Stress is something every person has to deal with. Some professions and fields entail greater levels of tension anxiety than others, however.
Nurses, in particular, are prone to high levels of stress and some of them aren’t skilled or conscientious about managing their symptoms. Whether it’s the long hours, staffing shortages, or having to deal with difficult patients, there’s rarely an easy day for an on-call nurse.
As a result, if you’re a nurse, you need to know how to cope with stress while you’re on the job.
Identifying the sources of stress
Can you accurately name the cause or causes of your stress? As a nurse, there are any number of possibilities, and it’s vital for you to recognize what sets you off.
Common causes of stress in a medical setting include long shifts, emotional encounters, exposure to physical trauma, and the fast-paced nature of the job. Properly handling your stress is key to both your own personal health and the health of the patients under your care.
According to a study on stress in the health-care professions, “225 physicians reported 76 incidents in which they believe patient care was adversely affected by their stress.” In other words, that means that on average, one out of every three physicians can name a time when his or her own level of stress affected the care of a patient.
That’s a striking statistic and cause for alarm if it’s not taken care of.
Strategies for coping with stress
Do you know what the fifth tenet of the American Nurses’ Association Code of Ethics says? It requires nurses to attend to their own needs and to “preserve integrity and safety, to maintain competence, and to continue personal and professional growth.”
Therefore, in order to abide by the code, you must learn how to reduce and relieve your stress. Here are a few tips on ways to do that:
- Get enough sleep. As a nurse, you probably spend your time telling patients to rest up and get some sleep, but are you following your own advice? You should aim for seven to eight hours of sleep between each shift. As you well know, your body uses this time to recover, and sufficient sleep will give you the energy you need to tackle issues and challenges with greater stamina and clarity.
- Learn to say no. One powerful word — no — could change your life. When you’re stressed out and anxious, having learned to say no can be a lifesaver. Whether you’re responding to a friend asking you to enjoy a night out just before a shift, or a boss asking you to extend yourself further than you’re comfortable, it’s important to acknowledge you can’t do everything and make choices accordingly.
- Maintain social relationships. Eight- and 12-hour shifts can leave you wanting to curl up in your room by yourself, but it’s important to maintain social relationships and enjoy your life outside of work. Use this time to talk about things other than your job, and focus on separating yourself from your responsibilities.
- Take a step back. When you feel stress building up inside of you, don’t be afraid to take a step back and breathe. Simply walking outside for a few minutes can give you a little time to recharge and avoid making poor decisions.
- Eat a balanced diet. Finally, a well-balanced diet is critical to diminishing stress. Try reducing processed foods and incorporating more fresh fruits and vegetables into your diet. If possible, bring your own meals to work and avoid the temptation to eat vending machine selections and fast food.
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