Whether you’re wrapping up another semester, on the prowl for your first RN position, or trying to assert your new skills at your first nursing job, stress has the ability to creep in both unexpectedly and forcefully. How you manage your stress levels can affect your mood, your health, and your performance. Take control of your stress by trying a few of these strategies for getting your calm on!
Sometimes, to tackle stress, you must first identify what really has you stressing so that you can learn to control it. It can be helpful to create a journal to track when you’re stressed. Logging information about the stressor, how it made you feel on a physical and emotional level, how you acted, and how you made yourself feel better can be insightful for patterns of what stresses you and how you currently cope. Often, it comes down to knowing these patterns and accepting responsibility for your contribution to any stress-inducing habits, attitudes, and rationalizations.
Once you’ve identified your stress patterns, it can be helpful to avoid unnecessary stress. By being aware of your limits and respecting them, you can say “no” to taking on too much. This can also help you prioritize between things you truly have to do versus things you feel like you should do. Avoiding nerve-wracking conversation topics, tense environments (traffic anyone?), or stressful people who won’t work on the relationship can also reduce the number of triggers for you to respond to.
You can’t always avoid hectic situations, but sometimes you can change them to prevent them from happening repeatedly. This can mean expressing your feelings so they don’t stay bottled up and harboring resentment. It can also mean learning to compromise to find a happy medium. Perhaps you need to put your foot down more to make sure you are doing your best to prevent problems (ever lost study time because you ran into some chatty friends?). This can also help you stay on track and manage your time better, which can reduce the amount of stress to conquer.
While it’s not always possible to avoid or change the stressor, you can change how you think about and react to stressful conditions. This may mean trying to see things from a more positive perspective or just trying to see the forest for the trees. Can you find the opportunity in the situation? Will it matter in the long run? Are you setting unachievable standards? Learning to be okay with less than perfect can help you prevent setting yourself up for failure.
Then, there will always be situations that you just cannot control. This is where acceptance tends to be the best strategy. It can be so easy to stress about things outside of our control, but learning to let go and focus your efforts on the things you can (avoiding unnecessary stressors, taking action to change situations, and minding your own attitudes and behaviors) will help keep you more productive and balanced in the long run. Sometimes it helps to just talk it out. Other times it may require reflecting on past mistakes to learn from them as well as learning to forgive to move forward.
Lastly, a healthy lifestyle can help strengthen your mind and body to fight off stress. Consider adding one or several of the following to your daily regimen!
Eat healthy – Help your body stay strong with proper nourishment.
Limit caffeine and sugar intake – Avoid the rollercoaster moods and energy levels to feel more relaxed.
Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs – Using these as a bandaid for dealing with stress can exacerbate the problem.
Sleep – Who doesn’t love a nap or a good night’s sleep when stressed?! Sleep will help you refuel and think clearly.
Exercise – This is one of the best ways to manage stress. Help your body burn off negative energy and keep the nervous system moving and healthy. It doesn’t just have to be a typical gym workout!
- Tai Chi
- Recreational Sports
- Meditation helps you focus on the here and now, improving your focus and reducing your worry about things past or future. There are different kinds of meditation so you may have to find one that works best for you.
- Breathing exercises can induce relaxation.
- Progressive muscle relaxation allows you to relax muscle groups one at a time to relieve muscle tension.
You time – This could go unsaid, but sometimes we feel like we’re too busy to do something enjoyable or relaxing. This may be the best time to do it, and it might help you be more productive! Making it a daily habit will allow you time to recharge too.
Volunteer, write, take a bubble bath, try aromatherapy, enjoy arts and crafts, stargaze, play an instrument, listen to music, get organized and de-clutter, sip some tea, talk to a friend, play with a pet, work in your garden, get a massage, read a good book, play a game, spend time in nature, LAUGH!
Have a favorite stress-reliever? Share it with us!
Veronica Goodwin, also known as V, started with Aureus Medical Group as an Account Manager in September 2011. In May 2013, V stepped into the role of Nursing Student Outreach Coordinator. Prior to Aureus Medical, she worked as a Branch Manager with Enterprise Rent-A-Car. With a Bachelor of Arts degree in Graphic Design and Minor in Problems of Philosophy from Creighton University, V has a creative outlook on the world and enjoys sharing that with others. In her downtime, V can be found with friends or family, traveling, photographing nature and gardening, reading, and learning about various wellness theories.