Whether you are fresh out of nursing school or a seasoned professional, you may struggle with anxious feelings and thoughts before or after your shift. It isn’t uncommon for nurses to deal with pre- and post-shift anxiety, which can contribute to compassion fatigue and burnout. You may harbor fears around making mistakes, rejection by a patient, and inadequacy. We’re here to tell you that you’re not alone in feeling this way. In fact, many nurses report anxiety connected to going to and from their facilities for work. Here are some techniques to help reduce anxiety levels before and after shifts.
1. Incorporate Regular Exercise into Your Routine
Exercise plays a significant role in stress reduction. In the nursing profession, it is inevitable and impossible to completely eliminate stress, however, you can learn to manage it. One of the best-known tools to cope with stress and anxiety is exercise.
Aside from the obvious physical benefits, the mental benefits of exercise include:
- Improved cognitive function
- Improved concentration
- More restful sleep
- Increased mood
Exercising is a great way to show up for yourself, whether you find time for some 15-minute yoga on your lunch break or go for an outdoor jog before your shift. Even light exercise is reported to help lower feelings of anxiety. For some tips on how to incorporate exercise into your nursing routine, check out this blog article.
2. Create an Uplifting Commute to Work
The hours before work can sometimes be the toughest to navigate as a nurse. Those pre-shift jitters can lead to fear, and without proper care, they can lead to panic.
Consider keeping a list of inspiring and thought-provoking podcasts that you can listen to on your commute. You can also put together a playlist of your favorite mood-boosting tunes and play it on your way to work. Try making time on your commute to grab a special treat, like a fancy Frappuccino at the Starbucks drive-thru or a little bag of your favorite candy from the gas station. These small touches to care for and reward yourself can completely transform your pre-shift attitude.
3. Keep a Journal
Many nurses recommend keeping a journal to jot down details of your workday when you get home from your shift. When you engage in journaling or other types of writing, it can help you process your emotions and allows you to put your anxious thoughts on paper instead of letting them swirl around in your head. Try to set a timer for 15 or 20 minutes to write, and then do a few breathing exercises when you’re finished. Putting your thoughts down and telling your story can lessen the stress you’ve accumulated during the day and give you a sense of clarity.
4. Create a Calming Environment to Come Home to
Coming home from a stressful shift to a chaotic home environment only builds on anxiety you are trying to reduce. Maintaining an organized and clean home allows you to better relax after a long shift. If you are coming home to laundry on the floor and dirty dishes in the sink every night, try getting those chores done before your shift so you can come home to a nice, calming environment to unwind in after work.
Consider cultivating a calming atmosphere in your bedroom. This can help improve your mood and lower your anxiety. For example, using a sound machine or an essential oil diffuser after your shift can help your mind transition into a restful place instead of dwelling on the anxiety of work.
5. Try Mindfulness Meditation Exercises
Practicing mindfulness meditation can be an effective way to manage feelings of stress and anxiety. Mindfulness mediation combines traditional meditation with the practice of mindfulness, which can be defined as a mental state that involves being fully focused on “the now” so you can acknowledge and accept your thoughts, feelings, and sensations without judgment. This meditation technique can help you slow down racing thoughts, decrease negativity, and calm both your mind and body. Try some of these mindfulness meditation exercises before and after work to keep pre- and post-shift anxiety at bay.