Coping skills for anxiety?

  1. Hello. I am in desperate need of advice. Ironically, I am an advice nurse...but I need help sometimes too! I have been a nurse for almost 27 years. I am beyond burned out. I can really say I have very little empathy, if any, left. I have been working in a busy call center for almost 2 years now. It's getting more and more difficult for me to cope with the ridiculous calls we get. I worked with sick babies the first 25 years of my career. Decided to try something new. Boy, is this new. I find myself getting heart palpitations from some of the calls. I also start to sweat a lot. This is the kind of job where you cannot just walk away from the phone. We are closely monitored every single minute of the day. It's all computerized of course. Anyway, the calls that get to me are the anxious people, in turn causing me to be anxious. I really don't take the calls personally, it's more along the lines of feeling these people's voices in my head and seeping through my body. Sounds dramatic, but that's how I feel. I have even been getting cold chills when I feel so overwhelmed. I am shocked at how people act, how ignorant they are, and how rude they can be. I liked working with babies because they are innocent and they don't talk back. The parents could be difficult however. I am trying to look at the positives. I have a good commute, good pay, good company to work for, but how in the world can I cope?? I sometimes feel like a 911 operator, which I never expected. The calls range from easy to difficult, dumb to smart, rude to nice, you name it. I guess it's to be expected. It feels good just to express myself here. I really wish I could just retire and be done with it all. So...if you have any great advice I would love to hear it!! I am at the end of my rope. But I also can't find another job right now that would work for me. I had a friend tell me she loves advice nurses when she calls us, they are so nice and helpful. That made me feel better. This job makes me roll my eyes constantly. People really are helpless and clueless with their healthcare. So, my main question is how do you deal with anxiety while at work? Besides walking away...I can't do that very often.
    Last edit by MA Nurse on Jan 4
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  2. 28 Comments

  3. by   MA Nurse
    Wow. Over 100 views and no replies. I dont know if the views are from nurses or not. Makes me feel worse for even posting. Its honestly surprising and hurtful. I will find help another way.
    Last edit by MA Nurse on Jan 5
  4. by   NurseCard
    Hey, sorry you are feeling ignored. Sometimes a post comes along and
    people really don't know what advice to give, other than "sorry you
    are having a hard time"... so most people just choose to say
    nothing. It's unfortunate... sometimes you just need to know that
    you are being heard, right?

    Anyway... I'm sorry you're having a hard time. Seriously, I
    don't know what advice to give you. You know, there was
    a time when I would have said to myself, hmmm.. call
    center nurse. Sit at a telephone all day and give nursing
    advice. Sounds easy..... BUT, to hear you describe it,
    and you describe it very eloquently... I can see where it
    would be a very hard job. You don't get to just walk
    away, de-stress for a few minutes, unless it's your
    lunch break... and hopefully you get a lunch break!

    Even a nurse working on the busiest med surge floor
    can usually at least take a few minutes to just hide
    away in a corner somewhere and take deep breaths,
    cry, get a drink of water, etc.. You can't even do
    that. How awful.

    I mean seriously, do the phones ring constantly, one
    call right after the other? Because if so, I honestly
    don't know how you de-stress in a job like that.
    I mean, you de-stress in the ways that I listed
    above, and you can't do that, especially if the
    phone never stops ringing!!!

    Is this a 24 hour call center? What shift do you
    work? Can you work late nights, if you are
    currently working days? Bound to be less
    stressful.
  5. by   MA Nurse
    Hi. Thanks for responding. I appreciate it. Yes we are open 24 hrs. Yes the calls come in non stop. My average is 50 calls in 8 hrs. Lately I have been walking away a bit more often for mental sanity. It's a job that's a lot harder than I expected. If I force myself to stand up and move around it helps. Our desks are adjustable. Just feeling really burned out. I work days. I cant work any other shift.
  6. by   VivaLasViejas
    I wish I had some words of wisdom for you, but I don't so I just wanted to let you know that someone is listening. Your job sounds incredibly stressful and I can't imagine being monitored all the time, as if you were a child who needs to be told what to do/say. I hope you can find a position that's more suitable for you...are you looking? Have you had any time to see a therapist to help you with the anxiety? You may want to consider taking a vacation, or even medical leave for a couple of weeks or so in order to get your mental health back on track.

