Navigating Pre- and Post-shift Anxiety

Do you ever worry at the end of a long shift that your patients and families weren’t really listening to you? Do you sit in your car before your shift starts, anxious about what will happen throughout the day? Working at the forefront of patient care can take a larger tax than you realize. Tension, fear, worry, avoidance, and self-doubt– these feelings all create a perfect storm for workplace anxiety. 

Signs of shift-related anxiety

We know you can’t always avoid stressful situations, workplace conflict, or mistakes at work, especially in high-acuity settings. Still, you can certainly advocate for yourself by acknowledging how you feel and working to reduce excess stressors whenever possible. Everyone may process shift-related anxiety in different ways, but some warning signs generally include: 

  • feeling restless, wound-up, or on-edge
  • procrastination and avoidance
  • difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability before or during a shift
  • headaches, muscle aches, tension
  • difficulty controlling feelings of worry or dread
  • being easily fatigued or having difficulty sleeping

If you’re experiencing any of these signs of anxiety before or after a shift, don’t fret– you’re not alone! Almost everyone feels some type of workplace anxiety. It’s important to remember that you’re a fully capable healthcare professional and how you view your stressors can impact how you respond to them. 

Healthy ways to handle workplace anxiety

You’ll always worry about your patients because you care! Your days are already so complex, handling patients, working long hours, navigating patient pain or loss, dealing with staffing shortages, changing assignments, experiencing compassion fatigue, feelings of burnout, and balancing everyday home life! So practicing pre- or post-shift anxiety management techniques that work best for you and your lifestyle can help prevent anxiety from interfering with your life. Take back control of your day-to-day by adopting some healthy ways to handle workplace anxiety. For instance, you could:

  • Establish a strong support system. Reach out to friends and family to support you by taking additional home-life stressors off your plate, like temporary childcare or daily errands. Or connect with other travel nurses, your recruiter, or take advantage of EAP services available for a trusty sounding board on the specific stressors you’re experiencing on shift. The people that make up your support ecosystem can allow you to vent out negative emotions, connect with others experiencing the same struggles, and help you feel more confident and capable.
  • Remember your reasons. Why did you get into healthcare? Why did you become a traveler? What motivates you each and every day? If you can, take small pauses throughout the day– in the stairwell, in the bathroom, or driving home– to practice mindfulness and remember your biggest “whys.” To accept things as they are in the present moment will help you meet the day’s experiences with openness, curiosity, and compassion.
  • Celebrate your wins! Every day, celebrate the positives, large or small. It can be as simple as leaving work on time, getting to work with your best friend, or receiving a thank you from a troublesome patient. Hold onto that moment because you earned it! Share it with someone in your support system and allow yourself to feel good about it. 
  • Take care of your mind, body, and soul. Activities like meditation, mindfulness, and yoga can all help reduce the exhausting symptoms associated with work anxiety. Arrive early and meditate in your car to relax and refresh or take a few minutes to rest and recharge before driving home. If your mind starts to wander towards worst-case scenarios, strive to accept situations out of your control and distract yourself with a productive task, some time to yourself, or some self-care. 

Think about how far you’ve come since the beginning of your career and what you’ve accomplished to get where you are now. There is no guarantee that pre- or post-shift anxiety will never completely disappear, but it will get better in time. Don’t forget that your recruiter is always here for you if you need someone! Reach out to yours today to learn more about the EAP program available to all active Aureus Medical Group travelers

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