(This post about simple stress management for nurses may contain affiliate links. See our disclosure page for more information.)
Nurses are more stressed-out than ever.
It is no surprise that prolonged stress damages the body. Yet many nurses are dealing with unchecked, chronic stress for years, or even decades. Still, the passion that many nurses have for helping others drives them to continue forward in their nursing careers. But who is helping nurses?
The unfortunate truth is that nurses themselves are the ones who must take care of themselves first. Nurse safety and well-being are not being taken seriously by the very own hospitals where we work so hard and strive to give only the very best patient care. Nationwide, it appears that hospital administrator’s main priority is making money for the hospital, and the health and well-being of their nurses doesn’t even make the list.
Simple stress management for nurses
Do some hospitals see nurses as indispensable?
For some nurses, it may feel like it. Even I have felt that despite my own dependability, clinical knowledge, and positive attitude that it wouldn’t matter in the slightest if I left. The feeling is disheartening.
For example, I became a per diem nurse after the birth of my first child because a unit director stated that they were “unable” to give me consistent scheduling so I could plan daycare for my child. Per diem nursing gives me the flexibility to schedule my days to fit my childcare situation; however, now I have no benefits, no disability, no retirement, and no maternity leave – and I had another baby this year! Needless to say, it was a hyper-expensive year for us and caused a lot of stress for me.
But, they knew another nurse would come along and fill my spot. So why be flexible with my schedule so that I could stay?
I still have a passion for nursing, despite the stress.
Workplace stress in nursing is common. I am not leaving the profession soon because my children are still very small, and I still do have a strong desire and passion for helping others. So in the meantime, I make stress management a huge priority in my life.
If you are a nurse who feels like me, keep an eye out for nurse burnout symptoms that could be wreaking havoc on your overall health and happiness. And start taking simple steps to help keep stress in check, so you don’t end up as a patient yourself. Nurses shouldn’t be creating unhealthy habits to cope with their stressful nursing careers. And if it becomes too much where your health is severely being affected negatively, then consider other nursing options away from the bedside. Nurse, you need to take care of yourself first!
Simple Stress Management Techniques For Nurses:
1. Watch a funny movie
When was the last time you had a good laugh? Do you even remember how good it feels to laugh out loud? Watching a funny movie is a great way to passively tune out and focus on something more light-hearted. Especially for nurses who deal with immense stress in the workplace.
Studies show that laughter is so good for your health. A good laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after. Also, laughter increases your immune system by decreasing stress hormones and increasing immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.
Laughter makes people feel good, which is precisely what stressed-out nurses need. It releases endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Studies show that laughter has the power to promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
2. Get moving: endorphins are natural stress reducers
Get your heart rate up on your days off! The benefits of exercise have been well documented is essential for nurse self-care. It is no secret that regular exercise helps control weight, boosts overall energy, improves your mood, and helps decrease stress levels. Not only does exercise benefit the nurse personally, but it also allows nurses to have the stamina to give better care to patients as well.
Need to blow off some steam after a stressful day? A brisk 30-minute walk can help. Physical activity stimulates various brain chemicals that may leave you feeling happier and more relaxed. Which, in turn, will help manage caregiver burden and help you feel your best.
3. Yoga: learn the art of how to relax
Yoga is a great stress management tool for nurses. Compassion fatigue can be overwhelming for nurses, and learning how to use yoga for relaxation can help.
A study published in Workplace Health & Safety on yoga for self-care and burnout prevention of nurses found that yoga participants “reported significantly higher self-care as well as less emotional exhaustion upon completion of an 8-week yoga intervention.” While the control group demonstrated no change throughout the course of the study, the yoga group showed a significant improvement in scores for self-care, mindfulness, and emotional exhaustion outcomes.
Nurse self-care in the form of yoga is scientifically proven to be beneficial:
Stress management. A study published in the National Institute of Biotechnology Information investigated the effects of yoga on stress coping strategies of ICU nurses. After only eight weeks of yoga, the results showed that the participating ICU nurses had significantly better focus coping strategies and a significant reduction in perceived mental pressure. (If that is what can happen after only eight weeks, imagine the impact a regular, permanent yoga practice could have on stress management levels!).
Prevent or eliminate chronic low back pain. Chronic back pain in the nursing population is a common ailment. An evidenced-based review at the Texas Women’s University reported that estimates of chronic low back pain among nurses range from 50%-80%. Yoga not only increases flexibility but increases muscle strength and prevents injuries such as chronic lower back pain.
Good friends can help you manage chronic stress. It is essential to find balance when you work as a nurse, and that includes making time for friendships and a social life outside of the hospital.
