurses, who are problem solvers by nature, aren’t always able to find a solution, let alone the best solution, out of many choices. “The patients are so so ill and you can effect only so much change,” she notes.” And it’s not necessarily for a positive outcome.”
Maintaining a patient connection is now a hard-to-grasp process, but Miller says her team makes a significant impression in any way they can. “We’ve been put to the test in so many ways,” she says. “Making sure we have eye contact –that’s pretty much the most impactful contact we can have right now.”
What else helps? Miller offers a few suggestions based on her conversations with other nurses.
Talk to a Professional
“It’s about more than us and the care we provide and the equipment we use,” says Miller. “It’s about us being emotionally resilient and maintaining our mental health.” Miller, who has spoken or interviewed many nurses who are fighting back tears, says the hurt and the pain nurses are feeling is so dominant. With her own team, she tries to promote the use of employee assistance programs that offer counseling services and encourages that resource. “Sometimes it’s better to talk to someone who doesn’t work in health care and gives you a new perspective,” she says.
Find a Distraction
From watching quick and easy-to-digest TikTok videos to feeding the birds to deep breathing—finding something fast to calm you or make you laugh is valuable. And don’t worry how silly it might seem to others—you need relief and an immediate escape. If a few bursts of cat videos or watching reality TV or breaking out in song and dance help you, then just do it.
“I can’t stress journaling enough,” says Miller. Again, you’re not going for profound entries. You can write that today was a horrible day and just get that out. Or you can write that out of the horrible day your coffee was perfect and you’re grateful for that one thing.
Find Your Own Soothing Habit
“One person I know grounds herself before her next patient interaction,” says Miller. She touches the door or doorframe before entering the room as a way to say “I am going to see someone else now.” The purposeful action provides a divide between the experience she just had and the one she is beginning.
Acknowledge Your Limits
“Right now, most of us are of the mindset of work, go home, go to bed,” says Miller. “We are so tired.” Still, the grinding workload doesn’t mean nurses have lost their legendary spirit that keeps them going even when things are bleak. “At the end of the day, we just try to enjoy moments of levity when they present themselves and however they present themselves,” says Miller. “And chocolate goes a long way in my book.”
Nurses have intense experiences that most other health care workers don’t. As a result, they tend to have a great deal of stress. Having friendships with other nurses tends to alleviate it and help in more ways than you might imagine.
Only nurses understand what other nurses truly go through, says nurse practitioner, former attorney, author, and career/lifestyle blogger Meika Mirabelli, JD, MSN, FNP-C, founder of BeautyinaWhiteCoat.com, which helps both health care students and professionals live balanced, successful lives through sharing career and studying tips. Mirabelli knows firsthand how having friendships with other nurses can make a huge difference in the workplace—and how not having them can hurt.
“I have experienced horrible treatment by nurses who were in the field of nursing longer than I have been. During those times, I would have to lock myself in the bathroom to hide and cry. I would count the days until I was done with that job and celebrated when I turned in my resignation,” Mirabelli recalls. But the good has outweighed the bad. “I have also worked with great nurses with whom I still have a bond today. My experience with those wonderful nurses definitely reduced stress and made me a better nurse and a better person. I have thoroughly enjoyed my shifts when I have coworkers that I could call my friends. I also was able to sleep better at night and looked forward to going to work.”
Research has shown that friendships between nurses can reduce stressful situations. A 2016 study published in PLOS ONE found that the “degree of cohesion among friends had a positive impact on the level of job stress experienced by nurses.” The study concluded overall that the “strength and density of such friendship networks were related to job stress. Life information support from their friendship network was the primary positive contributor to control of job stress.”
While it’s important to understand what research has discovered, it’s just as—if not more—crucial for nurses to know how this can help them in real-life situations.
Why Friendships Help
“There will always be bonds and friendships forged when you work with people in close proximity for long periods of time,” says James LaVelle Dickens, DNP, RN, FNP-BC, FAANP, who serves in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services regional office in Dallas, Texas, as the senior program manager officer for the Office of Minority Health. “Having strong friendships at work is known to reduce stress. A study by Gallup found that people with a best friend at work are seven times more likely to be engaged with their job.”
“I can think of many times when friendships with other Nurse Practitioners (NPs) have made a difference in my life,” says Dickens. “Sometimes, it’s having someone lift our own spirits after we’ve delivered a difficult diagnosis to a patient. Sometimes, it’s offering a younger colleague with coaching to help them be the best professional they can be.”
“Nobody really understands what a nurse does like a nurse, so those relationships provide support, and that support helps bring stress down,” says Benjamin Evans, DD, DNP, RN, APN, PHMCNS-BC, president of the New Jersey State Nurses Association.
