5 Signs It's Time to Deal With Your Nurse Stress

5 Signs It's Time to Deal With Your Nurse Stress

By Megan Dunn, Contributor

The dangers associated with nurse stress are real — to you and your patients. A study published by BMC Nursing notes that nurse job stress can lead to negative quality of life for RNs, specifically related to their health. Potential negative outcomes for nurses can include problems on the job, problems with relationships and even health issues including higher blood pressure and long-term development of chronic diseases. 

Check out the signs below that help you understand whether your nurse job stress is a situational (and temporary) effect of a bad day or something that's been ongoing long enough to address with more than a relaxing bubble bath or a good night's sleep.

5 Signs Your Nurse Stress Level Requires Action

Almost all RNs deal with nurse job stress. It's been a recorded occupational hazard since the 1950s, and experts note that the introduction of technology, rising health care costs and more unstable work environments have only increased nurse stress levels since the 1980s.

While many programs, articles and professionals have stepped up to deliver nurse stress management tools, RNs who aren't aware of their own stress may not know it's time to take steps toward managing it. 

Here are five signs you need to take a break, seek some assistance or make a change in lifestyle to manage your RN stress.

1. Being tired all the time

Nurses can walk a fine line with exhaustion even when they're not stressed. The 12-hour shift might fit well in your overall schedule, but that doesn't mean three days of it won't leave you reeling. But there's a different between physical exhaustion for good reason and consistently wanting to take to your bed because you simply can't face the next task in your day. The latter can be a sign of nurse stress and burnout, which often shows up as depression.

2. Feelings of numbness

Nurses who are dealing with burnout and stress may be unable to care for people and things — on the job and in daily life — like they used to. This is known as compassion fatigue. Signs can include a shorter attention span, cynicism about patient reports of symptoms, negative personality changes and mistakes on the job.

3. Mood swings or crying

Crying is not something that RNs should avoid as a general rule, though there's definitely a time and place. Clinical psychologist Stephen Sideroff says that crying activates healthy responses in the body, which can lead to a release of pent-up stress and other positive outcomes.

But nurses who can't control their moods or find themselves crying constantly at odd moments or out of intense frustration may be dealing with high levels of stress.

4. Anxiety or dread of daily tasks

Anxiety about your job or a feeling of dread about going to work can also be signs that your nurse stress level is ramping toward maximum. It's completely normal to have to give yourself a pep talk to rev up the internal engines at 4 am, especially when you're facing a 12-hour shift. But nurses who find it physically hard to drag themselves to their shifts each day — or who can't find at least something to look forward to — may need to look into nurse stress management tools and assistance.

5. Physical health issues

Finally, if you're dealing with physical health issues that aren't related to another source, consider nurse stress as the culprit. "I knew it was time to rethink my career when I couldn't deal with stomach problems any more," says Mariah Emerson, a former ER nurse. "I saw my doctor. Nothing else was wrong with me." Emerson said she took a job in an OB-GYN office to reduce her nurse job stress and her stomach issues cleared up.

Nurse stress is a personal factor, and what you can and can't deal with on a daily basis can change over the years. If you're experiencing any of the above signs, consider talking to a trusted friend, coworker or professional about the role nurse stress might be playing in your life and how you can manage it.

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