As a nurse, you’re almost programmed to put others’ well-being before yourself. And it’s no surprise you feel this way… you take your job seriously and you’re committed to providing quality patient care. As we’re all aware, 2020 has been an “eventful” year and with all these twists and turns, you’ve no doubt felt at times overwhelmed or stressed by happenings outside your control.
If you aren’t regularly engaging in self-care, it may become more difficult to care for yourself, let alone anyone else. And it may feel like you’re going against your second nature but rest assured, a proper self-care and stress relief regime, will ultimately lead to better health for yourself and for your patients.
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Studies have shown that 86% of nurses have experienced moderate job stress. Other studies put that number as high as 92%. Compare those stats to the average American worker, with 80% feeling stress in their jobs, and it’s clear that nurses experience disproportionately higher rates of stress than other professions.
What Can Nurses Do to Relieve Stress?
Learn to Compartmentalize
A huge laundry list of tasks can lead to immense stress. Not knowing where to start can lead to feelings of irritability, anxiety or depression because of the sheer number of things to be done.
Instead of being overwhelmed by the full picture, break it up into smaller pieces. To start, separate your work life from your home life. Write out all of the tasks you have for work and home on separate lists and prioritize them. Then, go through your list, one task at a time. When you’ve opened one “compartment”, give it your full attention and focus and close ALL other compartments.
Do your best when you’re at home to not think about “work compartments” mainly because there is nothing you can do about them – and vice versa. And don’t give in to the temptation to skip to other items mid-task or put off a task for something that’s a lower priority. Of course compartmentalization is not a perfect science, so inevitably, opening and closing tasks one at a time might be easier said than done. But that’s OKAY! Just do your best and don’t be hard on yourself if it doesn’t work out perfectly. The key to successful compartmentalization is being disciplined and maintaining a good routine.
Listen to Music
Music has an almost magical way of influencing our mood and emotions. Sometimes, it feels like songs were written for us. They help us express ourselves and our emotions through another person’s melodies and beats. In addition, listening to music can help reduce your stress-related cortisol levels. Not all music is created equal and what we enjoy is entirely subjective. Listening to music you love, can make your brain release more of the neurotransmitter, dopamine. In one study, dopamine was found to be up to 9% higher when listening to music people enjoyed. So explore music and the different moods they put you in to find what’s right for you.
Get a Full Night’s Sleep
You need to get your full 7-9 hours of sleep every night. When you don’t get enough sleep, you will of course be tired, but you will also potentially be more irritable and less patient. When you’re stressed, your body increases the level of cortisol in your body. Then if you aren’t getting enough sleep, your cortisol levels will elevate further. It’s a recipe for disaster. If you have trouble falling asleep, practice “winding down” each night. Don’t use your devices while in bed and consider practicing meditation techniques to help you fall asleep.
Rescue a Pet
Heartbreakingly, 3 million cats and dogs are euthanized in shelters each year. Of these, “approximately 2.4 million (80%) were healthy and treatable and could have been adopted into new homes.” On a more positive note, amid this pandemic, animal shelters across the country have seen an increase in pet adoptions, some of them placing all of their animals in new homes. With most of us spending more time at home, many have realized it’s a great time to adopt a pet.
After you get that pet through your doors, you’ll come to realize the positive impact a pet can have on your life. There are numerous studies showing the benefits of pets and stress reduction. One study found that petting a dog or cat for just 10 minutes can help reduce your stress. In another survey, it’s reported that 74% of pet owners report mental health improvements as a result of owning a pet. In addition to reducing stress, there are also many more benefits to owning a pet including, lowering blood pressure, strengthening your immune system, relieving depression, and more.
You save human lives – and you can save a pet’s life too! So check out some of the local animal shelters in your area and consider adoption.
You might be tired of people telling you how regular exercise comes with health benefits. But there’s a reason why it keeps coming up. Not only does exercise come with a plethora of other health benefits, it reduces stress and there is physiological evidence that proves it truly works. If exercise isn’t already a part of your usual routine, it can feel daunting on how to get started. Just start simple and small. Set a goal to exercise 30 minutes a day 2 days a week. Then, after you’ve proven to yourself that you can maintain that routine, add to it. If you miss a day, don’t be discouraged and don’t have an “all-or-nothing” mentality. Just do your best to keep up your routine.
Even if the gyms in your area are closed, there are plenty of physical activities you can do in and around your home. Go for a stroll in your neighborhood or do some yoga in your home. Better yet, if you adopt a dog (😏) you can both go for a walk.
We’ve all heard some form of the saying “to take care of others, start by taking care of yourself.” The moral of the story is that your health is a priority.
At Eisenhower Health, we care about our employees well-being and health. Are you looking for a top-rated healthcare employer to continue your nursing journey? Search for open positions with Eisenhower Health today.
Originally posted on 8/6/2020