Whether you just graduated from nursing school or are a seasoned professional, having anxious thoughts before or after work is common. Pre- and post-shift anxiety are prevalent among nurses and can lead to feelings of inadequacy, rejection, and fear of making mistakes or dealing with difficult patients or co-workers. If your anxious thoughts make it difficult for you to put on your scrubs or scrub dress and drag yourself to work each day or prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep, it’s time to take control of your anxiety.
Fortunately, making a few changes to your routine and self-care practices can help keep anxious thoughts and feelings at bay. Keep reading to discover some helpful tips for addressing pre- and post-shift anxiety.
Treat Yourself to Something New
When feelings of inadequacy or lack of confidence trigger your anxiety before going to work, buying yourself something new could make a big difference. Instead of wearing the same old scrubs you’ve been wearing since nursing school, buy yourself some of the best men’s jogger scrubs. Showing up to work in brand-new clothes boosts your confidence and can make the prospect of going a bit less stressful.
Investing in new nursing shoes is another good option — especially when you feel anxious about being in pain during your shift. Upgrading your footwear improves your comfort, and you’ll be better able to relax after work when you’re not hurting.
Make Exercise a Part of Your Routine
At the end of a long day, heading to the gym might be the last thing on your mind. And you might not have any desire to get up extra early to work out, either. Before ruling out exercise as part of your daily routine, consider how much it could benefit you.
In addition to improving or maintaining your physical health, exercise is a powerful tool for stress management. Working out boosts your endorphins, reduces adrenaline and cortisol, and improves sleep. And all of these things can lower your overall stress and overcome your pre- or post-shift anxiety.
Start Your Day on a Positive Note
Do you start your day rushing around to get ready for work? If so, consider getting up a little earlier and establishing a positive routine. The way your day starts impacts your entire day, so if you stress yourself out by not leaving yourself enough time to get ready without hurrying, you’re setting yourself up for a stressful day.
Start your day with a cup of herbal tea or coffee and give yourself time to wake up. Enjoy a relaxing activity like practicing yoga, reading, or sitting outside listening to birds. Journaling is an excellent option too. If you’re spiritual, you may enjoy reading the Bible or other inspirational texts. When you transform the first part of your day into something enjoyable, you’ll look forward to waking up and getting started. And when you wake up to a positive routine, you’re less likely to have anxiety about going to work.
Enjoy a More Relaxing Commute Home
Caring for patients is stressful, so feeling some post-shift anxiety is normal. However, it’s important to leave your stress at work to avoid sleepless nights and poor relationships with friends and family. Instead of rushing home as quickly as possible and stressing about the traffic, use your commute as an opportunity to decompress.
Whether you drive, walk or bike yourself to work or rely on public transportation, there are ways to put your mind at ease. Mindful breathing is an excellent place to start. Instead of focusing on your anxiety and all of the thoughts running through your head, focus on your breath as it slowly enters and leaves your body. Breathe slowly and deeply and feel the air clearing your mind and revitalizing your body. Once you’ve mastered mindful breathing, it’s also an excellent tool to employ when you’re on the job.
Some other ways to enjoy a more relaxing commute include listening to soothing music, tuning into an inspirational book or podcast, or mindfully observing your surroundings. Sharing your commute with a co-worker who understands the stress of patient care helps too. Doing a bit of venting is sometimes exactly what you need to calm down before returning home. Remember to keep your eyes on the road if you’re in the driver’s seat!
Everyone needs self-care, but it’s especially important for those working high-stress jobs like nursing. According to a survey, 70 percent of nurses say they put their patient’s health, wellness, and safety above their own. This is no surprise since a passion for helping others drives most nurses. Unfortunately, taking care of everyone else before caring for yourself puts you at a higher risk of stress and anxiety. Lack of self-care is a common cause of burnout too.
Practicing self-care regularly helps you let go of complex emotions and eases anxiety. And self-care doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. Even eating a healthy lunch instead of downing soda and chips is an act of self-care. Take care of your body and mind, and make time for activities you enjoy. In doing so, you may just feel your stress start melting away.
Working in healthcare is physically, mentally, and emotionally draining. Even if you are passionate about helping others, feeling a sense of dread when it comes time to head to work is common. Many nurses also struggle to unwind after a long day of patient care.
Whether you struggle with pre- or post-shift anxiety (or both), the tips above should help ease those difficult feelings and emotions. If they don’t help or your anxiety has reached a point where it’s severely impacting your daily life, don’t be afraid to seek professional help. Remember, caring for yourself is just as important as caring for patients.
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