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Profiles and Features December 6, 2019

Stress: The Role It Plays In Your Nursing Career and How to Control It

As a nurse, stress relief is an important part of your daily responsibilities. Not only does stress have a negative impact on your well-being, but it can also affect the quality of care you provide to your patients. Find out how big a role tension plays in your nursing career, and learn ways to relieve stress so you can promote good personal health and keep your patients happy.

The Role Of Stress For Nurses

Caring for patient outcomes is the hallmark of a dedicated nurse, but concern for the well-being of your charges adds an emotional challenge to a job that is already difficult. Long hours, short breaks, a fast-paced environment and heavy responsibilities all add up to a high-stress situation, and that doesn't include any personal stressors that may be factors. Unfortunately, the stress nurses experience can be damaging to their personal health.

"Physical and emotional stress depletes the body of magnesium, the anti-stress mineral," says Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, Founder of RNA Reset. "Magnesium deficiency throws the HPA axis off-balance which causes excessive production of cortisol, the stress hormone, which also feeds yeast, which can precipitate a variety of illnesses.
"Shantay Carter, RN, BSN, points out that nurse stress potentially causes:
  • depression
  • fatigue
  • burnout
  • anxiety
  • increased absenteeism
  • high turnover rate
  • dissatisfaction
In addition to the physical and mental toll stress causes, it can also influence the way you approach your patients, risking a negative impact on your career. Overworked nurses under high levels of stress can lose patience and become irritable and forgetful. This can lead to a breakdown in trust between nurses and their patients and, possibly, medical mistakes that can cause serious harm.

Tips For Stress Relief

If you recognize some of the physical or mental signs of being overly tense, it's important to take the stress relief steps you need to relax. There are a number of ways you can relieve stress, so overcoming it is just a matter of finding what works for you.

Try using vitamins or supplements

There are many supplements that show promise in helping balance out a stressed body and mind. Suntheanine is a supplement, made with an amino acid found in green tea plants, that studies have shown promotes relaxation. Dr. Dean suggests magnesium supplements but cautions, "It is important to note that not all forms of magnesium are easily absorbed by the body. That is why I recommend taking a liquid picometer-ionic form of magnesium, which is smaller in diameter than the body's cell mineral ion channels."

Experiment with aromatherapy

"To help combat the mental and physical stress from nursing, I look to essential oils and aromatherapy," says Jennifer Lane, RN and aromatherapist. "A few essential oils I like to use for this are bergamot, rose and jasmine." She places a few small drops on her chest and inhales deeply to get a calming effect.

Lean on coworkers

Few things are as healing as having someone to talk to who understands your frustrations. Carter and Lane both suggest turning to coworkers you trust for support. This can be done by taking a quick minute to vent about the stressful thing that just happened or even setting up a regular activity after work where you can all share your feelings about the shift.

Make personal time a priority

If you're stressed out at work and at home, eventually something will have to give. Make sure to carve out time to do something that helps you decompress and relax. Yoga, meditation, journaling, time at the spa and working on a hobby can all help repair the damage done by a stressful day at work. Take some guilt-free time for yourself so you can heal.

Remove yourself


If you're feeling overwhelmed in the middle of a shift, remove yourself from the situation for a moment if you can. Sometimes stepping away can reset your feelings and give you space to take a few calming breaths before facing the issue. For a more significant solution, you can try filling a temporary travel nurse position through NurseChoice and benefit from a change in environment.

Nursing is an inherently stressful occupation, but that doesn't mean your health and career have to suffer.A few simple techniques to relieve stress can have a significant impact on your professional experiences and keep your mind and body intact.