Stress is a huge problem among Americans. According to the annual Stress in America survey conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA), 84 percent of Americans experienced at least one emotion associated with stress in the two weeks leading up to the survey. While stress affects nearly everyone, it is especially prevalent among nurses.
No one enters the healthcare field because they are looking for an easy, stress-free job. That doesn’t mean, though, that you need to spend your entire week feeling consumed by anxiety. There is no changing that nursing is a fast-paced and hectic career, but there are things you can do to stay more relaxed in stressful situations. From staying cool in comfortable jogger scrub pants to making some changes to your diet, keep reading to discover some strategies for staying calm, cool, and collected as a nurse.
Develop Strong Listening Skills
When you work in healthcare, you need to pay attention to everything that is being said. Every conversation could provide useful information when working with a patient. Plus, knowing exactly what is going on at all times can help keep anxiety at bay.
If you have trouble staying focused on conversations, make strengthening your listening skills a priority. It takes practice, but, with patience and persistence, anyone can become a better listener.
Choose Your Workwear Wisely
Nursing is a physically demanding job. When you are spending 12 or more hours on your feet tending to patients, you need workwear that will keep up with you. Start with a great pair of nursing shoes, and be prepared to replace them regularly. Few things are worse than foot pain when you’re a nurse, so do everything you can to prevent it.
Be mindful when shopping for scrubs, too. Look for scrub pants for women that are made of comfortable, lightweight material that will move with you. You don’t want bottoms or tops that will restrict your movements or make you bound up. Nursing is stressful enough without adding the frustration of uncomfortable, ill-fitting clothes! Buy scrubs with antimicrobial properties, too, so you can put your mind at ease about germs and bacteria.
Cut Back on Caffeine
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Caffeine might be your best friend when it comes to waking up in the morning, but too much of it could be your worst enemy in terms of staying calm and collected while you’re at work. Downing three or four cups of coffee could leave you feeling too wired to properly focus on the task at hand, which could be dangerous to your patients. Excessive caffeine consumption has also been linked with anxiety, which is exactly what you don’t want to be dealing with when you are trying to keep your cool in a challenging situation.
Instead of fueling up on caffeine throughout your shift, get in the habit of keeping a full bottle of water by your side. Staying hydrated is crucial and, sometimes, drinking regular water can give you the boost you need. When you do need a little something extra, reach for a caffeine-free sports drink like Gatorade or Powerade instead of drinking a soda or another cup of coffee.
Maintain a Professional Attitude
As a healthcare worker, you are expected to maintain a professional attitude at all times. This means communicating effectively with patients, physicians, and your fellow nurses without raising your voice or becoming emotional. Mastering this skill does much more than just keeping your boss, colleagues, and patients happy, though.
In addition to ensuring that your professionalism remains intact, maintaining a calm, neutral demeanor can help keep your own anxiety in check. Yelling tends to escalate situations and cause a lot more stress than it solves. At first, staying calm and professional on the outside while you’re panicking inside might feel like you are “faking” it. As you practice maintaining a cool, calm, and collected demeanor, though, you’ll notice your internal anxiety becoming less intense.
Take a Breath
Even the best nurse is only human. When you are working long hours and caring for people in the best and worst moments of their lives, it is bound to take a toll. Knowing when to step back and take a breath will help you keep your emotions in check on even your more difficult days.
If you are struggling, briefly remove yourself from the situation. Take a few long, deep breaths and, if time allows, go for a short walk. Taking a quick break and giving yourself a few moments to simply breathe is one of the best things you can do to stay calm as a nurse. Once you have settled down, you will be able to return to your job with a clear mind and provide the quality care your patient needs.
Caring for your patients is important. But taking care of yourself is essential, too. Unfortunately, many nurses experience serious burnout as a result of putting their own physical, mental, and emotional needs on the back burner. Try to get adequate rest in between shifts and incorporate exercise into your routine. Even if it’s just a walk around the block, regular exercise is a powerful tool for keeping anxiety at bay.
Make other forms of self-care a priority, too. Spend time with friends and family members, participate in activities you enjoy, and treat yourself to your favorite pampering services once in a while. Being a nurse is a lot of hard work, and you deserve the same level of care and compassion that you show your patients.
The Bottom Line
When you work in the healthcare industry, you are expected to maintain a calm and professional outward appearance while dealing with incredibly stressful situations. Learning how to keep your cool during tense situations is good for your mental health, too. Being a nurse is stressful, but you do not need to let anxiety overwhelm your life. With the tips listed above, you can learn to control your emotions and remain calm, cool, and collected on even your most challenging days.