11 Tips To Cope With Stress At Work

In these challenging times, nurses have to do more with less and often feel frazzled and frantic, instead of calm and efficient. Excessive stress can interfere with your productivity and deplete you physically, mentally and spiritually.

It's good to remember that some stress is normal and healthy. Eustress is the "good" stress that every living biological life form has; it allows us to be productive when everything around us is changing. But the U.S. Surgeon General claimed 80% of non-traumatic deaths are stress related.

Stress is literally killing us.

These 11 tips will help cope with stress at work:

1) Breathe. The best stress reducer is slow deep easy breathing. Rhythmic activities, like breathing, laughing, walking, etc release endorphins in our brains and make us feel calmer. No matter where you are you can take 3 minutes to breathe through your nose In-2-3-4 and Out-2-3-4, slow and deep, from your abdomen. Doing this 4 or more times a day and during stressful situations is the easiest and most effective way to reduce stress.

2) Leave early. How many, like me, race to get dressed, gobble or omit a meal, drop kids at daycare, drive too fast to work, stop for coffee…STOP! Try to add ten minutes to your schedule to begin your day with ease, not stress.

3) Eat. Our stamina, patience, and efficiency are depleted when we aren't nourished. Eat a meal before your shift. Eat nutritiously and timely during your work time. We know this. We teach it. Eat.

4) Run!…or walk, or take the stairs. A great stress buster is exercise. Take a few minutes to jog up and down the stairs. Many facilities have exercise rooms or walking tracks. Take a ten minute break to do a rhythmic exercise to reduce stress and increase endorphin release.

5) Sleep and rest. Studies show the human body requires 8 hours of sleep per night. Stress and worry can interrupt sleep and the resulting fatigue contributes to stress. It's a vicious circle. Shut off the technology at bedtime. Get more sleep. Take ten minutes during your shift and find a quiet place to close your eyes and rest to reduce tension and boost energy.

6) Laugh! Science proves it really is the best medicine. Laughter reduces tension, lifts spirits, and bonds us with others. In our stressful, sometimes painful work, nurses need permission to laugh. Create a laughter bulletin board for funny cartoon, jokes or old prom pictures! Smile…its contagious, making people and situations more pleasant.

7) Think Positive. We usually get what we expect in life, what we think about, what we visualize. Avoid negative people; they pull you down. Make a "Grumpy Jar" at work. (Have a contest to name it. That will make you laugh!) Require all naysayers and stinking-thinkers to put a quarter in the jar for each negative statement made. Then have a Positivity Party with the proceeds!

8) Pray, meditate. Take a few minutes in the break room or bathroom (some days they're the same thing!) to breath deeply and pray and/or meditate. Handing things over to your Higher Power takes the stress off your shoulders. Take a few minutes to stop by the chapel…that's why it's there.

9) Talk to someone (but not a stinking-thinker.) Pick a positive coworker to share your thoughts and stressors. Often verbalizing the problem helps put it in perspective and reduces its stress. Be sure to use "I" statements ("I feel, I think…"), not blameful "They" statements ("They do, they always…")

10) Take a break. I still remember how hard it is to leave needy patients and pressing duties to take a break, causing more stress! Yet taking 10 minutes to do some of these healthy strategies is a great investment of time. You'll return to your job calmer, more efficient, and in better spirits, re-energized to give even better care.

11) Don't worry, be happy. Some things are not worth worrying about. Realize the things you can change, the things you can't, and have the courage to know the difference.

Often you cannot control the situations in your life, but you can control you. When you are healthy and strong in mind, body and spirit you're more resilient to stress. Your calmness and ability to cope will be contagious and positively affect those around you. Copy these 11 tips, put them on your bulletin board and make a pact with your coworkers to support one another in implementing these stress busters. Together you can reduce the worry and be happy…and give compassionate, competent, cheerful care.

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