As is the case with most selfless career choices, nursing is certainly not for the faint-hearted. Registered nurses and nurse practitioners play the role of a hero every single day on the job, providing critical care that often saves lives and leaving lasting impressions on the patients they help.
But the high-intensity levels and high-performance requirements of nursing can cause undesirable side effects, like chronic stress and anxiety. If you’ve been nursing for a while, then you’ll know exactly how stress that goes undealt with can lead to health issues, burnout, and even decreased job satisfaction. And you don’t have time for any of that.
So, how do even the busiest nurses facing the biggest day-to-day challenges manage to stay upbeat, positive and in control of their stress levels?
Adopt a More Mindful Approach to Your Work
As a nurse, being mindful can help you out a great deal. It’s especially useful if you are dealing with the pressure of juggling full-time working shifts with an online DNP program, which can leave you feeling like you simply don’t have a single hour in the day to yourself.
Mindfulness is about staying present; it’s said that stress or fear can’t exist in the present, only in the past or the future. Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present, aware of our surroundings and what we’re doing, and not overwhelmed or overly reactive to what’s going on around us. For nurses, it can be extremely helpful on a busy shift.
And the good news is that anybody can learn to be more mindful with a bit of practice. Try a guided meditation app like:
- Insight Timer
Remember How Much Others Appreciate You
As a nurse, you are one of the most appreciated people in the world. Even people who’ve never met you and will never meet you, are appreciating the work that you do every day. But sometimes, when the going gets tough and you feel like you’re doing nothing right, it can be easy to forget all about this.
Spend some time dwelling on when people have expressed their appreciation for you and what you do. You may have ‘thank you’ letters or notes from families; reread them when you’re feeling down and it’s sure to give you a positivity boost and remind you of why you chose this career path.
Prioritize Your Own Needs
Nurses are so used to putting the needs of others above their own, but sometimes, you’ve just got to put yourself first. If you keep putting yourself right at the bottom of your own priority list, you’re eventually going to suffer for it. Consider Maslow’s hierarchy of needs:
These are the very basic needs that every single person has; if one of these needs isn’t fulfilled, you’re not going to get any further up the hierarchy until it is. Once these needs are all fulfilled, you’ll find it easier to reach for higher levels of productivity, performance, and creativity. Don’t feel bad if you’re often tired, hungry or dehydrated – after all, you’re highly focused on the needs of others as a nurse; it’s your job! But you need to give yourself permission to make sure that your own needs are met, too.
Say Goodbye to Negative People
It’s not uncommon for anybody to work with at least a couple of individuals who tend to always look on the negative side of things. And when you’re working with one of them, it can make the entire shift even more draining.
While you might not be able to get away with cutting negative colleagues out of your life for good, there are a couple of things that you can do to minimize the effect that their negativity has on you. The mindfulness practices mentioned above will help you to stay focused in the present and react less to any negative opinions of others.
Or, practice redirecting the conversation to a more positive and enjoyable subject; you might find that this is all the push that they need to start looking on the bright side a little more.
Silence Your Inner Critic
In society, we’ve gotten used to the idea of referring to the negative talk inside our heads as a ‘self-critic’ and most of us will blame ourselves for the negative thoughts and feelings that they come up with. But in reality, that negative voice inside your head that’s always telling you you’re not doing well enough is the voice of others in your life that you’ve internalized, rather than yourself. Instead of listening to it:
- Speak to yourself like you’d speak to a friend – if you wouldn’t say it to somebody else, why say it to yourself?
- Be kind to yourself and allow yourself to feel bad, make mistakes, or be unable to say yes to everything. You are only human, and you’d understand if it was somebody else – so give yourself the same level of understanding and care that you afford to others.
- Encourage yourself – you don’t need to wait around for others to encourage you, big you up and tell you what a great job you’re doing. You can do this for yourself!
Visualize Positive Outcomes
As a nurse, you’re dealing with a lot of life’s worst parts. Morbidity and mortality are an everyday part of the job, and many of the patients that you will tend to are going through one of, if not the worst point in their life right now.
For nurses, this can take a toll. The good news is that the mind can’t tell the difference between reality and visualization; you can change your whole outlook and mindset by simply focusing on more preferable outcomes, regardless of whether or not they actually happen.
Nursing is a very rewarding and fulfilling job, but it’s also very demanding and requires you to work closely with topics that most of us don’t deal with very often, like life-changing injuries and even death. The nurses that stay positive despite it all combine these coping strategies with a genuine love for their work.