Today’s post is written by Heather Radder, RN, BSN, NC-BC. Heather is a critical care registered nurse and nurse coach.
Nursing can be an anxiety-provoking job. There are a lot of unknowns in the medical field, and it can feel overwhelming at times. The American Nurses Foundation released a survey from over 9,500 nurses. According to this survey, 75% of nurses have felt stressed, 69% frustrated, and 62% overwhelmed. The American Nurses Association Code of Ethics Provision 5 states the following: “The nurse owes the same duties to self as to others, including the responsibility to promote health and safety, preserve wholeness of character and integrity, maintain competence, and continue personal and professional growth.” Our nursing code of ethics states that we have an obligation to care for ourselves! So, what does this look like? It is important to incorporate self-care both on and off shift.
How to Decrease Anxiety at Work
In order to take care of others, we must first care for ourselves- both at home AND in the hospital. One of the best pieces of advice that I got from my coaching mentor Nicole Lohonen was to make a to-do list for yourself. I write down my name and then make 3-4 hour blocks (ex. 7am-11am, 12pm-3pm, 4pm-7pm). In each of the blocks, I write out the words: water, pee, and eat. After I finish a bottle of water, pee, and have a snack, I mark the checkbox. Before this, I would only drink about 1 bottle of water per shift. I have found this method to be SO helpful in reminding me to do the basics for myself, so I can show up as a better nurse for my patients.
- Find a trustworthy friend
This could be a coworker or a friend. I recommend that they are also a nurse. Nurses can best understand the potential challenges that are encountered during a shift. Talking it out, and knowing you are not alone can make a world of a difference. Also, it is important to identify your support system on the unit. Who can you go to when stuff hits the fan? Knowing the resources that are readily available to you can help decrease anxiety.
- Decrease Imposter Syndrome
Imposter syndrome is the “internalized feeling of self-doubt and not belonging in a particular group that can lead to the fear of being discovered as a fraud”. It is estimated that 70% of the general population has experienced imposter syndrome at some point, and it is common in the medical profession. It can show up as a fear of failure, and lead to anxiety and depression. Some things that can help overcome imposter syndrome include having a mentor, exercising self-compassion, celebrating your wins, and talking with peers. I have experienced imposter syndrome as a float nurse going to many different units. You may be surprised by how others view you as confident and competent when you talk to other nurses in the workplace.
How to Decrease Anxiety at Home
That’s right, more self-care! This is something I cannot stress enough. It is harder to take care of others if you are not caring for yourself first. This includes, but is not limited to, fueling our bodies with the right foods, adequate hydration, an exercise routine, and maintaining overall health. Be sure to incorporate mind, body, and spirit. Use your days off to do things that bring you joy. The way you care for yourself may look different from others. And that’s okay! Find self-care that caters to your personal needs. Here are some self-care ideas:
- Play an instrument
- Float therapy
- Spa day
- Spiritual practices
- Simply being outside
- Find a hobby you enjoy- fishing, dancing, surfing, skating, rock climbing, etc.
- Tap into your creative side- photography, painting, graphic design, crocheting, etc.
- Set boundaries
Nursing can be a demanding job. We must be able to manage boundaries in both our personal and professional lives. The definition of a boundary is “a limit that’s set related to what individuals will take responsibility for”. The first step is to identify your limits. What can you tolerate versus what makes you feel uncomfortable and stressed? It can take time to recognize and implement your own boundaries, but it can lead to greater success and more resilience.
- Avoid isolation
It can be so easy to want to isolate ourselves, especially after a rough shift. It is completely okay and understandable to need time to yourself after a hard day at work but try not to make it a habit. Since the pandemic, there has been more research done on how loneliness can affect people. Recent surveys have shown that “approximately half of U. S. adults report experiencing loneliness, with some of the highest rates among young adults.” Data has shown that social isolation and loneliness are associated with anxiety and depression, as well as a 29% increase in the risk of heart disease, a 32% increase in the risk of a stroke, and a 50% increase in the risk of developing dementia. On the bright side, social connection is an excellent source of meaning, purpose, and motivation. Find people who are fun to be around and who bring out the best in you.
- Don’t bring work home
Taking work home day after day can take a toll on a nurse in the long run, so try to catch your thoughts before going down a rabbit hole. I find that it helps when I can talk it out and vent to someone who is trustworthy right when I get off shift. After venting, I try my best to stop thinking about it. This is SO much easier said than done, and it has been a work in progress for me. I have found that nurses who can leave their stressors at the door experience less burnout.
- Seek Professional Support
Mental health among people in the healthcare field has become a spotlight topic in recent years. Now more than ever, healthcare workers are in need of mental health support. There are so many incredible nursing resources out there that help with either physical or mental well-being.
- Debriefing the Frontlines Inc.
- Don’t Clock Out
- Move with Strength
- Therapist Aid
- Wholeness with Heather
Written by: Heather Radder, RN, BSN, NC-BC