Nurses with strong social support have a reduced risk of many significant health problems, including depression, high blood pressure, and an unhealthy body mass index. Talking with other nurses who are struggling with the same stressors, you are can help provide support when you need it most.
Having a good social support group can help in many other ways:
Increase your sense of belonging and purpose as a nurse
Boost your happiness and reduce your stress
Improve your self-confidence and self-worth
Help you cope with traumatic situations in the workplace, such as patient deaths and abusive or combative patient situations
Supportive friendships can encourage you to change or avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as excessive drinking or lack of exercise
Meditation is the practice of focusing your mind on a particular thought or activity to achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm state. It is claimed to reduce stress, anxiety, and burnout, and enhance resilience. And stressed-out nurses working long, arduous shifts with often changing schedules need this more than anyone.
A few benefits of meditation:
Better focus and ability to ignore distractions
Happier state of mind
Headspace is an app for your phone that has many different meditations, each lasting 10 to 60 minutes. If you can find 10 minutes in your day, then you have no excuse not to meditate! Meditation is attainable for even the busiest of nurses!
Like yoga, meditation is a practice. There is no good or bad. It is just what it is at the time. You can keep practicing to train your mind to do better the next time. And then eventually your brain is rewired by the habitual repetition of meditation, and it becomes easier.
It is not uncommon for hospitals to have a space for spiritual prayer or meditation for patients and their families. However, nurses should also be offered a meditative space to clear their heads and have a quiet moment to themselves. This would help nurses return to their work environments with renewed energy and focus on giving better patient care.
6. Eat nutritious foods
Nurse break rooms are notorious for having sugary snacks like donuts, cookies, or other unhealthy junk food all within an arms reach. Sweets are so tempting to nibble on when you are tired and need a little extra energy. But then a few moments later you crash and are even more tired. On another note, eating nutritious and easy snacks will keep you energized during a 12-hour shift.
Pack snacks like these in your lunch bag to help keep your blood sugar levels balanced during your shift:
Baby carrots, broccoli or other veggies & hummus
Celery and almond butter
Granola and yogurt
Almonds or cashews
Sliced apples and peanut butter
Cottage cheese with pineapple or banana
Tips for nurses to make healthy meals fast: Try making a big batch of quinoa, brown rice, or black bean pasta to have handy in the fridge. These are a few great staples that you can build a nourishing meal around. When you get hungry, you can mix in a protein, veggies, nuts or seeds, dried fruits, or even just enjoy them with a little olive oil and sea salt. The key is to have healthy food that is easy to prepare BEFORE you get super hungry.
P.S. HEY, NURSES! Remember to grab your FREE E-Book “The Nurse’s Guide To Health & Self Care” below! (scroll down)
(This post about nurse burnout symptoms may contain affiliate links. You can find my disclosure page here.)
The nursing profession tends to attract the most compassionate and empathetic people alive. For that reason, nurses are also the most susceptible to experiencing “burnout.” Eventually, chronic overwork and stress can lead to nurse burnout symptoms such as exhaustion, anxiety, physical injury, or even depression. If you have been a nurse for a while, then you probably know exactly what I’m talking about.
Nurse burnout symptoms don’t start right away.
A novice nurse is so fresh. The happiness to be done with nursing school combined with the excitement of having the title R.N. after your name moves the new nurse optimistically through each 12-hour shift.
Yet, many nurses find themselves experiencing nurse burnout symptoms, sometimes after only a year or two in the profession. Still, they continue working with the same rigor and determination without taking good care of themselves.
Here are a few nurse burnout symptoms to look out for:
1. Chronic exhaustion
Have you ever gotten 8 hours of sleep yet still felt exhausted when you woke up? Or, are you so tired that you can’t imagine how you are going to make it through another 12-hour shift? If so, you may be experiencing chronic exhaustion.
Nursing is a caring profession, and compassion is one of the essential elements of patient care. However, constantly caring for others’ needs before your own can lead to compassion fatigue. Symptoms of compassion fatigue include emotional exhaustion, irritability, and poor job satisfaction. You simply cannot be a good nurse if you begin to dislike your job.
If you find yourself feeling like you are losing compassion for your patients because you are experiencing this nurse burnout symptom, then you owe it to your patients and yourself to take a break. Go on a vacation, play a round of golf, take a yoga class, or find a way to get some quality alone time to recharge your batteries.
3. Losing your passion
When many nurses are asked why they decided to go into the nursing profession, they say it was because they had a “passion” for helping humankind. Passion is exactly what drives us to do good work. So, if you feel you are losing your passion, then it may be a good time to find it again.
Stagnation is the killer of passion. Do you feel like you are no longer learning within your specialty? Perhaps it is time to become certified within your specialty or even find a new specialty altogether. Nursing is a career for lifelong learners. Learning keeps us educated, and it can also help you find your passion for nursing again. It’s a win-win!
