How Stress Affects Your Health

how stress affects your health

Everyone deals with stress, but nursing is one of the most stressful careers possible. Nevertheless, millions of people continue to work as nurses, because nursing offers an excellent balance between pay, job satisfaction, and benefits. However, the effects of stress cannot be downplayed, and should be closely monitored and managed.

What Causes Stress?

Stress can be caused by any number of external or internal factors. For nurses, this can include the physical rigors of the job, the emotional burden associated with working with sick people, understaffing, employer demands, and the potential for burnout.

Physically nursing can be a stressful job, with hours spent on one's feet, frequent transfers and lifting of patients, pushing heavy medication carts, and working long hours; this job can take a serious physical toll. Emotionally, it can also present a strain. Nurses must be prepared to provide emotional support to patients and family members, regardless of their prognosis or state.

Employers across the country expect more and more from nurses and this can make it difficult to work. And after years in the field, the long hours and constant strain can lead to burnout. This is when the stress of the job gets to be so much that are nurses unable to complete their daily functions.

How Does Stress Affect the Body Physiologically?

Stress is not simply a mental condition. Although it may start mentally, there are very real physical symptoms. How stress affects your health includes headaches, gastrointestinal distress, inability to sleep, loss of energy, lack of motivation, even depression. These symptoms form a feedback loop, as each one of them contributes to general malaise. The lack of sleep can also cause any number of additional physical issues. Other stress health risks include heart problems, high blood pressure, obesity, fatigue, anxiety, irritability, and decreased desire to participate in social activities. Often, our first inclination when faced with stress is to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as outbursts, drug or alcohol use, abuse, lethargy, or overeating.

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How to Manage Stress

Although stress and the dangers of stress may seem overwhelming, they can be effectively dealt with. There are many simple routes to managing stress. This includes increasing physical activity. Studies have shown that regular participation in physical exertion will increase heart rate, lower blood pressure, and help with psychological management of stress.

Another important technique is setting appropriate priorities. More often than not, there is not a single factor that causes stress, but the collective small stresses across all aspects of life that build up and cause the biggest problems. In order to deal with this, priorities must be addressed. This can be done by setting realistic expectations, ensuring all needed tasks are done, and not expecting more than that. In addition, having a realistic discussion with supervisors can help to set appropriate professional boundaries.

Possibly the most neglected part of a nurse's daily routine is sleep. Frequent studies have shown that getting less than eight hours of sleep a night increases mortality rate and decreases productivity. Sleep should be prioritized to ensure you are taking the best care of yourself.

Stress can have a devastating impact if left unchecked. However, through careful management, nurses can overcome the damaging effects stress has on their lives. Talk with friends and family, get plenty of sleep, and don’t expect more from yourself than you can reasonably achieve.