Oh stress was my bedfellow I will tell you until I found a position I adore! Three things I think about that help me are:
1. I know my limitations as a professional and a person and respect them! I can't be 100% responsible for the patient since I can't do 100% of the job (I am not the MD who can prescribe and Dx, I am not the therapists, I am not the family, I am not the environmental factors, etc.) I can only do what I can do and communicate to others...as long as I do that to my best...heck with naysayers I may run into!!!!!! I know I did well, and so does my patient (whether they acknowledge that or not).
SO basically know your personal and professional limitations well, and respect them...that has saved me lots of heartache and stress!!!!
2. Be myself! I got through nursing school being myself, got through NCLEX being myself, get through my life being myself...so if it is working well, why get a facade or cover over my personality at work? I don't do it when I meet a stranger...seems it would certainly work for a patient. This one took a long time to fully understand...now I am truly happy, and I am getting more done, a better rounded nurse, can deal with the human perspective and earn my patients trust and cooperation to the fullest, and get along with if not all staff!!! Why did I wait so long! LOL! SO be true to yourself and let it shine!!!!! Takes more energy to fake or bottle then it does to let your spirit glow!
3. Really have a one on one with yourself about how you truely feel about death and illness. What are your feelings about this, your fears, your anxieties...if you know those well and learn effective ways to see how you feel and know that may occur during a work day (which I am sorry you do tend to take those issues home in your brain to mull over) you can learn ways to be more proactive or protective of them. These change over time as you advance as a nurse...but always keep these feeling in check..these are the insidious thing that can lead to depression and you don't even see them comming! SO be true to your feelings about working with the dying or ill pt...and learn to embrace them and work with them because they are as individual as you, they are a part of you, and can be turned into wonderful insite and energy for not only you...but a patient one day!!!!
I have others too...and sometimes they come into play given various situations, but these seem to be my foundations! I see my MD annually or PRN if I feel stress effecting my life outside of work, I watch any drinking that may occur or other bad habits, I journal (very helpful!), and a biggie I adopted in RN school...
I MAKE the time for relaxation when I hit the door home! I have a ROUTINE I do that signifies the end of the RN, and the start of the wife/mother/human in me! The shoes are first, scrubs next. I get into something comfy (I bought comfy outfits just for this!) and slip into my fuzzy socks that feel so great. I take a deep breath and say two nice things that happened at work, then LEAVE work/school at that and focus on my family and self! Man I feel so much better with that routine!!!!! Worked for 7 years so far!
Good luck to you!!!!!!! I know the stress can take your spirit, mind and body with it...so I tried to handle it in that order so I treat my whole person! No sense just taking on one...it is a package deal, and the best person to fix it...ME!