Nursing is always a stressful profession, but the last 18 months have been particularly taxing both mentally and physically. And despite the fatigue that so many nurses are feeling, unfortunately, the most recent COVID-19 surge has put additional pressure and strain on nurses across the country.
Given this context, it’s more important than ever for nurses to manage their stress. High stress levels can lead to both mental and physical problems including high-blood pressure, insomnia, anxiety, and depression.
As a nurse, it’s critical that you find time to manage your stress in order to avoid health problems, reduce the likelihood of burnout, and ensure that you’re able to be your best both on the job and in your personal life. The good news is that there are a number of things nurses can do to relieve stress. Here are some ideas to help you build healthy habits to manage stress.
Get Plenty of Sleep
Unfortunately, a grueling schedule and lots of stress can lead to inadequate sleep; however, you can’t overestimate the importance of getting plenty of sleep when it comes to managing stress and taking care of yourself. This means that it’s important to first prioritize sleep and then take steps to reduce the risks of insomnia.
The good news is that many of the below tips will lead to better sleep!
Eat a Healthy Diet
A healthy diet is an important part of managing stress. Eating consistently and eating a balanced diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, and lean protein will improve your mood, boost your energy levels, and help you to sleep better.
That said, it can be challenging to eat well amidst a demanding schedule. Whenever possible, plan ahead for snacks and meals. Make meals ahead of time, pack snacks and lunch for your shift, and have meals prepared for when you get home, tired and hungry.
And remember, even small shifts in your diet can help, so don’t get overwhelmed if you feel like you need to make major changes. Instead, focus on small changes, giving you steady progress towards healthier eating.
It can be difficult to find time to regularly exercise, especially after tiring shifts on your feet. However, a stretching and exercise routine will help you feel better and sleep better. Exercise releases endorphins and boosts serotonin levels, which leads to improved moods, reduced anxiety, and better sleep. Plus, stretching will reduce the impacts of tension and strain from the day.
Keep in mind, taking care of your feet and legs during the day will leave you feeling better and will make it easier to get a workout in after work. Good shoes are important, but it’s also a good idea to wear compression socks to reduce swelling, improve circulation, and improve recovery. It’s an easy way to take care of yourself and make sure that you can stay active.
Whether it’s mindfulness, yoga, or breathing exercises, meditation is a great way to quiet your mind, still your breathing, and improve your focus. It’s a good way to center yourself before or after a hard day -- a proven method for reducing stress.
Even if it’s only for 5 or 10 minutes, incorporating some type of meditation into your routine will help to reduce stress.
Find a Support Network
Whether it’s family members, friends, or even a therapist, it’s important to have someone to talk to about your experiences and sources of stress. Having this outlet will help to clear your mind, reduce anxiety, and reduce the feelings of isolation that often come with periods of high stress.
If you don’t already have a support network in place, proactively seek one out -- perhaps with other nurses, neighbors, church members, or friends. Having healthy outlets is important, and a good support network can provide the reinforcements you need.
It’s tempting to internalize your problems during stressful times, but avoiding that temptation and finding a place to share your experiences can reduce stress and improve your overall well-being.
Take Care of Yourself
Nurses have gone above and beyond throughout the pandemic. As you continue to operate under high levels of stress, make sure that you find ways to take care of yourself. Hopefully, these tips will help you build healthy habits that reduce stress.
And, while you’re at it, make sure that you treat yourself now and then. A fun pair of compression socks is a good way to brighten your wardrobe while also making sure that you’re taking care of yourself. Visit CrazyCompression.com to take the first step towards self-care while prioritizing your mental and physical health.