They say that all nurses are control freaks and I’d have to admit that at least in my experience, it’s somewhat true. It’s our unpredictable environment that intermittently sends a rush of adrenaline through our systems, so when we can, we control. This “adrenaline – control dance” can lead to incredible stress. A stressed-out nurse quickly loses his or her ability to keep up with the demands of the work environment, which can lead to errors, dissatisfaction and burnout.
New nurses are particularly vulnerable.
We all know the common stress management techniques – eating healthy foods, exercising, meditating, and getting enough sleep, etc. But these strategies don’t necessarily help you in the moment. That’s why it’s equall important to master these 3 techiques:
1. Breath – It is physiologically impossible to be anxious and stressed while deep breathing. So, whenever you feel your stress level rise, stop and deep breathe for a few moments. I learned this trick when I started speaking professionally and would get really nervous right before it was my turn. I would deliberately start deep breathing and although I was still somewhat nervous, it dramatically reduced my stress level and allowed me to focus.
2. Reframe – Sometimes we get so stressed that we get tunnel vision. I can remember having a mini-mental breakdown as a new nurse just because my patient’s Colace wasn’t in his medication bin. “I have to give my meds on time” I remember thinking. By stepping back and “reframing” I can see that giving Colace late may not be a big deal, while giving Mestinon late would be. Reframing allows you to put things into perspective, make better decisions and decrease your stress response. Another way I use reframing is to think, “ Will this matter in 5 years?” If the answer is no, let it go and move on.
3. Ask for help – Have you ever been so stressed out that even if some one asked if you needed help, you couldn’t articulate what they could do? Don’t let yourself get to that point. Know your stress response and ask for help when you hit a certain point. When I start to get stressed, I feel jitters in my stomach. If I don’t do something to calm down, I start to lose my peripheral vision and then can’t function as well. Now when I start to feel jittery, I recognize it, think of whom I can ask for help, what I can delegate and do it. The key is not to wait until you’re wigging out.
Managing your stress is a skill you can learn. It’s important for your patients and your colleagues but most of all, it’s important for you.
For more on stress, click here.
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