Evans explains that what makes nurses so different from other health care professions is that they are with patients more than anyone else. Other health care professionals may come and do a test, treatment, or procedure on a patient, but then they leave. The nurses are the ones who stay behind and help the patients cope with their stress, pain, or fear resulting from these processes or their conditions.
But this is just one example of why nurses have so much stress. Dickens says that other reasons are heavy caseloads, interactions with patients and their family members who may not recognize the significant challenges of their complex health conditions, and dealing with death.
“Oftentimes, the families are more demanding than the patients,” says Evans.
“Every decision a nurse makes affects the health status of their patients,” says Judith Schmidt, RN, MSN, ONC, CCRN, CEO of the New Jersey States Nurses Association. “The public doesn’t realize how stressful these areas can be. If a nurse makes a mistake, it can mean a patient’s life. You have the life-and-death situations with the patients, their families, and the administration.”
“Nurses have the type of job that requires a lot of mental clarity, physical demands, and empathy towards patients and their families,” says Flo Leighton, MS, RN, PMHNP-BC, a board-certified psychiatric nurse practitioner in private practice at Union Square Practice as well as an adjunct faculty member at New York University Rory Meyers College of Nursing.
The difficult work, both physical and mental, is why having friendships is necessary. It’s also great to have others who completely understand you.
Friends “Get” You
Erin Parisi, LMHC, CAP, owner of Erin C. Parisi Counseling & Consulting, LLC, learned about nursing friendships while working as a therapist in a residential treatment setting alongside nurses every day. “My biggest takeaway has been that having friends who are ‘in the trenches’ with you helps manage stress. In nursing, not only are you coping with the system you work in, with a boss/manager you may or may not like, and office politics, but you also have a really specialized knowledge that not everyone has,” says Parisi. “In a system where not everyone you work with is in the same role, you might end up feeling a little more alone in your job. Non-nurses who don’t have the same or similar training may not understand your jokes or fully wrap their heads around your stressors.
“A lot of nurses have a dark sense of humor, which not everyone has an appreciation for. Not only is the friendship of a fellow nurse providing stress relief, but being able to make dark/weird/gross jokes to someone else who will understand and also think it’s funny can reduce stress in a big way,” explains Parisi.
“Sharing a laugh in the midst of a stressful day lowers your blood pressure and helps put everything in perspective,” says Dickens. Having someone else who understands what makes nurses tick and what makes the profession unlike any other serves as the backbone of these types of relationships, he adds. “Having that support network and camaraderie does an NP’s mental health a ton of good.”
Shanna Shafer, RN, BSN, nursing expert, managing editor, and strategic communications manager at BestNursingDegree.com has spent ten years in the nursing field working in everything from home health, hospice, a community health center to vascular access, and in a burn intensive care unit. At the burn unit she says, “Friendships with other nurses blossomed and were essential to my own survival and mental health.” The bonds that nurses develop in various situations are amazing, she adds.
Parisi adds that nurses witness and work on a daily basis with experiences that most people do not. While everyone else in a nurse’s group outside work—non-nurse friends, family, spouses, and significant others—can provide support, they simply can’t connect with nurses like other nurses or coworkers can.
“Given the fact that nurses spend so much time at work—sometimes even more time than at home with loved ones—having friends at work can help make a shift more enjoyable. Nurses who work with you know what the day-to-day struggle looks like on any given shift,” explains Leighton. “The ability to get perspective from a work friend who understands how to handle on-the-job situations builds resilience and normalizes stressful situations. It makes us feel like we’re understood and not alone in the tasks that challenge us.”
Having someone who “gets” you, can reduce stress and make you feel better in various workplace situations. “Research has shown that social health is an importance factor in stress management. Therefore, friendships among nurses could influence rewarding benefits in processing work-related stressors,” says Amy Moreira, LMHC, owner of More MH Counseling, LLC. “The nursing field is a challenging, demanding, and rewarding job with its own characteristics that are, at times, not fully understood by the general public…A nurse who finds friendship with other nurses can benefit from their shared direct experience, allowing themselves to feel better heard and understood—which is an important part of healing in stress management. Potential solutions can be offered from a different perspective with a more solution-focused outcome than advice from other friends and family. Workplace friendships among nurses allows for in-the-moment support and allows for open processing without the need to explain certain contextual aspects.”
Nurses Eat Their Young
There’s the old adage that “Nurses eat their young.” Some more experienced nurses have been known to let the young ones flounder. Nurse.org, though, has a new campaign to dispel this adage called “Nurses support their young.” The campaign is significant because when nurses are friends, the stress of the entire unit, floor, or facility can decrease.
