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4 ways to manage your emotions as a nurse

Nurses face many professional challenges. Their jobs are both physically and mentally draining, and on top of working in extremely stressful, pressure-filled environments they have to deal with a seemingly never-ending array of competing priorities and demands on their time, a ton of diverse patient and colleague personalities, and often-grueling work schedules. With all of these intense challenges, is it any wonder that nurses sometimes find themselves struggling to manage their emotions in an effective and healthy way?

If you’re a nurse who sometimes finds that the intense demands of the job make it difficult to manage your emotions effectively, you’re not alone. According to a survey conducted by the American Nurses Association, “Nurses face many hazards on the job… Fatigue from overwork and stressful conditions strains RNs’ health.” Approximately 74% of nurse respondents reported that the effects of stress and overwork are among their primary work concerns, which often leads to physical and emotional fatigue and burnout.

Although some nurses can effectively channel their stress and perform their jobs at consistently high levels in nearly any situation, the reality is that others struggle with this on a daily basis—and many suffer—with the end result being an inability to manage their emotions.

However—this doesn’t have to be the case!

There are effective strategies for nurses to manage their emotions and maintain a grounded and healthy emotional state—both on the job and off. Nurse.org recently published an article highlighting key tips for nurses to stay emotionally healthy. Take advantage of the following tips to help you stay emotionally grounded and stable as you go about doing your job to the best of your ability.

Find a supportive colleague.

This bit of advice is valuable in all professions, but it’s especially important for nurses to find a friend on the job who they can turn to and trust when things get intense. Nurses, don’t discount the value of venting your feelings when you’re feeling frustrated or overwhelmed—it can be a great tool for getting a handle on your emotions on particularly stressful days.

Find a safe space.

Just as important as having a trusted colleague to turn to when you’re feeling emotionally overwhelmed is having a safe space to get away from the chaos for a few moments and let yourself deal with your emotions. It’s normal to feel all sorts of conflicting emotions—both good and bad—when working in the sort of high-stress environments that nurses typically find themselves—the key is to have a comfortable place where you can take a little time to breathe, relax, and collect yourself, and move on with your work day in a healthy and productive way.

Know yourself.

All nurses are unique individuals, with different likes, dislikes, motivators, and passions—as well as things that relax and ground them. Find the little things in life that relax you, whether it’s deep breathing, soft music, exercise, essential oils, meditation, yoga, or something completely different and unexpected, and be sure to incorporate them into your life in times of emotional volatility or stress to help keep things under control. Schedule it on your calendar if you have to—these individual self-care acts are important to your day, so force yourself to make the time for them. When that calendar alert goes off, it’s time to focus on your well-being.

Talk to a professional.

Although there are a wide variety of things you can try on your own in an effort to better manage your emotions as a nurse, the truth is that sometimes it isn’t enough—and a little extra help is needed. The Nurse.org article sums it up effectively: “Nursing can be intense. We have people’s lives in our hands every day. That is why being able to talk to someone about your emotions and get professional feedback is extremely beneficial… Finding a provider is relatively easy. There are websites (www.psychologytoday.com) you can search by provider and then filter by specialty and insurance or you can go through your insurance’s website to get connected. This can help ensure you find the professional that’s right for you.”

Being a nurse can be a stressful and challenging career—but that doesn’t mean it needs to derail your emotional stability. Use the strategies here to take control and manage your emotions effectively.

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