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Stress Management for Nurses

Heavy patient loads. Dealing with insurance companies. Deadlines. Meetings. Projects. All of these things (and more) are enough to turn the health care workplace into a breeding ground for stress.

Sometimes it’s not just the job that causes stress. Co-worker relationships and uncertainty about job stability or finances can add to the problem. It’s important to pay attention to all of these factors…and learn how to manage stress, even when we can’t control everything that’s causing it.

The costs of stress to society are tremendous. Did you know:

• 1 million workers miss their work every day due to stress?
• $300 billion is lost annually due to lost productivity and missed work days?
• More than 25% of workers take “mental health days” to deal with stress?
• 36% of workers blame stress for their physical illnesses?
• 1/3 of workers say stress interferes with their personal lives?

That’s a whole lot of money and a whole lot of misery. So, if you fall in to above, here are some tips that may help minimize your stress at work:

1) Get organized. A cluttered desk is often a sign of a cluttered mind. Here’s how to make your desk a stress-free place:

o Clean everything off the desk.
o Using a sorting tray, create a system to prioritize what you’ve got (priority, work in progress and hold).
o Get rid of anything you don’t need. If something’s been on your desk for months, chances are you don’t need it.


2) Stay organized

a. Keep the clutter moving! Your desk is not a storage facility.
b. Use binders and folders to keep information organized.
c. Create an electronic filing system for as much as possible. This will help keep you inbox less cluttered as well.

3) Take a brain break

a. Find a quiet place where you can take 5-10 minutes to sit quietly,
b. Get as comfortable as possible,
c. Visualize a place you’d like to be or choose a word to repeat in your mind. Repeat the word or focus on your mental image until you feel a sense of calm. Another option is to load some 5-10 minute relaxation recordings onto your MP3 player and listen to one of these.

4) Say “No”

Here’s how to do it:

o Keep your response simple. If you want to say no, be firm, direct and don’t overexplain. Learn the language of “No.” Use phrases such as “Thanks for asking me, but I’m afraid it’s not convenient right now” or “Thanks for thinking of me, but I can’t help this evening.”

o Buy yourself some time. Give a break the ‘yes’ cycle, using phrases like “I’ll get back to you,” then consider your options. Getting time to think a through a request without pressure will give you the ability to say no with greater confidence.

o Consider a compromise. Only do this if you WANT to agree with the request, but have limited time or ability to do so. Don’t compromise if you really want or need to say no.

o Separate refusal from rejection. Remember you’re turning down a request, not a person. People usually will understand that it is your right to say no, just as it is their right to ask the favor.

5) Go Complaint-Free

Chronic complaining, justified or not, can make your job more stressful and your workplace a toxic environment.

Here’s why constant complaining is so damaging:

o It makes things look worse than they are
o It becomes a habit
o If you always focus on the negative, that’s exactly what you’ll get
o It kills innovation

Psychologist Martin Seligman showed in his research in positive psychology that people who see the world in a positive light have a long list of advantages, including:

o They live longer
o They’re healthier
o They have more friends and better social lives
o They enjoy life more
o They’re more successful at work

So resolve to go complaint-free for 21 days. This is about the length of time it takes to establish a new habit.

Health care can be one of the stressful environment in which to work, but there are always ways to minimize it. One of these simple steps may be all it takes to move you from surviving to THRIVING!


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