Workplace sanity: 9 stress management tips for nurses

Nursing is a stressful career, and why not? They have to work long hours, have a mandatory dose of trauma and agony, and witness death every other day. The hectic work environment can take a toll on them mentally and physically; therefore, feeling stressed is a likely consequence. Stress can drain nurses’ energy and intrude on their critical thinking ability. According to the American Institute of Stress, 83% of workers feel work-induced stress, which is alarming. In another study, more than 60% of the nurses reported emotional exhaustion.

Stress can lead to job dissatisfaction, lack of empathy, and loss of interest in the job. All these consequences are detrimental to the healthcare industry. The ripple effect of stress amongst nurses might be poor patient satisfaction, adverse patient outcomes, increased error and patient mortality rate. Hence, the stress in nurses cannot be left unaddressed. Both nurses and hospital management must work together to manage it. Fortunately, they can cope with the stress; here are some ways to do so.

  1. Always take scheduled breaks

It is pretty common for nurses to be wrapped up in their work and avoid taking some time off during their shift. But in fact, having scheduled breaks during work is very important. It can recharge your body and mind, preparing you for the remaining tasks. Besides, you can only take care of your patients if you are mentally and physically fit. One of the benefits of being a nurse is that people always surround you, but it often makes you crave solitude. So, during these short breaks, you can find a discreet corner and sit there to shed the negative energy and have some solace in the quiet.

  1. Take time off to recharge yourself

During the long 12-hour shift, your time is dedicated to your patients. But, you need some time entirely for yourself too where you can do things that you like. It can be having a cup of tea and reading your book, sprawling on the lounger and enjoying a TV show, or just having a leisurely walk with your four-legged furry friend. Even a short time for yourself at the end of your shift can reinstate your energy, break the chains of fatigue, and invigorate you for work the next day.

  1. Leave what you cannot control

Often stress is caused due to needlessly trying to change things or circumstances that you cannot control. Long and hectic hours of your work are just one of the many examples. Even if you are annoyed by the extended work hours, you cannot change it until the whole staff protests against it. So, fretting over it will do nothing except make you stressed. But at the same time, you also have to realize what is still in your control. Taking the previous example further, though you cannot shorten your shift, you can surely take scheduled breaks and chat with your friends over a cup of coffee.

  1. Communicate concisely and effectively

Communication with colleagues, doctors, paramedics, administration, patients, and families makes up a significant part of nurses’ work in the hospital. But this is also a very stressful aspect of their job. They have to balance not withholding any information and communicating the correct information. An excellent way to make workplace communication effective and concise is to keep your face-to-face interactions and emails simple and understandable.

  1. Pamper yourself with aromatherapy

After a hectic day of work at the hospital, it is your right to get yourself pampered or do it yourself. The simplest way is to apply aromatic lavender essential oil to the nape of your neck, your feet’s soles, and the temples. Aromatherapy reduces tension, unties the knots of stress, and induces relaxation. A study with 19 nurses as participants found that nurses who wore an aromatherapy patch on their ID for four to eight hours experienced a 40% drop in stress and fatigue.

  1. Drink plenty of water

Staying hydrated is the easiest way to manage stress and makes your workplace look like a sane place. Drink at least 1-2 litres of water. However, the quantity can increase depending on the climate and humidity level. Ample water in your body ensures better blood circulation, reduced chances of migraine, and fewer body aches, not to mention smoother and beautiful skin. Drinking water also replenishes essential electrolytes lost through perspiration and boosts your energy.

  1. Eat healthy diet

Having a proper diet can also stave off stress, keeping you healthier and readier for your gruelling work. Even if fast food seems like the most convenient option, bar yourself from gobbling down a big slice of pizza or a big burger during your shift. Your stress hormones pump your cravings for fast food, making it a vicious cycle where you find yourself entangled. But you must break the chains and only stretch out your hands for healthy food. You can bring a home-cooked meal, including all the necessary nutrients. Another way to promote healthy eating to manage stress includes preferring green tea over coffee or other caffeinated drinks.

  1. Engage in healthy leisurely activities

Instead of binging on junk food or becoming a couch potato, engaging your mind in games like Sudoku and other puzzles can distract your mind from the hectic day at work. These mind relaxing activities also help manage your stress more productively. Even executives and nurse managers who take some time out to play some healthy games feel more satisfied and accomplished.

  1. Don’t compromise your sleep

When it comes to sleep, you cannot compromise it for anything, especially after working a long and hectic shift. Sleep deficiency is the biggest reason for feeling stressed. Sleep deficiency also impacts your appetite. On the contrary, nurses who take ample sleep have better concentration, increased productivity, and cognition. Therefore, always rake a full night’s sleep. On days when you work night shifts, take a mid-shift nap. A short nap will make you more tolerant of irritants and reduce impulsivity.


Stress can really ruin your performance at work. Therefore, taking actions to manage your anxiety is very important for consistently good performance at work. Sources of stress like overtime, hectic schedules, poor work-life balance, etc., will always be part of your job. But you have to combat the urge to fall into a bottomless pit of self-pity, low self-esteem, and negative self-perception that happen under stress.