Warning Nurses! Holding It All In Can Kill You!

Have you ever wondered what the stress of nursing is doing to you? Nurses Stress 101 Article

We know that stress causes cortisol levels to rise which raise our blood pressure, raise our blood sugar levels, increase our lipids, etc. Blah, Blah, Blah. The point of this article is not to teach you something you already learned in pathophysiology class.

We know that high stress levels can cause weight gain and we know that obesity complicates every disease there is. Obesity has been linked to higher cases of breast cancer, etc. As nurses, we KNOW all this stuff.

Let's not go there right now. Instead the message of this article is to talk about the emotional price of high nursing-related stress in your life. Nursing stress is so unique. It's practically impossible to explain to non-nurses...that's for sure!

How do you explain what it feels like to have your pager go off for two different patients at the same time? One is in severe pain and one is throwing up. Add to that scenario "a transport tech" arriving on the floor asking if your pre-surgical patient is ready to go to surgery because the anesthesiologist and surgeon are waiting downstairs. Yikes! You didn't get the checklist done yet! Multiply that scenario several times an hour for 12+ hours at a time and you've got nursing stress.

Nursing stress mounts so quickly that it leaves you speechless with friends and family. The thought of describing what you go through during your work day becomes so exhausting that you just don't do it. You don't tell your friends. You don't tell your family. You may find yourself becoming emotionally shut down to a certain extent because you start to hold stuff in.

Have you ever wondered, "Am I depressed and I don't even know it?" You may find the answer to that question by examining what you do on your days off. After a brutally stressful day at work, it is not uncommon to hear a nurse describe her day off like this, "All morning, I could still hear my pager going off and the monitors too. I stayed in my pajamas until the afternoon. All I had energy to do was zone out on TV and eat."

It's a matter of life and death to find healthy outlets for the nursing stress in your life!

When the thought of picking up the phone and talking to a dear trusted friend to "relieve some pressure" becomes too much for you to handle, there may be a problem. Perhaps you used to refer to it as a "mental health" day, but when all your days off look like this, there may be a problem.

In general, isolation (not talking, stuffing with food, not socializing) can be warning signs of too much nursing stress in your life. Beware of "shut down" mode.

Conscious separation is a problem. Conscious unity is an answer.

Here are some of the things that can work to combat nursing stress:

  1. Talk about it. Talk to your fellow nurses, your charge nurse, your department director, your friends, your family, your mentors. If you don't want to talk about details, at least talk about your feelings and what you plan on doing to change your circumstances.
  2. Utilize mentors in your life. (spiritual, mental, emotional, physical, entrepreneurial)
  3. Walk/hike with your spouse or friend regularly each week.
  4. Participate in groups with similar interests as your. (Don't just attend. Talk!) The power of a group cannot be underestimated.
  5. Take advantage of nutritional vitamins and supplements.
  6. Eat healthy snacks (remember low carbs/high fiber/high protein).
  7. Watch your sugar intake (there are alternatives to high sugar coffee drinks!).
  8. Blog on different subjects.
  9. Join Online Nursing Forums and participate.
  10. Write and journal.
  11. Share your writing and journaling with people you trust.
  12. Go on a 30 day Mental Cleanse (be extremely selective with what you "take in" mentally).

A very wise woman once gave a speech to a group. She said that she had come to a turning point in her life and wanted to make a change. The single most important thing she did to change her life around was this: She started to "LIVE OUTLOUD". She ended her silence.

Nurses, if you do nothing else, start living outloud!

Specializes in Cardiac, Med-Surg.

Dear fellow nurses,

Your family may listen and try to understand your day, but only another nurse will be able to really understand what you go through during a shift. Find another nurse, one that does not work where you work.................Then you can let go and know someone understands. It really does help! Also, laugh every chance you get and find joy in the simple things in life. I know this from experiance. I thought I had my stress under control and then one day I woke up and my hair was falling out. Learn to say no and treat yourself just like you would treat a good friend. Thanks for listening.

Specializes in med/surg/tele/LTC/homecare/correctional/.

NJ just passed a law that a patient who assaults a nurse will be charged the in same way as a person who assaults a cop. It is aggravated assault, even if it was a slap. Every nurse I know has been assaulted by a patient at one time or another. Kudos to NJ for standing up for their nurses. The nursing profession has been abusive emotionally as much as physically for my entire duration in the field. I am now an unemployed nurse not seeking work in this field. I am taking a hiaitus after 10 yrs of total hell. I fear it will never change, but would rather work somewhere less stressful for less money. There have been jobs where no amount of money would keep me there. My house is a mess, my appearance is tired, shabby and distressed. Relationships with family have sufferred. I have become a recluse. I eat cupcakes to cheer up. I smoke. I am determined to turn this around, and I am hoping that I wont return to healthcare. I may have to for financial reasons, but I am going to do anything I can to minimize my time spent in nursing.

Specializes in Med nurse in med-surg., float, HH, and PDN.

I, too, am fairly a-social during my time off. I feel like Liddle Noodnik said, I have to spend 12 hours a day focused on everybody elses needs, anticipating, observing; it wears me out and it doesn't. I mean, it's exhilirating when you're really cooking, but it's frustrating when it gets all gummed-up. So, when I'm off, I want to just focus on me. Except I don't do it in a healthy way, I guess, because I don't do the stuff I enjoy, like writing, drawing, cartooning. I bought a keyboard four of five years ago. It collects dust. I have paints and art-supplies still in their original box, the seal still intact. Instead, I sigh, and tackle the dishes, laundry, the shopping (not the 'fun' kind). I stay up late reading or watching old movies, which I love. It's MY quiet-time, but it cuts into my sleep in a very seriously bad way. I am currently attempting to get a more regular handle on my life...schedule in time for the things I want and need to do: walk, and do the me-things mentioned above. These allnurse blogs and entries are about as sociable as I've been in a long time. It just seems sometimes that all other folks are just very draining to be around, so isolating is a problem. I know tension is a problem; I have to keep reminding myself to sit UP and release the tension in my stomach and chest. It is so odd to me that the bodily tension is so pervasive and routine that I have to REMIND myself to notice it, and relax! I have done stretching and yoga in the past; when I restart the practice, it lasts about four days, then I go off-track. I actually don't even want to post this, either, but I can't figure out how to delete it (pooey-pooey-RATS!) Well, so, anyway, the good thing is I AM eating in a very healthy way! Can't do EVERYTHING all at once, and it is a major change that I am sticking with and I actually LIKE it. OK, then, rickety-rack, rickety-rack, RAH-RAH ME! Over and out.....