Did you know workplace stress impacts nurses with nearly the same frequency as infectious disease agents, on-the-job falls, and workplace violence combined? Alleviate your stress by trying out these easy-to-implement strategies shared by Nicole Vienneau, RN and board-certified integrative nurse coach at Blue Monarch.
According to the 2016 American Nurses Association’s (ANA) Health Risk Appraisal, the biggest safety risks nurses face are often associated with workplace stress and 82 percent of nurses experience it. In fact, although nurses’ jobs will not become less stressful, research suggests that simple mindfulness techniques can help alleviate tension and have long-term health benefits. Try these suggestions and join our discussion to share with us, how you are coping with life and work stress.
Wash it away
Stress often comes from holding on to unpleasant experiences and stewing over them, instead of moving on. Since nurses wash their hands so frequently, Vienneau recommends using that time as a healing ritual. Recall the unpleasant encounter you just experienced and as you wash your hands, mentally wash away that situation as well. When the water and soapy bubbles go down the drain, imagine the difficulty and tension following it.
For other healing ritual ideas, Vienneau suggests reading Rituals of Healing by Jeanne Achterberg and Barbara Dossey. The book was a past winner of The American Journal of Nursing Book of the Year Award.
Keep a small vial of an essential oil in your pocket. Smell it straight from the vial or rub it behind your neck (diluting it as appropriate) when you need it. Fragrances like lavender or frankincense are calming, while peppermint or citrus tend to be invigorating. In cases where nurses aren’t allowed to wear fragrances due to hospital or office policy, Vienneau suggests rubbing it (again diluting as appropriate) on the bottom of your feet before putting on your shoes and socks. Then you’ll get the added benefit of a quick foot massage, too.
Be like a butterfly
Some nurses feel stress from a negative workplace culture with gossip and bullying. “Nurses are like butterflies because we flutter purposely from patient to patient,” says Vienneau. If the negativity from coworkers is affecting your mood, be like a butterfly and move on.
Strike a power pose
Certain body language poses have been shown to help people feel more in control and powerful after doing them. Standing like Wonder Woman or Superman with your hands on your hips is one of them. Duck into a break room or bathroom and stand up straight, chest raised, with hands on hips for two minutes and see if you feel more energetic.
Touch a totem
Keep a small trinket, like a seashell from a great vacation or a hand-me-down charm from a family member, and touch it when you feel stressed. Let it mentally transport you to that special time in your life. Vienneau explains that thinking of that time is helpful, but the sense of touch and actually feeling the object’s texture will help reduce anxiety.
A simple way to boost your mood as well as a coworker’s is to let them know that you appreciate them. Leave a sticky note on their computer or station saying you enjoy working with them. Research shows that thankfulness and appreciation tend to foster positive feelings and contribute to one’s overall sense of wellbeing and connection.
Before jumping into the next task or attending to a new patient, take a moment to breathe. Try the 4:7:8 technique. Slowly inhale over four counts, hold the breath for a count of seven, then exhale for a count of eight. Repeat the process three times in a row to calm and center yourself.
What practices do you use to overcome stress on the job or at home? Let us know in our discussion in the Quality of Life Domain. Tell us if these tactics are helpful and share your tips, tricks, and real-life inspiration about living a healthier life. Show us examples of your healthy eating on our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Tag a nurse and us #HealthyNurse.
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Cohen-Katz, J. Wiley, S. D., Capuano, T., Baker, D. M., & Shapiro, S. (2005). The Effects of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Burnout, Part II: A Quantitative and Qualitative Study. Holistic Nursing Practice, 19, 26-35.
Sansone, R.A & Sansone, L.A. Gratitude and Well Being: The Benefits of Appreciation. Psychiatry (Edgmont). 2010;7(11):18-22.