5 Activities Outside of Work that Can Help Nurses Destress


5 Outside Activities that Can Help Nurses Destress

By Alana Luna, Contributor

A staggering 92 percent of nurses say they experience moderate to high levels of stress at work, conditions which can easily lead to burnout. It's hard to effectively combat long hours, heady responsibilities, emotionally taxing assignments and lack of regular meals and exercise, but finding outside activities can help nurses destress and see to their own well-being.

1. Take up gardening

Planting tomatoes or pruning the rose bushes may seem like little more than busywork, but gardening has a number of benefits ranging from boosting your mood to lowering your risk of dementia. Dr. Nikola Djordjevic, founder of MedAlertHelp.org, sees the positive aspects clearly. "Gardening is both beautiful and a useful activity you can engage in. It's famous for improving our motor skills, reducing stress levels and promoting relaxation."

Even if you aren't lucky enough to have a large outdoor area, you can set up a patio garden or plant herbs along your windowsill. This is one situation where the process is just as important as the results.

2. Try meditative outside activities like yoga

You don't have to know the difference between downward dog and child's pose to reap the benefits of yoga, but it helps. This ancient practice has become a huge hit amongst contemporary audiences thanks to its ability to address physical, mental and spiritual needs all in one class.

"Practicing yoga relaxes both mind and body, helps you focus and keeps you healthier, says Dr. Djordjevic. "It is also able to elevate your energy levels and make you ready for the day ahead!"

In addition to yoga, you may enjoy similarly meditative and physically exerting hobbies such as hiking, Pilates, Qigong, Tai Chi, dance or even 20-30 minutes of mindfulness where you clear mental clutter in an effort to concentrate solely on yourself. Each of these options are forms of self-care that could help you recenter yourself and relax.

3. Adopt a pet

Animals are amazing creatures and saving one from a shelter is one good deed that pays countless dividends. You can choose a pet that's already house-trained, treat yourself to years of unconditional love and you're saving a life in the process.

Dr. Djordjevic is a big fan of four-legged friends as stress relief, too. "If you opt for adopting a dog, you'll have a great companion for after work walks and you'll have the opportunity to meet new and interesting pet people in your neighborhood."

That said, not all canine companions can handle a long day of separation. If you're gone from the house more often than you're home, consider getting a cat or adopting a pair of dogs so they can entertain each other.

4. Put on some music

Wash away a particularly rough day or prepare for a long shift with your favorite record or streaming station. Scientists have found that music can positively impact our physiological functions. Slow classic tunes are especially adept at slowing heart rate, lowering your blood pressure and decreasing anxiety, helping nurses destress with just a touch of the play button.

Stock your car with symphonic CDs or turn on the orchestral station on your satellite radio. You can even sneak in a concerto or two while you're on the elliptical or chowing down on a sandwich during your break.

5. Hit the water

When nursing burnout threatens to overwhelm you, throw on a swimsuit and practice your backstroke. "Swimming two or three times a week will help you lowering blood pressure," recommends Dr. Djordjevic, "and it will decrease your anxiety levels and make you a healthier person."

Swimming is also a great way to build endurance, control your blood sugar, cope with aches and pains associated with arthritis and other injuries or disabilities and even help you sleep. Keep a suit and goggles in your car or backpack, so you can stop off at the gym for a few laps whenever you have a free pocket of time.

Stress is normal in the crazy yet rewarding world of nursing, but at some point you have to put your health first. If these tips for minimizing stress don't do the trick, find a new nursing job that fits your needs and embrace a kinder, gentler professional future.

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