Simple Stress Management For Nurses

Simple Stress Management For Nurses

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Nurses are more stressed out then 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 one who must take care of themselves first.   Nurse safety and well-being is 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 administrators main priority is making money for the hospital, and the health and well-being of their own nurses doesn’t even make the list.

Nurse Stress Relief And Coping Tips

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 day care for my child.  Per diem nursing gives me 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 I still do have a strong desire and passion to help 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 wrecking 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 seriously being effected in a negative way, 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.  In addition, 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 exactly what stressed out nurses need.   It releases endorphines, 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.

Woman watching a funny movie and laughing

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 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 helps nurses 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 great stress management for nurses. Compassion fatigue can be overwhelming for nurses and learning how to use yoga for relaxation can help.

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 8 weeks of yoga the results showed that the participating ICU nurses had significantly better focus coping strategies and a major reduction in perceived mental pressure.  (If that is what can happen after only 8 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 flexibly, but increases muscle strength and prevents injuries such as chronic lower back pain.
  • Prevent burnout and compassion fatigue:  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.”

Woman doing child's pose.

4.  Have a social life

Good friends can help you manage chronic stress.  It is important 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 stressers 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

5.  Meditate

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 then anyone.

A few benefits of meditation:

  • Decreased burnout
  • Better focus and ability to ignore distractions
  • Boost compassion
  • Better sleep
  • Stress relief
  • Happier state of mind



Headspace is an app for your phone that has many different meditations each lasting 1o 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 to give better patient care.

Women meditating on bed

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
  • Strawberries, blueberries
  • Granola and yogurt
  • Almonds or cashews
  • Avocado toast
  • Sliced apples and peanut butter
  • Cottage cheese with pineapple or banana
  • Trail mix

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)

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Fit Nurse:  Simple Ways To Exercise As A Busy Nurse Mom

Fit Nurse: Simple Ways To Exercise As A Busy Nurse Mom

To the nurse who is also a momIt is possible to find time for exercise, but you are going to need to get creative.  Being a nurse mom is challenging, and it’s all about finding balance.

Long gone are the days when I could leisurely wake up naturally and decide whether I wanted to take the 9 a.m. or the 11 a.m. yoga class or when I would put my running clothes on in the afternoon and lay around until I “felt ready” to head out for my jog, sometimes several hours later.

Before becoming a nurse and mom, I used to put a lot of thought into the location of my runs.  Where would I go today?  The beach? Or to the running trail? I never even thought about how long I would be out. I just ran until I felt tired and then called it a day.

Now I’m lucky if I get to squeeze in a 20 minute run after I put the kids down at 8PM.  And by that time I’m usually so tired I can barely muster the energy to get out the front door!

For the record, I am happier now than I think I have ever been.  I wouldn’t change anything about all of the blessings in my life that make me so incredibly busy.  I LOVE being a mom and an ER nurse.  But, as a healthcare professional and a person who enjoys a little self-care here and there, I am all too aware that I need to get regular exercise if I want to keep my sanity intact.

Woman doing a plank

What are the simplest ways to exercise as a busy nurse mom?

Over the last month I have been interviewing fellow nurses to find out how they squeeze in a workout while balancing motherhood and 12 hour shifts.  Some of the feedback I received was very encouraging!  The conversations I had with these nurses convinced me that it is in fact very possible to stay fit when it seems that there is no more time in the day.

For me, finding time for fitness has been a trial and error project.  Over the past three years (since my first baby was born) I have tried several methods to squeeze workouts into an already crammed work/life schedule.  Some of these methods worked, some I tried but didn’t stick to, and some never came to fruition.

My personal journey to stay fit along with the information shared with me by my fellow nurse comrades revealed 4 primary ways that nurse moms can successfully find time to exercise.

Simple ways to exercise as a busy nurse mom

It is possible to find ways to exercise as a busy nurse mom.  Be creative!

Fit nurse tip #1.  Work out before the kids get up.

Before kids I never in a million years would have dreamed that I would be awake in time to make it to a 6AM hot yoga class.  But free time is sparse now.  If I don’t make time somewhere then it won’t happen. It’s as simple as that.

The good news is that when I drag myself out of bed early for a workout then I feel amazing for the rest of the day.  Sure, I’m tired, but I would be even more tired if I didn’t exercise at all.  By starting my day with a yoga-induced rush of endorphins not only do I feel better, but I am so much more productive throughout the day.

My goal is to make it to a 6 a.m. class at least 2 times during the week on the days I don’t work.  In addition, I am usually able to fit one early morning class in on the weekend as well.  Sometimes it ends up being only once a week and sometimes if I’m lucky, all three.  But something is always better than nothing!

Fit nurse tip #2.  Work out on your lunch break.

A nurse friend of mine changes into running clothes and goes for a jog during her lunch hour.  Talk about dedication to your personal health!  She says it works for her because she can do it no matter what time her break is.  Additionally, the midday exercise helps break up the day, helps her deal better with stressful patient assignments, and gives her energy for the rest of the shift. And she is a good role model for patients to boot!

(On another note, my husband replaced his lunch hour with an F45 class 3 times a week.   Although he is not a nurse, he is a busy working parent nonetheless. The benefits for him are so obvious. He is noticeably better able to manage work stress and comes home with significantly more energy at the end of a busy work day. And he says he feels a lot better too!)

Fit nurse tip #3.  Work out after the kids go to bed.

I know a lot of nurse parents who make it to the gym or a yoga class after working a 12 hour shift.  This seems to be the most popular time for many parents because the kids are in bed and it’s a good time to work off the stress from the day.  It is an effective way to put the day behind you and do something for yourself after spending 12 hours putting patients’ needs first.

On occasion, I will try to go out for a run or a walk if I still have a little energy left in me, usually during the summer months when the days are a little longer.   Unfortunately, it is also usually when I am the most tired and I really just want to crawl into bed with a book and fall asleep. But I do love listening to music and disconnecting for a little while after a long shift, and a quick run is a relatively easy way to do that!

A post-work run for me is usually pretty quick, 20-25 minutes max.  Unfortunately, if I run too long then I risk not being able to fall asleep and there’s not much worse than that.  After all, sleep is important to the already sleep deprived parent!

Fit nurse tip#4.  Try squeezing in exercise during the days when you are at home with your kids.

Finding new ways to exercise as a busy nurse mom requires some thinking outside the box.  Why not try squeezing in a workout when you are at home with the kids during the day? Besides, isn’t taking care of a baby or toddler already a kind of workout in itself?

Here are few ways to exercise with kids in tow:

  • Turn on a workout video in the living room (good when the weather is poor!)
  • Take the kids for a walk in the stroller
  • Take a stroller strides class with other moms
  • Run around with the kids on the playground
  • Kick a soccer ball around with the kids
  • Try teaching your kids with a Gaiam yoga video (watching my daughter practice yoga just melts my heart!)
  • Turn up the music and dance with the kids (it just doesn’t get more fun then that!)

How do you find ways to exercise as a busy nurse mom?   I very much enjoy hearing about ideas of what others are doing.  Feel free to leave a comment!

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