Often, nurses find themselves working long shifts and irregular hours. While your primary focus is to provide care to patients, the quality of care you provide is influenced by your overall state of wellness, both physical and mental. One cannot properly care for others if they do not adequately care for themselves, but what do you do as a nurse when your world is falling apart?
Perhaps a child is being bullied in school, or you suspect your significant other is being less than faithful—these are all stressors that could impact your overall health and work performance. To combat life’s stresses, dramas and heartaches: leave your baggage at the door, lead by example and create a safe space at work by practicing mindfulness and a healthy lifestyle.
Tips to combat stress in the workplace
Don’t neglect your health. This may sound easy enough, but when you’re so focused on providing care to others, it is easy to let your own health go by the wayside. Make sure you get a restful night of sleep, make healthy food choices, and make sure to incorporate exercise or meditation into your weekly routine.
Remember to breath. Take a deep breath before you enter each room, and make each room free of stress and worry. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, go to the break room and do some stretches or make some herbal tea—anything that makes you feel relaxed. At the end of the day, your struggles will still be there, but until that time comes, all you can do is focus on the task at hand—and after all, when is it bad to completely immerse yourself in your passions?
Maintain professional boundaries. Keep in mind that patients rely on you to provide them with care, often when they can no longer care for themselves. While it is healthy to discuss stressors with someone to gain clarity of a situation, your patients should not be the listening ear.
Put your patients first. Is it safe to say that one reason you became a nurse is because you feel genuine empathy for others? Reflect on why you became a nurse, and focus on what you can do for others. You have the power to make positive changes in the lives of others, and the rewarding feeling you get when you help a patient momentarily makes personal problems feel less prevalent.
Know when to take a break and when to leave. Some problems are larger than others, and if a personal struggle is affecting the quality of care you provide to patients, ask a manager or director if you can take a break or leave for the day. It is better to take a break and come back alert and refreshed than to stagger through your shift not completely focused. The last thing you would want is to give someone the wrong medication because you’re mind is too cluttered.
As American nurse theorist and former nursing dean Jean Watson said during a Huffington Post interview. “You have to take time for yourself. You have to have some kind of practice; whether it’s meditation, whether it’s prayer, whether it’s nature, whether it’s journaling, whether it’s poetry, art, literature. You have to learn to pause to reconnect with yourself and your source.”