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6 Tips to Manage Nurse Stress in the Workplace

Updated: Jun 21, 2023

Nurses continue to provide patients with exceptional care while working in unpredictable circumstances. In a profession where nurses continually face evolving responsibilities, it can be challenging to manage increased stress levels. This continuous work-related stress can cause nurses to feel overwhelmed, physically and mentally, and lessen their ability to practice self-care.

Read through these 6 steps that can help manage workplace stress and leave nurses with the energy necessary to practice self-care.

Step 1. Stop and pause.

Pausing in a stressful situation is a powerful practice that will quickly help you with deciding what your next action step should be. Taking less than a minute to pause your thoughts and actions will help provide you with mental clarity and insight to continue to move forward with a calm approach.

Step 2. Take a few cleansing deep breaths.

After you stop and pause, take a few deep cleansing breaths to help center yourself and bring your attention into the present moment. Taking a few deep breaths will help your body relax, oxygenate the brain, and stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system which helps to reduce stress. And it’s a skill that you can practice anytime and anywhere!

Step 3. Establish boundaries.

It’s so important for nurses to set boundaries while at work. Think about the times you feel frustrated or especially anxious when at work. Are you being asked to take an additional assignment, or stay for an extended time at the end of your shift? Nurses have such a high level of demand placed on them and therefore must become adept at quickly setting boundaries. Now that you have paused, taken a few deep breaths, look at what is being asked of you. Then set a safe and healthy boundary, professionally and personally. Think ahead of time about what practices you can set up so you can do your best work, protect your personal and mental health, and encourage others to continue to treat you with respect. Putting your work boundaries in place will also help set yourself up for success with your self-care boundaries. It isn’t always easy, but it is important. People with healthy, flexible boundaries have better well-being, self-control, and self-esteem! Source:

Step 4. Prioritize next steps.

While there is a typical daily routine at work, a day in a nurse’s life is constantly evolving and often unpredictable. Constantly moving from one thing to another and checking off your “to-do” task list doesn’t always mean that you are managing your time efficiently. Take a moment, stop multitasking, and focus on the present moment. It doesn’t help you to think of the next 10 things you have to do once you finish your current task. Cut down stress and anxiety, decide what changes need to be made, reprioritize, and commit to completing the new priorities one at a time. Review and reflect throughout the shift as needed and delegate when possible. Trying to do everything in a short amount of time will increase your stress and lessen your ability to practice self-care.

Step 5. Speak up.

Communicating with clarity is an important tool when managing stressful situations at work. Many times, nurses find it hard to speak up and say no. You may have heard the saying, “no is a complete sentence”. While you can’t and shouldn’t always just say no, there are other ways to maintain your boundaries and respectfully say no.

“I would love to help, but my plate is too full right now.”

“Thanks for thinking of me for the overtime, but I’m over committed right now. Feel

free to ask again in the future and maybe I can help next time.”

Step 6. Have self-compassion and give yourself grace.

Many nurses choose this career because they are kind, compassionate, and want to help others. Dr. Jean Watson has often said, “Nurses are unique. They have this insatiable need to care for others, which is both their biggest strength and fatal flaw.” Nurses often neglect the self-care they need to pause, reflect, and regroup. And when they care for others pain and suffering every day, and don’t practice self-care or find ways to decompress, it can lead to compassion fatigue and burnout. Take time to also be kind and understanding to yourself. Give yourself permission for positive self-talk and approach it by thinking of what you would say to a friend or nursing colleague in a similar situation. Then say the same thing to yourself and give yourself some grace! It takes a bit of practice, but you can do it!

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