How Nurses Can Cope With Stress

How Nurses Can Cope With Stress

Stress management interventions. Stat. 

Nurses and other healthcare professionals are facing life and death every day. Those are heavy burdens to bear. So how can nurses cope with stress?

Nurses can cope with stressful situations through interventions known to have a calming effect on the brain and help the mind process thoughts. Aromatherapy, music, and video games are three simple and effective tools that have recently demonstrated usefulness in stress management.

Stress management is critical because nurse stress affects not only the individual but also the organizations for which they work. When nurses are stressed, bad things can happen. Poor health is associated with a 76% higher likelihood that nurses will make medical errors. So how can nurses try these interventions to combat the stressors that affect their health, relationships, and job performance? Read on, we will tell you.

How nurses can cope with stress

How Nurses Can Cope With Stress

A 2017 survey of registered nurses by Kronos Inc revealed startling insight about U.S.-based registered nurses and stress. The research showed that they are stressed. 

  • 98% of nurses said that their work is both physically and mentally demanding.
  • 93% of nurses said that they are mentally or physically tired at the end of a typical day.
  • 80% of nurses said that they find it hard to balance mind, body, and spirit.

Stress can negatively impact the well-being of healthcare professionals and the organizations where they work. Nurses must take time for mental health check-ins to see how they feel and be proactive in managing stress. 

Fortunately, researchers in fields such as psychology and integrative medicine have found tools we can use to manage the stresses of work.

Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is when one inhales or topically applies an essential oil derived from aromatic plants, such as herbs or flowers. It can restore or enhance health and well-being. Oils have long been thought to produce physical and mental effects.

A recent study in West Virginia found that aromatherapy could reduce stress by 50%. Nurses at the WVU Cancer Institute’s Infusion Center wore aromatherapy patches infused with essential oils on their ID badges for four-to-eight hour periods on separate shifts. 

RN participants reported decreased stress levels. Research findings suggest that aromatherapy could reduce on-the-job feelings of anxiety, exhaustion, and feeling overwhelmed. 

Anthropologists believe that people used the practice of aromatherapy as far back as ancient times. Hippocrates said 2,500 years ago that “the key to good health rests on having a daily aromatic bath and scented massage.” Interestingly, he is known as the “father of modern medicine.” Sounds like an aromatherapy massage may be just what the doctor ordered for nursing stress.

Music Therapy 

Music resonates with nurses. It can be an effective means of processing stressful situations. 

Nursing involves:

  • Rich and dynamic relationships.
  • Existential questions of life and death.
  • Repeated exposure to patient suffering and death.

A recent study on the effect of music on nurses suggested that it helps with coping.

Participants were invited to write songs expressing their feelings about the stress they felt about their work. Findings showed reductions in loneliness, insomnia, and self-judgment. Meanwhile, music therapy led to feelings of self-compassion, mindfulness, and self-reflection. 

There are real-life implications for nurses. Writing songs, listening to music, or playing music with an instrument are ways that music can have a therapeutic effect. Other ways to use music to deal with stress include:

  • Community choirs
  • Music Bands
  • Instrument or singing lessons
  • Online music courses
  • YouTube educational videos
  • Phone apps to tell stories through music such as TikTok 
  • or music creation apps like GarageBand

Musical activities provide effective means of alleviating stress, anxiety, and depressed mood. Some even speculate that music can serve as a proxy for social interaction when nurses need to be alone.

Video Games

Video Games can be major tools for coping. Psychology Today found that video games affect brain function in several ways that counteract stress.

Firstly, video games cause the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine. This “happiness hormone” is associated with the brain’s reward center. Doing something pleasurable like spending time with loved ones or eating a favorite food also triggers dopamine. In other words, video games could be a simple way to make your brain happy.

Another way video games can help nurses cope by putting the brain on autopilot. A state of mindfulness occurs when players are immersed in a game or are playing “in the zone.”

Mindfulness is a state of focusing on the present rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. Mindfulness can be achieved effortlessly and even unintentionally by gamers who concentrate on achievable tasks in the video game. 

One recent article found that digital games, especially mobile games, can help post-work recovery like mindfulness apps do without feeling like a chore. 

Conclusion

Games, music, and aromatherapy are inexpensive, easily accessible ways for nurses to cope with stress and stay healthy as part of their self-care routine. Try one out or share these ideas with colleagues.

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Sarah Falcone BSN, RN

Sarah Falcone BSN, RN

Author

Sarah S. Falcone BSN, RN is a dedicated nurse based in Dallas-Ft. Worth, TX. Her first nursing gig, was night-shift floor nurse in women's services (PP, L&D, nursery). Through a series of fortunate events, she found home health and a passion for helping seniors age in place. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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