It isn’t easy to bear the emotional load of someone else’s problems in addition to one’s own. If you look at any profession based on altruism and social work, a common dilemma you will note is the emotional baggage that comes with it.
Couple this with long work hours and chaotic environments; you have the perfect recipe for a super stressful job.
Nursing is one of those professions; yes, nursing is also highly personally rewarding, but one cannot deny the challenges of being a full-time nurse. A study by Nursing Online revealed that nearly half of all nurses report moderate to high-level stress, and more than 60% report emotional exhaustion.
Does this mean there is no hope at all? Certainly not. There are some sure-shot solutions to combat this seemingly inevitable stress, which, if done right, can make nursing one of the most satisfying professions.
Stress is manageable, whether acute or chronic; the following are some ways you should learn to handle high-pressure situations that you will face in your profession at one time or another:
1.      Look for personal stressors
We are all unique as individuals, and something that might be triggering for you, may not be for another person. You must understand your stressors to target the problem at its root.
For some, it is confronting death regularly that is the problem. For others, working night shifts, high frequency of patients, poor working conditions, dealing with difficult patients, or poor organization at work might be the root cause of undue stress.
In addition to individual differences, some characteristics of your job, like irregular work hours, might set the stage for high-pressure situations. One of the many family nurse practitioner benefits is its stable work hours, while other nursing professions have fluctuating work schedules.
Once you have identified your major stressors, you can work on avoiding or altering such situations and minimizing personal distress.
2.      Eat healthy
As surprising as it might sound, your diet impacts how well you deal with high-pressure situations and respond to stress. When your body lacks the necessary nutrition, stress has a greater toll than normal.
On the other side of the coin, stress is likely to worsen your dietary habits. It is easy to grab a high-carb snack when you are on a tight schedule and too overworked to prepare yourself a meal. In fact, stress hormones can also increase your craving for fatty, sugary, and salty foods.
You can tackle this dilemma by always packing a healthy and rich meal for your shift, bringing healthy snacks, avoiding coffee as much as possible, and replacing juices with water.
3.           Work on your sleep schedule
A well-rested mind is stress-free; sleep allows your body and mind to get a break and recover. The amount of sleep you get will greatly impact how well you can handle high-stress situations.
In a profession as demanding as nursing, it is pretty easy to lose track of sleep and go days without a good night’s sleep. You might not realize this now, but the impact will accumulate over time and begin showing in unpleasant ways.
Prioritize sleep, as hard as it may sound. You cannot care well for others unless you are fit, and sufficient sleep is the key to good personal health. In fact, a well-rested mind will also be more productive and concentrated, allowing you to handle high-pressure situations well.
4.      Monitor the amount of caffeine you consume
It sure is appealing to chug mug after mug of coffee when working a long shift, especially if it is a night shift. Yes, the temporary energy boost seems to help, but too much caffeine will ultimately make you more stressed and anxious.
You don’t have to boycott coffee completely but watch out for how much caffeine you take in one day. If there is too much of it coursing through your veins, it will make you less focused and more agitated.
What is worth noting is that coffee isn’t the only thing that contains caffeine; other foods and beverages like chocolates and tea also contain caffeine. Replace these beverages with pure water if it is something refreshing you desire. Water will make you feel refreshed without increasing your stress levels.
5.      Learn relaxation techniques
When under stress, relaxation practices can help minimize anxiety and deal with both acute and chronic stress. Whether you feel overwhelmed with stress and feel like things are spiraling out of control or have learned to tackle it, relaxation exercises will make things much easier.
Relaxation exercises help reduce your heart rate, lower blood pressure, slow breathing, reduce anger and frustration, lower fatigue, and ease muscle tension.
Some useful and proven relaxation exercises include progressive muscle relaxation, positive imagery, visualization, autogenic relaxation, and deep breathing. Even keeping a personal diary will be of tremendous help.
6.       When under pressure, focus on communication
Poor communication can be the biggest obstacle when faced with a high-pressure situation – which you will encounter even more often if you work in the emergency unit. At the same time, one of the biggest demands on a nurse is effective communication between various healthcare segments.
A nurse must communicate between other healthcare professionals, patients, and their families.
In a high-pressure situation, it is easy to lose communication, leading to misunderstandings and costly errors. When you are stressed, first get your nerves under control and then work on concise and clear communication. Effective communication relieves stress as it will help get everyone on the same page and make things go smoothly.
7.      Distinguish what can be controlled from what cannot  
Worrying about things out of one’s control is one of the major factors contributing to undue stress in the workplace. Many nurses feel responsible for something they couldn’t have changed. The most common situation nurses encounter is a death they cannot prevent. If you let it take a toll on you, it can seriously affect your mental health.
Remember that you and your healthcare team do the best they can to help others; beyond that, some things are outside your control.
Final words
High-pressure situations and stress are part and parcel of any healthcare profession; how you handle them is what counts.
Identify your stressors to perform better under stress and work to the best of your potential. Eat healthy, improve your sleep schedule, monitor caffeine intake, learn relaxation exercises, and stop worrying about things you cannot control.
Remember that you cannot ensure quality care for others in good health. 


Jacob Maslow