Nurses deal with a special brand of stress that other people don’t understand. There are 3 nursing stresses that are hard to avoid, but learning to identify theses unique types of stress, and finding healthy ways to deal with them, is key to keeping your peace of mind-and staying the course of your career journey.
Why Nursing Stresses Are Unique
The primary experience that sets nurses apart from those in other fields is the fact that you regularly witness the physical and emotional suffering of others-your patients and their loved ones. Your stress is a very different kind from that experienced by a bank loan officer, for example. The way you manage your stress very different from the way others deal with everyday pressure and anxiety.
The second experience that makes nursing stresses all the more unique is the patient care you provide, which is constantly under scrutiny. Whether physicians, family, coworkers, supervisors, even the patient themselves, your work is continually being evaluated on some level. This can make even the most calm feel rattled.
Finally, many healthcare facilities, today, are often corporate-owned. The financial bottom line is a top concern for the hospital decision makers. For this reason, it’s not unusual for many nurses to end up working mandatory overtime, dealing with short-staffing, and feeling the pressure to do more with less support.
The turmoil you feel is typical of those in your field. But, you don’t have to carry the burden of your stress along with everything else. There are three significant yet common types of nursing stresses. They are easily identifiable, if you know what to look for. Each of these types of stress can be remedied by practicing healthy coping mechanisms and applying them when you feel the burden of nursing stress.
Day to day, your experiences as a nurse can pile up. There is usually no singular event that takes place, pushing you over the edge, but rather a series of incidents-having to cover for a coworker again, mandatory overtime, another missed break-that cause your emotional dam to burst.
The good news about this type of stress is that it follows a pattern. It begins with feelings of physical tension, you just want a break, but you tough it out, then soon it passes. With some soothing self-care, you can weather these common stress storms that come from time to time.
Find a way to resolve conflicts at work and move forward. Treat yourself. On your day off, spend the day doing nothing, go see a movie, relax in a bubble bath, share some non-work time with friends. Find some healthy ways to combat nursing stresses. Try yoga, meditation, Thai Chi, or schedule regular massages. Make time for you and get a handle on that which stress you out, before any real damage occurs.
Burnout is much more destructive than transient stress. It’s caused by unresolved anxiety and tension, so it is vitally important it is to address the job stress you feel before it turns into burnout. The results of burnout can be somewhat debilitating.
You begin to feel detached, overwhelmed and fatigued. You will very likely start to experience panic attacks, and this type of out of control nursing stress can wreak havoc on your immune system, resulting in physical illness. Burnout can impact your relationships-at work and at home-in very negative ways.
Coping with burnout may necessitate the need for counseling, someone with whom you can share your burdens. This is the first step in finding work-life balance, and guarding against continued tension and anxiety. Make time to be with friends, become active in a faith community, go on “play dates” frequently, see to regular exercise and develop healthy habits. With life in balance, you can let go of those nursing stresses that start to weigh you down.
When caregiving becomes too much to endure, and you doubt you can make it through one more shift, you feel hopeless and spiritually, emotionally and physically exhausted, you’re suffering from compassion fatigue. Compassion fatigue is a secondary form of PTSD. Only a qualified professional can help you navigate these very rough emotional waters.
Witnessing the suffering of others, day in and day out takes a toll, especially if you’re the type of caring, self-sacrificing individual who isn’t adept at self-care. Things you need to watch for: hopelessness, apathy, cynicism and feelings of despair, anxiety, depression, panic attacks, insomnia, hyper-vigilance, and exhaustion.
If you suspect you may suffer from compassion fatigue, seek professional help. Request an extended leave from your job, if need be. There’s no shame in compassion fatigue, but to deny you have it can have horrific consequences, for you, your loved ones, and your career.
Stay Ahead of The Stress
These 3 nursing stresses are very real and difficult to avoid. You need to put your own care first, before you can care for others. Stress management is vital, especially for nurses. Find healthy ways to cope with the stress and anxiety of your career before it becomes too much.