Five Ways to De-Stress After a Nursing Shift

Nursing is a career as stressful as it is rewarding. Even the best days on the job can be full of stress. Intentionally planning for personal stress management is a key to being a successful nurse and healthy person. Here are a handful of ways to decrease stress and increase life satisfaction.

The first step to destressing after the nursing shift is making a plan and prioritizing the health-promoting act of decompression. Anticipate the need for stress reduction starting the moment you leave the floor, and pack your nursing bag accordingly. The matter of destressing needs to be approached as a matter survival.  Chronic stress makes a tremendous negative impact on overall health. You must prioritize destressing to be an effective caregiver. To illustrate, think back to the last time you were on an airplane. You were doubtlessly instructed to, in the event of an emergency, apply the oxygen mask to yourself before helping others. This is because if you become incapacitated, you are of no help to others, and become a victim yourself.  

In these present times, we find that life is so fast-paced and demanding that we don’t always make time to do what we love. Another way to de-stress after work is to afford yourself the luxury of indulging in something that gives you great pleasure, even when you have every reason not to do it. This could be an art project like painting, drawing or journaling. Or perhaps you love to dance or sing karaoke. Whatever it is that makes you happy and feel at the moment, determined to devote a half-hour to it daily. Including others in what you love is a great way to de-stress, but intimacy with oneself is also a significant relationship to maintain. Mark it on your calendar, make it number one on your list of to-dos. One must learn to look at this as a survival skill rather than a frivolous activity and bestow priority to it.

Starting from the moment you enter your car, you can lower your level of stress by employing the ancient art of aromatherapy. A recent review of five randomized controlled trials lends credit to the extended practiced use of essential oils in the mitigation of stress. Most people can safely diffuse the essential oils of lavender and chamomile. There are many portable devices on the market now with the capability of working from your vehicle’s cigarette lighter or battery power. Some devices release humidity laced with essential oil into the cabin, and others that work by nebulizing the essential oil into the air directly. 

Prayer with breath awareness or meditation is another excellent tool for stress reduction. Many websites demonstrate how to utilize these traditional forms of stress management if you are unsure how to get started. If you notice yourself having reoccurring thoughts from your shift, focusing on a single word or phrase can bring serenity, such as a bible verse, mantra, poem or merely the word love or peace. This accompanied with intentionally controlled breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth, makes a tremendous impact on pulse and blood pressure.

Last but not least, and perhaps one of the most critical ways to de-stress is through hypoglycemia prevention. Hypoglycemia can cause and worsen significant stress symptoms including dizziness, irritability, and anxiety. This is another matter mostly dependent on planning. Many times, the nurse is unable to eat a snack after lunch, even though his or her shift likely lasts 12 hours. Plan to have a meal and some water ready to go for the ride home. Further, plan for dinner (or breakfast if you’re a night shifter). Have something already cooked and waiting to be heated, or prepped and ready to be thrown together quickly. This way you avoid the temptation to eat fast food.

Nursing is a career of caring, and we must include ourselves in that care. Prioritizing your personalized stress management is of foremost importance. Making time for joy and living in the present moment is a daily necessity for destressing. Aromatherapy and prayer or meditation are time proven and evidence-based methods for relaxation. Maintaining healthy blood glucose levels makes an impact on stress on the body. These are just a few of the many ways you can employ to destress after the nursing shift.




About The Author 

Ulyana Arzamasova came to the United States from Kallingrad, Russia in 2004 and settled in South Florida. Ulyana received her Bachelors in Psychology from the University of Minnesota in the city of Moorhead. Ulyana then pursued her Bachelor’s in Nursing from the University of Miami and is currently enrolled in the DNP program at the University of Florida. She is currently employed in the Cardiac unit in a South Florida hospital. Ulyana started 360 Nursing to offer resources and information to nurses at one easy to find website. She can be reached for comment at