Health care is one of the most rewarding professions you can pursue. But it can also take a physical and emotional toll–especially over the past two years. As a nurse, it is essential that you know how to recognize the causes of workplace stress and how to handle it.
Causes of Nurse Stress
Many factors make nursing a stressful profession, and the cumulative effects of these stressors can take a severe toll on nurses’ physical and emotional well-being. Understanding where the stress originates is essential for addressing the problem:
- Nursing demands high skill levels, and it does not allow opportunities to run on autopilot.
- The health care environment demands teamwork which can mean communication problems and personality clashes.
- Nursing is an emotionally taxing and physically grueling 24-hour job.
- Nurses confront illness, mortality and grief daily.
- Interaction with patients and family members can be a stressful and challenging experience.
As if these were not enough stressors, nurses also face the same stress found in other professions, such as salary issues, benefits and clashes with supervisors.
The Physical and Mental Health Impact
The effects of nurse stress are significant and the stress can have both long-term and short-term impacts on one’s health. Stress can lead to cardiovascular problems such as elevated heart rate, heart attack, stroke and high blood pressure. Further issues include a weakened immune system, insomnia, respiratory problems and high blood sugar.
The mental impact of stress includes an increased risk for depression and anxiety. Stress triggers the release of specific hormones that can lead to persistent feelings of depression, lethargy and low energy.
Managing Nurse Stress
The stress of nursing is, unfortunately, all too common. It dramatically affects both physical and mental well-being. However, you can take steps as a nurse to help you manage stress in your workplace. Consider the following:
- Identify personal stressors. You can identify your stressors by keeping a journal and noting when you are stressed and the reasons behind the stress. Once you identify your stressors, use avoidance or mitigation strategies.
- Take time to recharge. Set aside time for self-care. After a long shift, consider sleeping late, taking a walk, reading a book or practicing yoga.
- Establish boundaries. Leave work at work. Turn off workplace email alerts, texts, and notifications when away from work.
- Know what you can and cannot control. It is vital that you acknowledge what you can manage. Perhaps you cannot control the long hours you work, but you can take breaks during the long shift.
- Communicate clearly. Nurses should consider keeping workplace emails, texts, and face-to-face reports simple and to the point to reduce stressful health care communication.
- Eat right and exercise. Nurses can hold off stress with a healthy diet and regular exercise. Exercising can counter some unwanted physical and mental effects of stress, such as an unhealthy heart rate and blood sugar levels.
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