Stress management tips
By Gemma Raw
In most nursing jobs, stress and pressure are not unusual. So, how do you make sure you stay cool, calm and collected when the going gets tough?
At Sanctuary we understand how important it is for nurses and other professionals working within the NHS to be able to deal with the pressures of delivering excellent care in a busy, challenging working environment. Here are our tips for staying sane and avoiding the risk of burn-out...
It's easy to think you're dealing well with stress when in fact you're simply internalising it, putting your mental and physical health at risk. Look out for the key signs that you're bottling things up, which include digestive problems, irritability, fatigue, headaches, heart palpitations or chest pains.
Talk to a colleague
Don't be afraid to share your anxieties and concerns with a friendly, empathetic colleague. Just talking things over can help you get a sense of perspective and make you realise that you're not alone in feeling stressed or challenged.
Avoid too much caffeine
It may give you a temporary energy boost, but caffeine also ups your level of cortisone, a hormone related to stress and anxiety. Too much caffeine can also raise your blood pressure and heart rate. And remember, caffeine is not just in coffee. It's also in chocolate and some popular over-the-counter medicines, such as cold remedies.
Have a break
Jobs in nursing require a great deal of focus and commitment, particularly in a busy hospital setting. However, it's important to take time out. You should try not to skip your lunch break and, if possible, take a couple of shorter breaks during the working day. Even if you just step outside for a couple of minutes, it's a chance to clear your head and calm your mind. You'll find you're more focused and productive when you return to the ward.
Be on top of things
Being organised gives you a sense of control, which can in turn reduce your stress levels. It's about simple things such as making a 'to do' list when you start the day, as well as prioritising tasks and scheduling your time effectively.
A review published in Nurse Education Today in 2018 found that 'mindfulness meditation is an effective strategy for preventing and managing the workplace stress and burnout, which so often plague nursing staff and students'.
Originating from Buddhism, mindfulness involves using meditation to focus on what's happening in the present moment and be more self-aware. The NHS website has a useful overview of mindfulness and its potential benefits in dealing with stress and anxiety.
It's vital to switch off and recharge when you're away from work. Use your leisure time well by getting involved in hobbies, pastimes or sporting activities. Try to build a strong network of supportive friends with whom you can relax and socialise.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has produced a guide to stress management for nursing staff. It features lots of useful information about identifying the signs and symptoms of workplace stress, and reducing and managing stress levels, as well as signposting nurses to sources of help and support. You can download it here.