What Coping Strategies Can Nurses Use to Minimize Work Stress?

Being a nurse is one of the hardest, most stressful jobs there is. Nurses are tasked with the great responsibility of keeping people alive while balancing caring for several different patients. Nurses work long hours and often receive minimal pay for their work. Because of these things, nurses often burn out quickly and go into other fields. We’ve put together some strategies for managing nurse stress in the workplace to make things a little easier.

10 Coping Strategies for Managing Nurse Stress in the Workplace

1. Get Sufficient Sleep

The mental and physical strains of being a nurse can really take a toll on your body. Not only are you constantly having to use your brain to figure out the best scenarios to help patients, but you are also using your body to take patients to the bathroom, bathe patients, help patients exercise, or help patients roll over. All of this wears on your body over time, especially if you work multiple days in a row.

Getting extra sleep on your days off can be very restorative to both your body and your mind. While you may want to use that extra hour of your Saturday to grab a coffee with a friend or catch up on housework, if your body is truly exhausted, sleep is the best option. It will allow your body, and most importantly your brain, to re-set. Getting extra sleep can make you feel like your stress dissolves overnight.

2. Find a Hobby

When you truly find a hobby you love, your focus is taken off of the stress you go through every day, and you are able to focus on something that is fun and relaxing. Doing something with your hands can be surprisingly cathartic. If you truly want to forget the stress of work, find a hobby that requires a lot of concentration so that your mind doesn’t wander into thinking about work.

Besides helping with your stress by distracting you, hobbies can be really fun and make you happy. Those happy hormones can help counter-balance your stress hormones and make you feel better all around. If you don’t know where to start, or you are not as good at art as your friend, don’t just copy her hobby! Find a hobby that is something you love to do. It may take trying a few before you get the perfect one!

3. Share with Others

Nurses country-wide are affected by the same kinds of stress on a regular basis. Sometimes as a nurse, you might feel like you have to be the tough one since you are in a caring profession. There are times you need to be tough, like when you are caring for a difficult patient. There are also times when you can share how you are feeling with your co-workers.

When you talk with your co-workers, you might be surprised that even if they look perfectly put together, they are likely experiencing similar feelings of stress, tension, and anxiety. If you don’t want to share with your co-workers, find a friend or family member who is willing to just listen. It is amazing how just chatting with someone for awhile can help, even if they don’t have sage advice to give in return!

4. Go to Therapy

If sharing what you’re experiencing with your co-workers, friends, or family doesn’t help, you may want to try some professional help. There is a stigma that goes with getting help for your mental health, but we don’t think there should be. There is no shame in going to therapy regularly, and it can be extremely helpful to have a professional therapist listen to you and give you some tools to manage your stress.

One of the best parts about getting therapy is the tools that they give you to help you learn to cope with the stress you’re experiencing can be used for the rest of your life. You can also help your co-workers learn the same things you did. Maybe one day you can mentor new nurses and help them manage their stress through what you learn in therapy.

5. Get your Exercise

Exercise is something you might not feel like doing after working a 14 to 16-hour shift, and you don’t have to do it then. Even exercising just a few times a week can be a huge stress reliever. Exercising has some great stress-killing benefits. When you exercise, it releases all your happy endorphins, which makes you feel happier all around! Exercising also puts a damper on stress-causing hormones and makes those little stress monsters run away!

Besides making you feel happier, you’ll have the added benefit of your body being healthier as you make progress in your exercise, and that in itself can help rid you of extraneous stress and make you more fit for your job.

6. Eat Healthy Food

Sometimes stress can simply be a symptom of not being able to keep up with the mad rush of patients or the amount you have to do, especially if you work in more high-stress environments like the emergency room. Eating healthy nutritious foods can help keep your energy up. It will keep your mood more stable as you work long, never-ending shifts and help you be able to respond in a healthy manner to the stress you are experiencing.

Eating healthily also helps balance your hormones, which can help your body respond to stress better. It will also help you not feel as lethargic and keep your brain functioning well.

7. Breathe and Meditate

This one will look a little bit different for everyone. Some prefer to pray. Some prefer to meditate. Whatever you do, make sure you are clearing your mind and breathing deeply. Stop in the hallway at work for a minute and just take a few deep slow breaths, and you’ll instantly feel better. This is something you have to conscientiously do, as we actually tend to speed up our breathing when we’re feeling stressed or anxious.

This is something that you can improve on with practice. You’ll start to remember, that when you feel stressed, you should just breathe slowly and deeply. Take some time when you are on a break and do some relaxed breathing. Take some time when you are off work to practice meditating or praying, and just slow your body down. You will find this helps release a lot of tension in your body.

8. Pick a Mentor

Finding a mentor within your profession can be very helpful in learning how to cope with stress. There may be a mentorship program in your workplace, or you may need to go out on your own to find a mentor who would be able to help you and guide you.

Find someone who has been working in the field much longer than you. If they have had years of working in the same field as you, they will have experienced many of the stressors that you are experiencing now. Most experienced nurses have learned to cope with the stress in some way, or they would have already burned out. Talk with them about what you are experiencing, and ask them how they dealt with their stressors.

9. Choose to Relax

Maintaining a healthy work and life balance is extremely important in managing your stress. Schedules for nurses vary wildly from once a week shifts to several very long shifts in a row. You need to find what works for you, and do your best to stick to it.

When you are off work, try to take some intentional hours relaxing. Do what makes you happy, whether that looks like spending time with your family, taking a nap, going for a run, going to the lake or the beach, or going for a hike. Find what works for you, and don’t spend all your time off work doing work at home.

10. Find your Stressors

Being aware of what is actually causing you stress is very important. Maybe it’s that one co-worker who is not careful with the patients. Maybe it’s being mistreated by patients. Maybe it’s just the constant mental pressure of your work. Whatever it is that is causing you to stress, try to become aware of it and make a list of what is causing your stress.

By making this list, you can know what is triggering you and try to avoid it. Obviously, the job of a nurse is stressful, and you can’t just avoid your job, but you can do your best to make it more manageable. Talk to your manager about what stresses you and see if you can work out a plan with them to make your job a long-term career.

Now that you know some great ways to manage stress, consider implementing these ideas into your daily routine and coming up with your own ideas. Reach out to us at Waisted RN to find out how we can help you. We offer motivational keynote speaking and mentorship to help you continue on your journey as a successful nurse. We want you to succeed, and getting rid of some of the stress that comes with the job is a great way to start!