    Wishing you well. Please keep us posted as to how you're doing.
  7. by   Susie2310
    I wanted to let you know that I read your post and hear your concerns. Going from working with sick babies for 25 years to giving advice in a high pressured environment to (I presume) adult patients with all kinds of medical problems/concerns seems to me to be a big step to take. I think VivaLasViejas has offered good suggestions.

    I wish you all the best.
    Last edit by Susie2310 on Jan 6
  8. by   bgirl71
    I found your post because i was searching for answers to my overwhelming feelings of anxiety. One thing I've learned is, you are not alone. Nursing is one of the most stressful occupations to be in. I've been a nurse for 17 years and have held several different positions from floor nursing to home health and even management jobs. I basically had a "come to Jesus" revelation tonight, with a little help from my non-understanding husband, that I am in the wrong line of work all these years. As my husband put it, "you can't cope with the stress of the responsibility that comes along with the job." I confessed to him that there are days i will call in sick, fibbing just a bit , claiming I'm ill with stomach issues when truthfully, i don't want to go to work because i fear will this be the day I make a simple human error and kill someone? At my job, we have long conference calls about one of our nurses making errors in judgment or not following the basic nursing guidelines we all learned in nursing school. We then have new policies in place to prevent these errors which also means about five more forms we must fill out to ensure we are doing the right thing. I hear about these mistakes and of course hindsite is 20/20 as i think to myself, "well why would anyone make such an error...duh" but deep down a constant fear is instilled in my mind....that could have been me or when will the call be about something i failed to do? It quite literally freaks me out. I used to think I was a pretty sensible nurse and very prudent but again everyday those anxious feelings are lurking. And I'm tired of helpng others and not getting support myself. I always say in interviews about that question " why did you become a nurse?" I want to make a difference in people's lives. It gives me personal satisfaction to know that I was a part of a person's healing. I truly care about my patients" But no one ever mentioned the cost of my own well being this burden I carry would have on my soul. And of course trying to explain this to a lay person i.e. the hubby, it cannot be expressed in just words. He would need to look inside my heart and mind and feel the emotions i have felt thru the years, watching people die, hugging family members and trying to give them positive feedback , reassuring them the love they had for this person was the best care they could give. He would have to go back in my timeline and help the fragile elderly soul who is continously apologizing because they soiled thier bed as their illness rendered them helpless all the while i tell them it's ok, I'm here for you and i will take care of you. He would have to been on my shift in er when they brought in the lifeless mangled up body of a teenager who was just thrown from their vehicle , hearing the mother in the waiting room as she wails with grief over the news that her son has died. We tried to revive him but his body was just too traumatized and no medicine or interventions could have saved him but dammit we tried against the odds. Or sitting at the home of a 90 yo man, helping him figure out his medicine regime every week. This little old shriveled up, skin and bones helpless creature who as i got to know him, was a decorated WWII vet who the whole world has forgotten. But not me, i see the gleam in his eyes and look past the wrinkles to see the man who he was and still is. Black and white photos sitting on his dresser of the handsome strong young man who fought for our country, that's who I'm caring for, listening to stories of back in the day. I would be sure to give myself at least an extra hour or two in my home health schedule just so he could relive his life thru amazing stories. He was the highlight of my day. That's why i became a nurse. But as with all lives, his ended and i cried for days because he was like family. My patients are my family. That's how I treated everyone my nursing hands touched. Even the late night calls i would get from a not so pleasant individual but I didn't hold it against them. I didn't get angry or feel inconvenienced because i had to go out and take care of them. I knew that deep down, this person needed me, however trivial or ridiculous one might perceive this call to be, this person still received the same respect and care every soul on this planet deserves, that's why I became a nurse. I still feel this way but yet have realized that there is another patient of mine whom I've neglected for 17 years. That patient is me. How does a nurse care for themselves? How does a nurse explain to their significant other that with this calling, and nursing is definitely a calling, that every life i have touched has slowly chiseled me down to nothing but a tree stump for others to use to rest their weary bones? And really now that I've contemplated these feelings and written the extreme cliff notes of my nursing life in my response to you, I know that i must get help for myself. There comes a point in your life when it's time to start using your amazing nursing skills on yourself. If your passion has become your nightmare, it's time to throw in the towel. You're not a failure, you're just nursing yourself back to good health. What else would be the best curtain call than to nurse yourself? You're walking away with an Oscar, knowing you made a difference in so many lives and probably other lives who your healing touched helped without you even being aware of it. Hold your head up high, be proud of all you've accomplished and set your next goal, the epitome of all goals, taking care of you. As one of my colleagues so eloquently said in her farewell to nursing career, "stick a fork in me, I'm done"
  9. by   WestCoastSunRN
    To the OP:
    I was in a sort of MA/secretary role at a very busy clinic for a few years before I became a nurse. I was attached to the phone (wore a headset) and was also accessible to patients as they came into and left the office as my work station was in the middle of everything. I dealt with the same variety of people you describe, and I wasn't responsible for giving RN advice -- I would just relay the advice the docs or LPN told me. That job was STRESSFUL!!!!! That said, I developed this persona at that office (and it followed me) of being a great problem solver who is able to de-escalate patient's anxiety. I don't know if maybe you can re-frame your perspective of yourself in this way? But advice nurses ARE so important and can be SUCH a balm to a confused, sick, anxious patient or parent of a patient. What you are doing can have a great impact on the people you talk to. Somehow you need to be able to separate yourself from their stress (your own job is stressful enough), so that you can leave the stress of your job at work, where it belongs. Maybe others have some good ideas how to do that. My only suggestions are 1) try to view yourself as an amazing problem solver/advocate/educator/triag-er that you are and 2) make sure you are taking every break you can --take care of yourself.
  10. by   BeenThere2012
    Quote from VivaLasViejas
    I wish I had some words of wisdom for you, but I don't so I just wanted to let you know that someone is listening. Your job sounds incredibly stressful and I can't imagine being monitored all the time, as if you were a child who needs to be told what to do/say. I hope you can find a position that's more suitable for you...are you looking? Have you had any time to see a therapist to help you with the anxiety? You may want to consider taking a vacation, or even medical leave for a couple of weeks or so in order to get your mental health back on track.

