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How to Deal with Anxiety Before a Nursing Shift


Anxiety can rock anyone’s world. It comes in many shapes and sizes, affecting a large percent of the population. However, for those who’ve experienced traumatic situations or work in high stress environments, anxiety is likely to be a more common occurrence. For example, working as a nurse is sure to bring on anxiety from time-to-time. That said, it is possible to cope with anxiety, so that you can be the best person and nurse possible. 


What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is the mind and body’s reaction to stress. It can be triggered through external or internal stressors, such as:

  • Unhealthy relationships
  • Trauma
  • Work
  • World pandemics
  • Medical conditions
  • And more


Anxiety can present itself in many ways, like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Panic Disorder, and others. In the case of nursing, pre-shift anxiety can get the best of us, especially for new nurses. It can be intimidating walking into a high stress work environment, not knowing what’s in store. The key is learning how to manage pre-shift nerves, so that you can serve your patients to the best of your ability and support your mental health.



7 Ways to Deal with Pre-Shift Anxiety

As a long-time nurse, I’ve developed my own routine for managing my anxiety before work, including:


  • Get Enough Sleep

Sleep is the number one way to manage anxiety. Without quality sleep, the body is unable to adapt to stressful situations well. Aim to sleep at least 8 hours per night, leading up to your nursing shift.


  • Get to Work Early 

There’s nothing quite like running into work, at the last minute, hurried and frazzled. Allow yourself plenty of time to get there early and settle in before clicking in. You know what they say “being on time is late.”


  • Enjoy Your Favorite Coffee

Treat yourself by enjoying your favorite coffee drink before you leave the house or in the car on the way to work. Simply enjoying your favorite smells and tastes is a great way to unwind and reduce nerves. This is one of my favorite ways to calm my nerves before work!


  • Meditate Before Work

Whether in the car or at home, set aside a few minutes to close your eyes and practice deep breathing exercises. I usually prefer to meditate in my car before walking into work. I always make sure to tell myself (out loud) that it’s going to be a good day.


  • Create Your Own Routine at Work

You know yourself best. Establish a routine that works best for you and stick to it. 


  • Talk to Other Nurses About How You Feel

I can confidently say, you are not the only nurse to experience anxiety before a shift. Don’t be afraid to voice your feelings to other nurses. Together, you can better cope and determine the best management techniques.


  • Consider Making Adjustments

A little bit of anxiety is normal, but if it’s too much, it might be time to change units. After all, your mental health is a top priority! Talk with your supervisor about potential units to transfer to. 


While anxiety might be common among nurses, it’s important to understand the best ways to cope with anxiety. Developing a pre-shift routine can help put your nerves at ease and help you go above-and-beyond for your patients.