More is expected of nurses than ever before.
Nurses need to find a work-life balance more than ever. Heavier patient loads and the physical demands that come with working arduous 12-hour shifts are killing the spirit of many R.N.’s. To top it off, it seems as if hospitals are trying to save money in any way they can, and unfortunately, that usually translates into less and less resources for nurses.
The bottom line is this: when nurses take care of themselves, they can give the best possible care to their patients. This scenario is a win-win for everyone involved: nurses, patients, and the business people who are managing healthcare.
As nurses, we simply cannot continue to burn the candle at both ends and expect a good outcome.
If you are experiencing nurse burnout, there is hope! You can beat nurse burnout and even rediscover your passion for nursing. A result of my own nurse burnout was that I became a nurse blogger to vent my frustrations and help find solutions for my own burnout. However, it is your responsibility to figure out why you are unhappy within your career and find your nursing passion once again. You too, can beat nurse burnout!
P.S. Sign up to receive your FREE COPY of “The Nurse’s Guide To Health And Self Care” at the bottom of this post!
So, it may seem odd at first to hear that I also LOVE talking about nurse burnout. In fact, I think every nurse experiences burnout at some point in their career (if you haven’t please email me back and let me know your secret!).
Here’s the kicker. Once you admit you have an issue with nursing burnout you open yourself to the idea of potential solutions. But if you just pull your hoodie over your eyes and continue to suffer in silence then nothing ever changes. And your burnout gets even worse.
So, let’s talk about solutions for nurse burnout! (Solving problems is always better than complaining anyway).
Last week I had an amazing opportunity to interview with nurse coach and fellow ER nurse, Jessica Smith about bouncing back from burnout!
Our Bouncing Back From Burnout YouTube interview can be found here:
During the interview, we discussed:
How you can find a work-life balance with a busy nursing schedule;
Why nurses need to make their own health a #1 priority;
How getting to the “why” in your burnout can help you find patterns that contribute to your burnout;
And why you should always surround yourself with positive support!
P.S. If you are a nurse struggling with finding ways to take better care of yourself, here is a FREE E-BOOK . It’s called Nurse, Take Care Of Yourself First. Because nurses work really, really hard. And we need to be taking better care of ourselves. It includes tips for nurses on how to stay healthy during 12 hour shifts, ideas for better self care at home and suggestions for finding a better work-life balance.
As a second career RN with 7 years of experience as a med/surg, telemetry, emergency room and resource nurse I have struggled tremendously with nurse burnout. In fact, I often wonder how long I can continue working as a nurse when I often feel so spent. The caregiver burden is real.
Nurse burnout is often described as the physical, mental and emotional exhaustion of nurses. Causes for nurse burnout include working arduous 12 hour shifts, working in high stress environments, dealing with sickness and death and constantly having to put the needs of others before one’s own.
Like most nurses, I am very passionate about my profession. It is a privilege and an honor to advocate for and serve my patients during some of the most difficult points of their lives. But there has to be a better way to help nurses find a better balance between patient care and self-care.
The nurse burnout problem is not going away.
Left unchecked, nurse burnout can lead to exhaustion, physical injuries, and even depression. Furthermore, disengagement caused by nurse burnout can negatively impact patient care, increase the risk of medical errors and lower overall patient satisfaction.
In addition, nurse health must be taken more seriously. Too many nurses are on their way to becoming patients themselves due to overwork.
1. Create a meditative space for nurses away from patients and visitors
Caregiver burden is an issue for nurses. It is not uncommon for hospitals to have a space for spiritual prayer or meditation for patients and their families. However, nurses should also be offered a meditative space to clear their heads, and have a quiet moment to themselves. This would help nurses return to their work environments with renewed energy and focus to give better patient care.
2. Offer yoga and meditation classes
Offering yoga and meditation classes during the nurse’s lunch breaks would be beneficial. Studies show that yoga and meditation can greatly improve quality of life for nurses by reducing stress levels. In turn, nurses are able to give better patient care.
Yoga at work could also help many nurses manage the chronic back pain they have developed as a result of nursing. An evidenced based review at the Texas Women’s University reported that estimates of chronic low back pain among nurses range from 50%-80%. A 30 minute gentle yoga class during a nurse’s lunch break could help nurses manage this issue. Yoga stretching not only increases flexibility, but also increases muscle strength and prevents injuries such as chronic lower back pain.
3. Make sure nurses get adequate breaks
Working for 6, 8 or even 12 hours without eating or sitting would make anyone become resentful after a while. Patient loads can often feel so overwhelming that sometimes nurses will work right through a break without even realizing it. Exhaustion from not eating or drinking enough water and being on your feet for grueling 12 hour shifts will eventually lead to nursing burnout.
