Some jobs are more emotionally exhausting and stressful than others, and one such emotional roller coaster is nursing.
In looking after the needs of their patients and addressing their health concerns, nurses tend to neglect their wellbeing.
In fact, research even shows that 10-70% of nurses are affected by burnout and stress, and a study in India showed that 87.4% of nurses experienced occupational stress.
Occupational stress is an increasing concern given the current pandemic since nurses have to work on the frontlines and face the constant threat of contamination by this terrifying virus.
Long shifts, high demands, emotional stress, constant exposure to illness and death, and dealing with grieving families can sometimes get overwhelming if not for proper coping mechanisms.
It is thus very important that nurses know how to deal with emotional challenges at work and maintain their mental wellbeing.
Following are some ways to deal with such stress healthily:
1. Understanding what is and is not in your control
Beating yourself over an inevitable and unpreventable death is a common trap nurse might fall into. If you cannot distinguish between the controllable and uncontrollable aspects of your daily tasks, every death will be devastating.
Frequent exposure to illness and death is common in healthcare settings, but you should know where you are not to blame. If you are confident in your competence, you can better cope with such stressors.
For instance, after completing online post master’s certificate nurse practitioner programs, getting long-term experience, and putting in your best effort, you are unlikely to blame yourself for mishaps with patients.
This principle also applies to other aspects of your work, like your work hours. You should acknowledge those aspects that you cannot control and not fret excessively.
At the same time, put in an effort in managing the controlling aspects that you can, like taking out time for self-care and meditation during your shift.
2. Practicing meditation
Meditation works wonders when it comes to relieving work stress and overcoming emotional challenges.
Meditation typically involves focused attention, relaxed breathing, a peaceful and quiet setting, a comfortable position, and an open mind.
Meditation is known to clear your mind of disturbing and unwanted thoughts, escape consciousness for a while, increase self-awareness and awareness of your surroundings, and manage stress.
Research shows that meditation alleviates anxiety levels 60% of the time and is even known to improve employee productivity by 120%.
3. Enhancing sleep quality
While stress is known to disturb sleep, sleep can reduce stress. This cyclic relationship means that by improving sleep quality, one can minimize stress and improve sleeping habits.
Research suggests the importance of sleep in one’s overall health, and sleep deprivation can affect one’s memory, mood, and judgment.
To sleep better, practice deep breathing and muscle relaxation before bedtime, eat healthy, exercise 2 hours before you sleep, and avoid caffeinated drinks late in the day.
4. Talking it out
Emotional stress, when bottled up, can accumulate over time and only get worse. It is always best for nurses and other professionals working in stressful work environments to vent out to others once in a while.
A long and exhausting shift can burden your mind, and you should talk it out with a friend, family, or spouse at the end of the day. Such discussion can also help identify the source of stress and treat it if possible.
It is also a good idea to have an experienced nurse to talk to when you feel overwhelmed and get practical advice on coping with workplace challenges.
5. Including regular exercise in your schedule
The Department of Health and Human Services suggests a combination of low and high-intensity workouts and strength training as the ideal combination for developing stronger stress-management mechanisms.
However, the physical activity you include in your schedule should be one you should enjoy and not add to the already burdensome workload.
You can join aerobics, yoga, or cycling classes, get membership in a gym, lift weights, swim, or go on a walk or jog with your friends or colleagues.
All physical activity is known to boost endorphins or feel-good neurotransmitters in your body, alleviate stress, and improve mood.
Exercise can boost your self-confidence, reduce depression and anxiety, improve sleep quality, and give you greater command over your body.
6. Eating healthy
In your busy work schedule, it sounds completely normal to miss a meal or two during the day; however, this habit is very unhealthy and can harm your body in the long run.
Instead of bringing takeout food or snacking on fatty, salty foods, prepare healthy snacks that you can get to work and keep your body hydrated.
In a profession as focused on social work as nursing, ironically, your health needs tend to be neglected. Nurses must look after their own mental and physical well-being to help them overcome emotional challenges at work.
Practice meditation, sleep well, don’t bottle up your emotions, and exercise regularly. Doing so will strengthen your internal coping mechanisms and help you deal with challenging work circumstances.
However, if self-help techniques don’t work out, there is no shame in seeking some help from professionals. We all need someone to guide us once in a while.