6 Stress Relief Techniques After a Tough ER Shift


6 Stress Relief Techniques After a Tough ER Shift

by Alana Luna, Contributor

The unpredictability of a trauma assignment can leave nurses shaken. With 82 percent of emergency room nurses experiencing moderate to high burnout levels and even more suffering from compassion fatigue, it's especially important for these healthcare professionals to seek out effective stress relief techniques. When nursing stress threatens to derail your well-being, try these tips for finding your center and encouraging a more positive outlook at home and at work.

1. Revamp your diet

What you eat could have an effect on your stress levels. Food and brain chemistry are closely linked; some foods boost a brain-calming chemical called serotonin while other goodies can curtail stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. Try working in more complex carbs, omega-3 fatty acids and health comfort foods like oatmeal and dark chocolate while steering clear of refined sugar and caffeine.

2. Alleviate nursing stress with yoga

Yoga is everywhere these days, which makes it easy for nurses with busy schedules to fit in a class at their local gym, rec center or yoga studio. You likely already know that yoga can help with flexibility and relaxation, but one small study from the University of Utah suggests it can also help with stress response.

In that study, three groups of participants — one made up of people with fibromyalgia, one made up of yoga practitioners and one with overall healthy participants — to varying degrees of painful pressure. The group that regularly practiced yoga had the highest pain tolerance and lowest pain-linked brain activity on their MRIs.

Sign up for yoga classes or use online resources to work a 15-minute session into your morning routine. You may quickly notice a difference in stress, pain response and other areas of your mental and physical health.

3. Find a hobby

Life often feels too busy to cram in extracurricular activities, but science says having a having a hobby could improve your physical health, boost your on-the-job performance and provide immediate stress relief. Whether you like gardening, chess, cooking, photography, live-action role play or some other exciting pursuit, make time for the things you love to do.

4. Try journaling

You may have given up your diary when you headed off to college, but the modern-day adult equivalent is gaining traction, and for good reason. Journaling has a wide range of benefits, including helping you.

  • Reduce stress and anxiety
  • Manage depression
  • Track and learn to recognize triggers
  • Record affirmations and positive self-talk
  • Vent in a safe, nonjudgmental space
  • List positive changes you want to make and monitor progress

You don't have to commit to long journal entries for it to be effective, either. Just write something down every day; there is no right or wrong, only the freedom of a blank page and an open mind.

5. Make stress relief techniques a routine part of your day

Though you've likely heard the saying that it takes 21 days to form a new habit, experts believe that estimation is just a myth. Instead, it could take as long as 66 days to make your lunch-time meditation or workout regimen feel routine, and even then it'll only stick if you're committed and consistent for the duration.

For long-term success, you have to be persistent in the short term. Start with one new approach to stress relief, and stick with that until it feels like second nature. Then, add another. Soon, you'll be a deft hand at keep stress low on a day-to-day basis rather than only engaging in mindfulness or art therapy when a crisis arises.

6. Find a job you love

ER assignments aren't for everyone, and even if you loved the fast-paced environment in the beginning, it may no longer be the best fit. Feeling stuck in a job you hate could lead to whole host of stress-related symptoms:

  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Generalized body aches
  • Decline in mental health
  • Increase in sick days
  • Lowered libido
  • Fatigue
  • Digestive woes
  • Loss of appetite

While certain actions such as taking a sick day or seeing a therapist could put a Band-Aid on your job woes, the best way to lower your stress may be to find a new position or employer more in line with your needs. To start your hunt, browse the job listings at NursingJobs.com and see what opportunities pique your interest.

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