    Wishing you well. Please keep us posted as to how you're doing.
    Absolutely agree here. I would suggest a therapist to help with coping skills and simply taking through what you are experiencing can be very helpful sometimes. I know there are "de-stress exercises" that can be done in a minute or two...various breathing techniques and the like. They can be very effective when time is limited.
    Have you spoken to other colleagues to see how they handle it? I'm sure you are not alone. If there is someone you work with who you trust, try asking how they manage.
    Last edit by BeenThere2012 on Jan 9 : Reason: Misspell
  11. by   Soupysoup
    If you happen to work for a big organization sometimes they offer confidential counselling services. I know my company does! Otherwise I think it's best to just talk to your co-workers or manager and let them know you need some extra help/training/support. If not, then maybe it's time for a change. Your doctor may be able to help too, it doesn't hurt to ask.

    I hope it gets better for you.
  12. by   hppygr8ful
    Quote from MA Nurse
    Hi. Thanks for responding. I appreciate it. Yes we are open 24 hrs. Yes the calls come in non stop. My average is 50 calls in 8 hrs. Lately I have been walking away a bit more often for mental sanity. It's a job that's a lot harder than I expected. If I force myself to stand up and move around it helps. Our desks are adjustable. Just feeling really burned out. I work days. I cant work any other shift.
    I don't do call center but I do psych in a small stand alone facility and sometimes especially when it's super busy when I just need to do something. I will stand at my desk and walk in place for a minute or two. I always take my lunch break off the unit. The place isn't going to fall down without me.

    Hppy
  13. by   brandy1017
    I totally understand how an anxious person's mood can rub off on you and make you feel anxious. Is your stress because you don't know the right answer to the questions or just feeling overworked and overwhelmed by the call volume? I'm experienced know what to do but feel anxious and overwhelmed at times. I finally talked to my Dr and was given xanax. It has really helped me stay calm, function better and also helped ease my anger and frustration. Part of me feels weak for needing meds, but the other part of me wished I had asked for something years ago because I feel so much better and it makes work more manageable. I don't have to dread it. I don't take it every day and only take it if I feel I need it. I've read klonopin may be a better choice than xanax because it works slower and lasts longer.
  14. by   MA Nurse
    Thanks so much for telling your story. Unfortunately, I have to stay with nursing because I know I couldn't find another job that pays this well. I tend to worry a lot about some calls I get. The responsibility is huge to make sure we do/say the right things. I am going to focus on not beating myself up. I am a perfectionist sometimes. I am also keeping my eyes open for a different job. Thanks for sharing your story. You sound like a very caring, compassionate person. My compassion is over at this point. So tired.

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