Nurse relaxing outside
Nursing News March 20, 2018

By M. Nell Quest, Ph.D., Contributor

5 Ways to De-Stress After a Tough Shift

Nursing is a stressful profession, and you probably know that holding onto stress is hard on your body. Coming up with techniques for how to de-stress after a tough shift is important for you, loved ones, and your patients.

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How Stress Hurts You

According to the American Heart Association, however, thinking about how to de-stress needs to be a priority. Because stress has an impact on hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, it can impact your blood pressure and heart rate. It can also lead to depression, job dissatisfaction and harm your personal relationships. Self-care can feel like a second full-time job, but learning solid de-stress techniques will take you farther.

5 De-Stress Tips to Use Today

1. Exercise

Few de-stress techniques do as much good for your body as getting your sweat on. Whether it’s by yourself at your home or at the gym, it’s a good idea to try to plan your days around giving yourself this time for physical fitness.

Whether you workout before your shift or use it as a technique to de-stress afterward, studies show that exercise increases overall levels of alertness, calm and wellbeing. 

2. Mindful Breathing

For people in stressful jobs, one easier de-stress technique is to have a routine after work that includes controlled breathing exercises. While there are differing theories about why it works, you can practice controlled breathing before you start your commute home to take back control of your stress levels.

3. Pump up the Volume

Therapists and doctors are increasingly recommending music to combat stress, whether in patients with PTSD or just those of us who need to learn how to de-stress in our daily lives. There’s even neuroscientific evidence to back this up.

Play what makes you feel good, whether its heavy metal that helps you scream your frustrations or a classical concerto that helps you feel calm.

4. Phone a Friend

Sometimes there’s nothing like a conversation with someone close to you that makes you laugh. You don’t need to go into all the details of everything that stressed you out in the first place, but it’s always good to hear a comforting, positive voice.

Just use caution if that person is also a co-worker.  That could add stress you’re not expecting into an already difficult situation.

5. Check Your Routine

When we’re in stressful situations, it’s easy to forget to take care of ourselves. But even if it seems counterintuitive, one tip after a tough day is to devote some real time to your everyday life. Cooking yourself a nice meal is a great way to start feeling better. But planning three days of meals that will help you feel your best is even more effective.

You’re Important

Whatever de-stress techniques you choose to try, don’t forget that taking care of yourself is critical to taking care of your patients and anyone else in your life. It’s not an indulgence to do what you need to do to feel at your best.

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