4. Recognize nurses for their hard work
This should be a given, but for some reason it isn’t in many facilities. A “thank you” goes a long way. It is very much appreciated by nurses who work extraordinarily hard to keep patients healthy and safe.
Too many hospitals put little to no effort into helping nurses celebrate for nurses week every year. This sends a very strong message to nurses that management does not care about the hard work and dedication they put into caring for their patients.
5. Involve management in nurse bullying and cliques
Unfortunately, too many facilities allow bullying in their workplace. According to a 2017 survey by RN network, 45% of nurses have been verbally harassed or bullied by other nurses at work. Some forms of nurse bullying are obvious. However, many times the bullying is much more subtle, such as a nurse talking down to another nurse in front of a patient.
Building a supportive working environment is important to the health and well-being of nurses. Bullying should never be considered acceptable behavior and hospital management should be more involved in helping to prevent it.
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I experienced nurse burnout after two years of being a nurse.
That’s right. After only TWO YEARS, I was already feeling overstressed, exhausted, and cynical about my career.
When my mind finally wrapped itself around this understanding, I thought I’ve barely graduated with my BSN, and I’m ALREADY burned out? How am I going to continue in the nursing profession for an entire career?
I was frustrated, confused, and, to be honest, a little heartbroken. I was passionate about helping others, and I did enjoy the mental stimulation that I got as a nurse. But I couldn’t figure out how there were nurses on our unit who had been doing the same thing for the last 5, 10 or even 20 years. Didn’t they feel the same way?
Lately, I have spoken with a lot of nurses about their experiences with burnout. The truth of the matter is that most, if not all, nurses feel spent and exhausted at some point throughout their careers.
Do you feel exhausted, anxious, physically ill, or dread the thought of going to work each day? If so, you, too may be experiencing burnout. Here are some tips that can help you overcome this chronic, stressful state and learn to thrive again.
Seven ways to beat nurse burnout: reclaim your passion!
1. Find a work-life balance.
Are you rotating days and nights? Constantly working overtime? Or maybe just working too many hours per week? That may work for a while, but it is not a very good long term plan. Everyone needs a break, especially nurses! Consider taking a vacation (or stay-cation) and plan a few solid days of “me” time. A little TLC can go a long way. You simply can’t continue to take good care of others before taking care of yourself first.
One of the best things a nurse can do to help prevent nurse burnout is to take good care of themselves. Often this notion is counter-intuitive to nurses because the nature of their job is to continually put others’ needs in front of their own. Ask yourself, what do I need to be healthy? Here are a few suggestions:
What is it that is causing you to feel the burnout? Try writing your thoughts down at the end of a few shifts to help figure out what is overwhelming you. Is there a pattern? Perhaps you need to plan your shifts differently. Are there a few personalities in your workplace that you are not jiving with? Or, maybe you just are not inspired by your chosen specialty. Permit yourself to be brutally honest about what you need to overcome nurse burnout.
4. Challenge yourself.
Are you under-challenged at work? There are so many ways to challenge yourself as a nurse:
Become a certified nurse in your specialty (or a completely new specialty!)
Compassion fatigue and nurse burnout are so common among nurses. Left unchecked, it can lead to mistakes, unhappiness, or even depression. Share your burnout struggles with a close comrade from work who can empathize with your struggle. If that doesn’t help, consider talking to a trusted mentor, a therapist, or find a career coach that can help you work your way out of nurse burnout. Nurses are self-giving creatures by nature, but we must give to our own needs as well. Crawl out of your shell and start talking it out!
6. Find an outlet.
What do you do on your days off that may you happy? If you don’t have a stress-relieving outlet, then its time to find one! Is your inner artist craving a creative outlet, such as painting, designing, or even scrapbooking? Does a day on the golf course or an afternoon on the tennis court bring you joy? Maybe you have been so busy that you have forgotten how wonderfully distracting it can be to become enveloped into an activity that you love to do.
Research has shown that finding a joyful outlet can enhance your mood, increase energy, lower stress levels, and even make your immune system stronger. Today is the time to find your joy!
7. Consider new options.
Have an honest discussion with yourself about your career. Are you a med/surg nurse who has always dreamed of working in the ICU? Or maybe you are an ER nurse with interest in becoming a flight nurse. A change in specialty might be precisely what you need to tackle nurse burnout.
On another note, nurses don’t have to work in a hospital. Perhaps working with injectables in a dermatology office or as a home healthcare nurse would be a better fit. There are so many nursing careers to choose from. The sky is the limit. Go find your nursing passion!
What do you do to beat nurse burnout? Leave a comment below!