5 “on-duty” stress relief tactics—for when you need relief YESTERDAY

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When a good day is a shift during which nobody dies, you know you have a stressful job on your hands. And while long runs, wine and a little lovin’ are great ways to counteract the emotional strains of nursing, you can’t exactly down a glass of Merlot and then complete half a dozen laps during the negative minutes you have for lunch (we’ll leave that third option to the imagination).

So, to help you out in a pinch, we’ve gathered five quick, easy and totally legal stress relief tactics you can actually utilize while you’re on the job.

1. LOL.

Seriously! Studies suggest that a solid moment of laughter can lower your level of cortisol (that icky stress hormone) and boost endorphins—something you would otherwise have to resort to acupuncture or chocolate for—so +1 for convenience. 

This means that the next time you come across an unruly patient or log an extra hour (or two) of work and your mood starts to shift from: 




…then a clever YouTube video or total Insta-gem may be just the thing you need. 

Love a good meme? We support that. Little dogs in pajamas? Why not?

(And just so you know, that last one is actually pretty searchable—we tried).

2. Go ahead…be a little sappy.

Short staffing, unspeakable bodily fluids, (dare we even say it?) lukewarm coffee…all these factors can descend upon an unsuspecting nurse throughout the day to make for a pretty unpleasant shift. 

If, but more likely when, that happens, we suggest you lessen the urge to get the heck outta Dodge by beating back all those nasty, negative thoughts to make room in the forefront for more positive thinking.* 

*Yes, we do realize that this is easier said than done…which is why you should lower your eyebrows and continue reading.

One simple (and Pinterest-worthy) way to achieve the seemingly impossible—aka tame your temper—is to carry a small notepad in any of your 8,000 pockets. Then, when things get rocky, steal a moment to write down just one thing you’re grateful for…even if that’s simply still having a pen (for once) to write with already two hours into your shift. 


Too surly to churn out just one thing you’re grateful for? Look around you—you’re likely to find more.

3. Nibble your way toward happier times.

If you’re feeling a bit cranky, it may be because you haven’t eaten since ‘Nam. And even then, chances are your so-called “breakfast” was, like, a few spoonfuls of peanut butter from that jar you keep in your glove compartment.

Try keeping some light, emergency-reserve snacks on hand to combat the “hangry” and boost your energy. Unfortunately, a slice of cake in Tupperware isn’t really ideal, no matter how loudly it’s calling your name…in several different languages. On the other hand, almonds, avocado, berries and yogurt are just a few tasty superfoods that are said to play for team “stress relief.”

Which is basically two birds with just one yummy stone—right?

4. Make essential oils, well…essential.

Studies have shown that catching a whiff of calming scents (think: fields of flowers, lemon groves) can help ward off stress and a fierce urge to hide.

Here are some winning aromas:

  • Jasmine
  • Rosemary
  • Cinnamon
  • Lavender
  • Peppermint
  • Money (Ha! JK…we think)

Maybe just make sure your coworkers are aware that all of this sniffing is a perfectly legitimate coping mechanism, and not something high-schoolers are probably being suspended for.

5. If you can’t beat it, join it.

So this approach is a little funky, but not entirely illogical. When all else fails—like a powerful combination of almonds, lavender-drenched everything and all the happy thoughts about your pet you can muster—it may be time for you to stop sparring with stress and simply embrace it.

Hear us out: According to a study conducted at the University of Rochester, it actually helps for folks who find themselves in stressful situations to welcome all those uncomfortable physical reactions (like an increased heart rate) as a sign of more oxygen being delivered to the brain, thus enhancing performance. Kind of like a mind trick, but it actually makes quite a bit of sense.

See what we did there?

Got any tried and true strategies of your own? Tell us about them in the comments section below. 

Interested in learning more tips? Check out our Nurse’s Survival Guide!

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