How to Relax After 12 Hour Nursing Shifts
By Moira K. McGhee, Contributor
As a nurse, you often deal with stressful situations throughout demanding 12-hour nursing shifts. To prevent burnout and stay healthy and happy in your chosen occupation, it’s important you find activities that help you decompress and relax after your nursing shift hours end. Relaxing after work isn’t just good for you, it’s also good for your patients, and your colleagues will appreciate it, too.
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Decompress after 12-hour nursing shifts
Studies have found that longer nursing shift hours can lead to higher levels of burnout, safety issues and patient dissatisfaction. While 12-hour nursing shifts offer schedule flexibility and shorter work weeks, the long days can increase your stress level and cause feelings of discontentment in your job. Decompressing requires mentally and emotionally disengaging from work to create a healthy work-life balance. In other words, leave the job at work and make the most of your days off.
Relaxing is different for everyone
“Nurses have it hard! They give their hearts and souls to their patients and totally get compassion fatigue after working 12-hour nursing shifts,” states Maryam Jahed, founder of Airo Health, an anxiety tracker that helps you become resilient and find what relaxes you the most.
“The best way to relax is so different for every person,” Jahed advises. “There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to relaxing, but here are some tips:
1. Spend time with your kids, not taking care of them just having fun with them.
2. Read a book on a topic you love.
3. Do a short 20-minute yoga practice to help your body and mind catch up.
4. Check in with your body to see if your're tensing any body part and work on relaxing it.
5. Cooking is a great stress reliever.
6. Cuddle with your partner: cuddling is proven to reduce your stress and make you love yourself more.”
Relaxation through exercise
Pursue exercise that helps keep you physically fit with the added benefit of promoting relaxation. Yoga and Tai Chi are excellent stress-relief options that combine elements of stretching, breathing and meditation that provide many health benefits. Learning the right moves can strengthen your body’s natural relaxation response, provide a healthy mind-body balance and revitalize you after a long work day. It can also improve your flexibility and stamina, so 12-hour nursing shifts take less of a toll on you.
Avoid unhealthy activities
While there are many ways to relax, not all of them are good for you. Learn to relax after 12-hour nursing shifts in healthy ways. Binge drinking and binge eating may feel like you’re relaxing, but they actually put more strain on you, physically and mentally. Having a few drinks while hanging out with friends or munching on a tasty snack in front of your favorite television show can be relaxing, but avoid going to excess.