REAL advice on stress relief for nurses
We all have moments in which the stress of our jobs threatens to make our heads spin around 360 degrees. Moments like that are fine, but if there’s a trend toward constant head-spinning, then you, my friend, need an intervention.
Tip One: Make sure your personal space is as stress-free as possible.
When you come home at night or in the morning, are you faced with stacks of dishes in the sink and cat hair everywhere? You need to start taking care of that stuff on your days off. Your home is a haven. Even with roommates or kids, you can have one space that’s inviolable and neat and clean. That one thing will make such a difference in your mental health, it’s amazing.
Tip Two: Treat your body well.
Fast food is good once in a while, but for tip-top functioning, you really need to pay attention to how you feed your body. Good, clean food will help your body and brain work well and will lessen your stress levels immensely. Batch-cooking things you can stand to eat during and after your shifts will make you so much happier than a burger from Big Bob’s Burger Barn.
Tip Three: Simplify.
I have six of the exact same uniform, four bras that I know fit perfectly and eight pairs of socks that are identical. I have a zippered makeup bag that I got for a buck at Target that holds all my work stuff, from pens to stethoscope to ID. I have set jewelry to wear to work, and a set time in the morning by which certain things have to be accomplished. This makes my life so much easier, I can’t even tell you.
Integral to this plan is a coffeemaker with a timer. If you don’t own one, go get one.
Tip Four: Know which stress relievers are good in the long run.
I’m a big fan of carefully applied general anesthetic in the form of ETOH (as my mother says), but not after every shift. A glass of wine or other Adult Beverage of your choice can be helpful when you’re too wound up to sleep or if your brain simply won’t shut up…but don’t make a habit of it. Exercise is better (and I’ve never found that getting good and sweaty an hour before bed will make me insomniac), venting to a friend is good (especially if she’s not also a nurse), playing catch with your pup or the neighbor’s kids can work. Know what’s healthy (movement, talk, art, music) and what’s not (alcohol, too much food, drugs), and plan accordingly.
Tip Five: Get a massage. Seriously.
Touch is amazing for making you feel better. Find yourself a good massage therapist and get the two-hour rubdown. Don’t plan anything at all for the rest of the day. You’d be amazed at how small niggling problems and constant stressors seem when you can barely walk to the car. If you can afford it, do it once or twice a month: It’ll give you something to look forward to, and you’ll feel amazing for at least a day or so.
Agatha Lellis is a nurse whose coffee is brought to her every morning by a chipmunk. Bluebirds help her to dress, and small woodland creatures sing her to sleep each night. She writes a monthly advice column, "Ask Aunt Agatha," here on Scrubs; you can send her questions to be answered at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Agatha Lellis