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According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, more than 40 million adults in the United States have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. This makes anxiety the most common mental health disorder in America.
A study by Human Resources for Health found that nearly 20% of doctors and 23% of nurses suffer from anxiety.
This statistic has only increased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. While COVID-19 has exposed some of these issues, it is nothing new. Clinicians, especially nurses, have always faced stress and increased anxiety in their work. We've put together few tips for managing anxiety as a nurse so you can do your job without sacrificing your health and happiness.
Mindfulness means being present in the moment. You can do this during activities like eating, walking, cleaning, etc., where you only pay attention to what you are doing. You can also practice mindfulness in a more structured way through meditation, yoga, or breathing.
Making time for hobbies and other things you enjoy can affect your mental health in general. Things like crafts, puzzles, or sports help focus your attention on that activity and away from anything that makes you anxious. Creating a regular schedule for your hobbies will help you stay in that space.
Exercise, stretching, walking, dancing, and other forms of movement will keep you grounded and release those happy endorphins! Make time for your endorphin-boosting activities on a consistent basis, and you'll notice that you feel that way more often.
Journaling consistently will help you reflect on your thoughts and feelings. Journaling can be especially helpful with anxiety because you can think about those fearful thoughts and feelings and help you reframe them. Plus, it allows you to train your brain to not feel anxious more consistently.
Spending time with friends and family is a huge mood booster. Having a solid support system will also help you feel less anxious, especially during the high anxiety moments that nursing can bring.
Our first tip is to practice mindfulness again, but in a specific way. At different times throughout the day, just take a few deep breaths, notice how your body feels, and allow yourself to relax. Some examples of when you can practice this technique include:
Incorporating these little mindfulness breaks throughout your shift, especially when you’re feeling anxious, can help you reset your mind for the rest of the day.
Setting boundaries at work can be tricky, but it's necessary. Be clear about your assigned responsibilities and how you will spend your time. For example, if you have a busy shift, prioritize your most important tasks and leave the rest for the next shift. Be aware that hospitals and other healthcare facilities operate 24/7, and sometimes an unfinished task must be passed. Another example of setting boundaries is the habit of leaving on time, every shift. Knowing these are your boundaries and being clear about them helps reduce anxiety about the situation before it even happens.
Your hospital shift is staffed by technicians, other nurses, nurses and assistants. Don't put all the work on yourself! Instead, ask for help with things that these others can help with or do yourself so you don't overwhelm yourself by trying to do too much.
Don't spend a lot of time trying to do one task perfectly; it's not real. Time management is especially important for nurses and their charting. Suppose you spend too much time trying to map everything perfectly. You end up falling behind and overwhelmed with all the other tasks, which increases your anxiety. Do what you have to do and keep going to stay on track.
Having a few co-workers, you know you can confide in is extremely important. Your co-workers know what you go through every day better than anyone else and can empathize with your worries and anxieties. When you can turn to them in times of pressure, you can feel more supported.
Now that you have 10 new tips to prevent or reduce anxiety, are you ready to start trying them? Start with one and continue to implement new techniques over time. Eventually, you will notice that you feel less anxious about work and can enjoy your job as a nurse more.