Stress Management for Nurses: 7 Essential Tips

Stress management for nursesAccording to a recent study, over 60% of nurses reported physical or mental side-effects of work-related stress within the last year.1 With long hours, often fast-paced work days, and high demands for patient care, proper stress management for nurses becomes increasingly important. From managing stress during your shift to efficiently de-stressing in your off hours, these tips can help you avoid burnout.

Maintain Clear Lines of Communication

In a busy setting like hospitals and ERs, there can be substantial pressure to get through interactions as quickly as possible so you can move onto the next task or patient. However, rushing can result in errors or miscommunication, which can create more stress in the future. If a doctor has to track you down because information on a chart is unclear or a patient calls the nurses station because they don't understand the next steps in their treatment, it can put everyone an extra step behind in their responsibilities (which will result in even more stress). Just remember that it's better to take a little extra time to ensure accurate, clear communication at all times than to run the risk of confusion and anxiety later.2

Keep a Priority List

Priorities can shift pretty quickly in a healthcare setting. One way to maintain your focus and avoid getting overwhelmed is to keep your tasks clearly sorted from high priority to low priority. Try to find a quick, easy way to add each new task that comes through a list with all of your other open tasks, sorted by importance. If you get pulled into an emergency situation or something distracts you from your rounds, this will help you remember where to pick back up. It can also help reduce stress just knowing that you won't forget any lower-priority responsibilities when it gets busy since they'll be recorded for you.

Stay Organized

Stress management for nurses often starts with organization. The better organized you are, the easier it is to move quickly and efficiently from task to task without distraction. Every time you have to break from what you're doing to find a pen or hunt down supplies, you create a little extra stress for yourself by having to catch up.

Developing and maintaining good time management skills is also an extremely important part of keeping yourself well organized and on-task. While many may learn time management over the course of an undergraduate nursing program, doing some research on your own and talking to fellow nurses can also help you discover some proven tricks for managing your time better.

Make Sure to Take Your Breaks

Nursing is an unpredictable profession, and you aren't always able to take your breaks as scheduled. However, that doesn't mean you should skip them completely. If you do miss a scheduled break, try to find a few minutes to make it up later. Even 10 minutes of downtime can make a huge difference, and little breaks like these throughout the day can help prevent stress from building consistently throughout your shift.3

Bring Some Citrus Fruit as a Snack

Healthy eating in general is an important part of stress management in the workplace, as you're more prone to high stress if you don't have enough energy or experience crashes throughout the day. Eating a good breakfast is always a key first step, but it has also been found that the aroma and vitamin C from citrus fruits can have some stress- and anxiety-reducing properties. Consider packing an orange with your lunch or to have as a quick snack when you're feeling especially stressed during your shift.4

Stress-Reduction Stretches and Breathing Exercises

Simple stretch routines or breathing exercises can help you push away stressors and recenter yourself for the tasks ahead. From quick exercises that encourage you to slow down and focus on your breath to 1-minute stretching and reaffirmation routines, it's important to find ways to quickly, efficiently relax your mind and body throughout the day.5

Go for a Quick Walk Outside

Getting some fresh air and a break from the pressures of a hospital or clinic environment can help you avoid a huge buildup of stress by the end of your shift. Try to duck outside for a few minutes during a less busy period if the stressors of the day are getting to you. Taking a quick walk with a friend after work is also a great way to de-stress following a tough shift.

Keep these tips in mind as you head to your next shift. As a nurse, you have a demanding job, so remember to take a moment to breathe.

Thinking about advancing to the next stage of your nursing career? Find out if CTU's Master of Science in Nursing is right for you.

1Nursing Times, "Stress levels at work making nurses ill, finds survey," on the internet at (visited February 25, 2016).
2Nursing World, American Nurses Association, "How to Cope With Stress on the Job," on the internet at (visited February 25, 2016).
3Everyday Health, "Why America's Nurses Are Burning Out," on the internet (visited February 25, 2016).
4Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, "Nutritional and health benefits of citrus fruits," on the internet at (visited February 25, 2016).
5Advance Healthcare Network for Nurses, "Stress-Management Strategies for Nurses," on the internet at (visited February 25, 2016).