Practice Self-Care for Effective Patient Care

Patients rely on nurses to show empathy, listen to concerns, answer questions and provide quality care. Unfortunately, nurses are not always capable of giving themselves the care they need to combat the rigors of the nursing profession. If nurses do not make room for self-care in their busy schedules, they may have a hard time focusing on patients.

Why Is Nursing Stressful?

During a shift, nurses have to treat patients, perform routine tasks, use technical equipment, document health histories and collaborate with other healthcare professionals. Moreover, they have to think and act quickly in emergency situations. The most daunting and emotionally draining part of a nurse’s job is providing care to seriously injured and terminally ill patients.

Why Is Stress Bad for Nurses?

Too much stress can affect a nurse’s health. The stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline are present in the human body and relaxation regulates them. In the event of danger, the body releases the hormones, which increases the heart rate and tightens muscles. This reaction is typically referred to as a “fight or flight.”

Prolonged physical, mental and emotional tension can also trigger the body to unleash these hormones. Without an outlet to relieve stress, cortisol can affect the endocrine system and interfere with other hormones such as:

  • Serotonin
  • Melatonin
  • Estrogen
  • Progesterone
  • Testosterone

What Types of Health Problems Are Caused by Stress?

Nurses know that patients need to keep mobile, eat nutritiously, and remain calm, so they need to do the same for themselves — otherwise they may put their own well-being at risk, age prematurely and gain excess weight. Health problems attributed to sustained stress include:

  • Anxiety
  • Suppressed immune system
  • Depression
  • Hypertension
  • Hyperglycemia
  • Infertility
  • Insomnia
  • Irregular menstrual cycle

How Does Stress Impact Nurses Mentally and Emotionally?

When nurses face daily pressure at work without relief, they may experience burnout and compassion fatigue. An overworked nurse deals with mandatory overtime, numerous caseloads, difficult patients and low nurse-to-patient ratios. For nurses who are suffering from compassion fatigue, it is important not only to address the need for stress management but also to seek counseling from a nurse leader, mental health professional or support group.

The emotional toll on nurses is high. Nurses cannot let their mood distract them from delivering optimal patient care, and they have to maintain working relationships even when conflicts occur. Overwhelmed nurses barely have time to take a break, eat or drink. This limits their ability to decompress and step away from the hectic healthcare environment.

What Are Some Self-Care Tips for Nurses?

Nurses should get at least a full six or seven hours of sleep, eat healthy foods, drink water instead of sugary beverages, and exercise on a regular basis. Another way nurses can help themselves is by learning to say no. They should reject extra work hours if they are exhausted and decline invitations for anything that blocks them from participating in events that are relaxing and enjoyable.

In addition, nurses can incorporate ways to relax and restore their energy. Here are tips for rejuvenation:

  • Take a vacation, home or away
  • Walk, hike, swim or bike
  • Spend time with family and friends
  • Meditate
  • Enjoy music, art or pet therapy
  • Get a massage
  • Enroll in a yoga or tai chi class

As a nurse, you are aware of the strain involved in the nursing practice. You must be careful not to become incapacitated by your job, which can lead you to consider leaving your profession. Your patients need you, so go and find your passion outside of nursing. Your self-care should be something that brings you joy and frees your mind from the worries of work.

Learn more about Northeastern State University’s online RN to BSN program.


Natural Fertility Info: Is My Adrenal Health Affecting My Fertility?

Psychology Today: Cortisol: Why “The Stress Hormone” Is Public Enemy No. 1

The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing: Practicing Self-Care for Nurses: A Nursing Program Initiative 5 Step Plan to Nursing Self-Care

Mayo Clinic: Chronic Stress Puts Your Health at Risk

Wellness Mama: How to Naturally Reduce Cortisol Levels

RN Central: Compassion Fatigue: Nurses Need To Take Care of Themselves As Well As Others Research Shows New Ways for Nurses to Take Care of Themselves

American Nurse Today: How to Love and Care for Yourself Unconditionally

HealthDirect: The Role of Cortisol in the Body

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