“It’s important for nurses to friend new nurses to allow for effective learning and adjustment on the team, including the patient,” explains Moreira. “Establishing friendships and aiding newer nurses can contribute to a more positive workplace environment and job satisfaction. Friendships between nurses can allow for a more experienced nurse to take on a ‘coaching’ role that enables stress-free learning with laughter, support, and understanding. Working past any frustrations associated with newer nurses lacking knowledge can often be processed when reflecting upon past mishaps in the experienced nurse’s own career.”
“It makes for a healthy work environment when there are coworkers whom you work with whom you can be friends with and discuss difficult issues and challenges that you couldn’t to someone outside the profession,” says Schmidt.
And a healthy workplace will influence other people and environments as well.
The Ripple Effect
When nurses are friends, they aren’t just nice to each other, but they look out for each other. While working as a staff nurse, Leighton developed a core group of nursing friends. “We collectively pitched in to make sure that if someone needed a day off or a last-minute shift coverage, we helped one another. It was an unspoken understanding that we took care of one another,” she recalls.
“While I think that friendship is important in all aspects of our lives, we do know that workplace friendships are tied to higher levels of job satisfaction, engagement in work and performance, as well as overall team cohesion,” says Dickens. “I wholeheartedly believe that a support system at work and in our personal lives is key.”
Nurses who have friends in their workplace can also assist each other during stressful situations by giving each other someone to vent to. “It can put that nurse who is stressed in a better frame of mind. It almost permeates an entire unit if one nurse is stressed and could cause others to become stressed,” he says.
Dickens adds that if a nurse is stressed, patients can sense it in the nurse’s voice and body language. But the opposite is true as well: a happy nurse can make a happy patient.
And sometimes a happy nurse, can just make a happy nurse. That can be essential enough. Nurses who are less stressed because of friendships can have improved mental, emotional, and physical wellness, says Moreira. “Nurses with reduced stress often prioritize self-care, which allows them to give their best selves to others.”
If you’re like most nurses, the demands of the holiday season plus an already challenging career and family life can really take a toll on your health and well-being. Instead of enjoying a season of joy, some of us may equate it to a season of stress. We get so busy we simply don’t pause to enjoy the festivities, like gift shopping, cookie baking, holiday parties, and visits with friends and family.
As nurses well know, stress can tear down your mind, your body, and your spirit. Of course, stress isn’t always a bad thing, but too much of it can certainly be. That’s why it’s absolutely crucial that you practice self-care during the next several weeks. When you’re more gentle with yourself, you’re able to increase your well-being and to enjoy a calmer entree into the new year.
With stress relief in mind, here’s a look at a multi-pronged strategy that will help you to conquer the chaos and put you in control during the holidays.
Give Yourself Preventative Self-Care
As a nurse you’re aware that diet and fitness are part of a holistic approach to easing your mind and staying healthy. There’s no secret formula to eating healthy, exercising smart, sleeping soundly, and otherwise warding off illness and disease.
Fight the Flu
Start with one obvious tactic: Have you had your flu shot yet? A vaccine can go a long way toward protecting you from minor aches and pains. Or worse, a full-blown case of influenza that keeps you away from the bedside and your patients for two weeks. The worst case scenario, of course, is if you were to become so ill that you had to be hospitalized yourself.
Fit in Fitness
How about making sure to work in a workout everyday to beat stress, boost energy, and burn off extra calories from those holiday cookies? You may have to sneak in exercise if you don’t have 30 minutes in one stretch. Break up your workout into three 10 minute segments—a short walk to work (park at the outer edge of the parking lot), a walk to your car after work, and a strength session using mini-weights while watching TV, perhaps.
Lighten Up Dishes
Comfort food seems to rule when the weather turns chilly, and it’s hard to say “No” when everyone is partaking of once-a-year treats, like eggnog. With some imagination and planning, you can be the diet savior who bring in lighter alternatives that are just as appetizing and festive. Your coworkers will appreciate a featherweight angel food cake with a side of tropical fruit just as much as a calorie-dense pecan pie a la mode. You’ll be glad that you gave a face lift to those heavyweight favorites when you see the scale in January and realized you’ve dodged that all-too-common holiday weight gain.
Lighten Up on Yourself
Taking care of your body is a good thing and it all starts with taking care of your mind. When you practice a gentle attitude towards yourself at meals, when working out, and while you’re at work and at home, you’re taking good care of yourself.
