4 Nurse-on-the-go ways to reduce stress

give-nurses-a-break-cartoonStress: nurses are so steeped in it, that they don’t even realize how bad it actually is.  The side effects of too much stress are legion, and I tabulated a few of them, particularly the health risks, in this article here.

However, I know I’m just preaching to the choir.  We know that stress causes problems, and it certainly isn’t because we see patients with stress related illnesses all the time – which we do.

No, it is because every nurse I have ever known has suffered from some stress related malady.  Whether chronic illness, migraines, ulcers, addiction, anxiety, depression, or PTSD, nurses know because they live it.

But, let’s face it, not many of us have time for Zen-like navel gazing and becoming one with the universe.  I would recommend it as a great way to reduce stress, but sometimes it isn’t practical.

You need to be able to get your calm on while still managing the stress of the job, keeping the kids from burning the house down, finding your partner’s missing papers for work, cooking a decent healthy meal, and trying hard not to implode.

I hear you.  Try these no-bull ways to reduce your stress.

Bathroom Sanctuary

Ah, the bathroom.  It’s the one place you are expected to be alone.  I know that most nurses don’t get the opportunity to go as often as they’d like, and they often rush back out because there is so much to do.

Look, it’s the bathroom.  I don’t care who’s coding, what meds need passed, or what crisis is going on, you can take a moment to care for your bowel and bladder.

Beside this, though, the bathroom can be a sanctuary if you let it.  Take this time to do deep breathing.  Focus on something else for a moment.  Let the peace and calm of this rare moment of ceasefire filter into your mind.

Essentially, meditate while you are on the toilet.  It’s okay.  The toilet won’t mind.  I had a friend who would go to the bathroom and deep breathe whenever she felt overwhelmed, and it worked for her.

Attitude of Gratitude

So often, we as human beings tend to focus on what we don’t have, what we are struggling against, or what negative thing has happened.  No, this isn’t going to work if you want to reduce stress.

This isn’t to say that you become a Pollyanna, one of those super spunky nurses who are just so super happy to be on a super floor with such a super manager and is essentially a super pile of flaming lies.

Extremes are never the way, but if you focus on what you have, you may find yourself feeling a bit better.  So, yes, you’re understaffed, but you can be grateful for the ability to protect your patients from harm.  You can be thankful they have you.

You may have a code brown, but think of how much this is helping the poor soul sitting in the middle of the mess.  You may have a stressful job, but you get to change and save people’s lives.  That is something to be grateful for.

Instead of thinking “I have to get through this shift,” try thinking “I get to make a difference today.”  Just a subtle shift can help to relieve stress without the extremes of ignoring glaring problems with the profession.


We all tell our patients to exercise, and you may think you don’t have time for another responsibility.  You don’t have to train for an Iron Man competition to get in the needed exercise.

“Escaping too much can lead to addiction.”

On your lunch break, walk around the hospital grounds.  When you get home, stroll the neighborhood.  If you have a treadmill, use it in bad weather, but it will benefit you to get out.

A gym is a nice diversion, and they have yoga classes that can benefit stress-fighting measures.  It’s also a nice escape, something done completely and totally for you.

I could expound upon the various physiologic changes that moderate exercise has on the body, and how these changes have been scientifically proven to decrease stress . . .  but we all already know that.

Find the time to take care of yourself, and you will find you have more strength to take care of others.


Everyone needs an escape hatch, and really, that’s what stress relief is all about.  Exercise, the bathroom, and gratitude are methods of escaping from chronic negative thinking that can lead to stress.

To get the most from this concept, you need to find ways to engage in escapism as much as possible and still maintain your responsibility.  Some people love to read, and that sends them to another place.

That’s not the only way of slipping the surly bonds of earth.  Movies and television shows are a great way to be someone else for a little while – and decrease stress at the same time.

Sports can help to decrease stress, as well, because you get caught up in the drama of the game.  That drama is much preferable to code blue level drama, and you can just dismiss it later as a silly game.

Some people find solace in shopping, though you should be careful not to overshop.  Cooking a great meal can be very relaxing, but you should be careful not to turn to food exclusively to ease your tension.

In short, when you find an escape, don’t overdo it.  Escaping too much can lead to addiction, withdrawal from family and friends, and other problems with accepting reality.

Escape, like all other stress relief techniques, should be used in moderation to ensure that they decrease your stress while still allowing you to participate in the very real responsibilities that you have.  You can’t escape forever, but sometimes, it is just enough to relieve the pressure.


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