Oftentimes as a nurse, you get so tired that all you want to do is sit down (or lie down) and rest. When you’re mindful about self-care, you’ll be able to discern whether you really need that downtime, or you’re just feeling lazy. If it’s the second case, you can nudge yourself into going for a walk instead, knowing that it will clear your mind and help you feel good again.
The holiday season is a great time to focus on yourself, your health, and your own self-care. Practice prioritizing your health and happiness, and you’re less likely to go back to your old ways. Why not start today?
Every day, nurses come to work providing care for patients requiring multiple levels of skilled nursing care ranging from basic to complex. Some patients may require vasoactive or vasopressor drugs to reduce or increase a patient’s blood pressure and other devices, such as a ventilator, intra-aortic balloon pump, or continuous renal replacement therapy, just to name a few, in order to preserve a patient’s life. In addition to caring for patients, nurses also have to make sure the patients’ family members understand the different aspects of the patient’s plan of care, such as the medications’ indication, side effects, and expected outcomes, as well as blood tests and diagnostic tests.
On a daily basis, nurses deal with the various level of stress caring for their patients and family members. These stressors could be the workload, time management, difficult patients and/or family members, discharges, admissions, and cardiac or respiratory arrest events. While nurses set goals to provide quality care that leads to better patient outcomes, nurses have the tendency to neglect themselves while working for the welfare of their patients by occasionally taking shorter meal breaks.
The big question is: who cares for nurses so they can continue to provide quality care every day to achieve positive outcomes? I see myself as a guardian angel for nurses whom I work with every day. Driving to work, I talk to God and ask him to help me make a positive difference, whether it is a soft touch of my hands, my soft-spoken voice, or my tight hugs. I believe that nurses should be cared for similarly to the way we take care of our patients and their families. Therefore, I look for a bible verse that would facilitate me making a difference in the lives of others. The bible verse I read is Proverb 3:6, which reads: “In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” The reason for this particular verse is that I need God’s guidance so I can be a blessing to others. The way I believe that I am a blessing to others is demonstrated by monthly birthday cards and luncheons for coworkers who are born in a particular month as well as greeting cards and gift cards for expecting mothers and fathers or weddings. I also recognize coworkers if they have achieved any type of certification or graduated from college.
Sometimes, I make and bring in desserts and have food delivered for lunch. On our unit, we are a melting pot of people. Every year in August, we celebrate International Culture Day where the staff brings an entrée from their culture and shares a little bit of history and its meaning. Additionally, I show concern about them as a whole and will ask them how they are feeling, what is going on with their children, dogs and/or cats, and their commute to work. The admiration of taking care of nurses and others as extended family members at work gives me great joy and pleasure that leaves my heart full of exhilaration every day.
New research in the past year alone has emerged to tell us that video games are not as bad as they’ve seemed to be. In fact, game play may help us flourish since it is a plentiful source of stress-relief, and some video games may even help us feel more calm. Gone are the days of intense running, jumping, and button-mashing, here to stay are games that can fit any mood!
The best part about the games profiled below: They’re perfect for all-ages. If it’s a rainy day and that walk in the park just can’t happen, these games will do just as well.
Whether the last game you played was Pac Man in 1990 or you’re a champ at Call of Duty online, these games below will offer a healthy mix of challenge and zen. I hope you enjoy them!
5. Endless Ocean
An interactive aquarium on Wii. This video game features a world of no danger, just endless depths to explore in a brilliant blue ocean. It’s as free-floating as scuba diving, with no need to rent gear or worry about poisonous sea-creatures.
4. Super Mario Bros 3D World
Of all the games profiled in this blog, this game is the hardest, but it can sure be fun. It’s available for Wii U only, but most critics have mentioned that it is the one reason to own a Wii U. The 2-4 player mode is a great way to spend time with friends and family.
3. Little Big Planet
This game’s first iteration won Game of the Year and it reminds us of playing a pop-up storybook. The first few levels prove to be simple enough, and later the game gets a bit more complicated. But just a few runs through this lively world can brighten your outlook. This classic can be picked up for only $19.99 at most stores.
What if you could transform into the wind itself, and roam the Earth over prairies and mountains? This game makes it possible. The goal of the game is not to save the world or defeat evil – rather, all you must do is travel the Earth as a breeze carrying petals. Pair this with beautiful music and you have a perfect meditative experience.
1. Katamari Damacy
Katamari in any form on any console is the number-one best stress-relieving game on Earth. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration. But nothing beats what this game has to offer: the unique, all-powerful feeling of rolling up trees, cars, and buildings into a neat ball. The controls are easy for anyone to use, and the eye-melting color schemes will spruce up even the drabbest of days. It’s totally weird, but also totally satisfying.
That’s it for now. Let the joy begin!
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