The work of nurses, midwives and students is stressful. The good news is we can help you to identify your stressors and manage them before they have a negative effect on your health. If you are concerned about stress and would like some support you can call our confidential support line 24/7 on 1800 667 877. Stress is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances. It is your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand or threat. How we experience stress People experience stress differently. Some people are invigorated by their stress, while others feel overwhelmed and drained by it. The effects of stress Being stressed occasionally isn’t unnatural or unhealthy. But experiencing prolonged and unrelenting stress can affect your physical and mental health. Work-related stress that is not identified or checked can reduce your ability to maintain your mental and physical health, and interfere with your professional performance and care. Why work is stressful Workplace stress is one of the most common reasons that nurses, midwives and students call Nurse & Midwife Support. Aspects of nursing and midwifery that may cause stress include:

  • fast pace
  • unpredictability
  • exposure to trauma and suffering
  • under-resourcing
  • under-staffing
  • exposure to aggression
  • deadlines and time pressures.

Understanding your stress It is important to know your specific stress triggers. If you identify early signs of stress you can implement stress reduction strategies before your stress levels become unhealthy. Physical signs of stress include: • muscular tension, aches and pains •    gastrointestinal – nausea, diarrhoea, constipation, bloating, irritable bowel syndrome •    headaches, dizziness, light-headedness •    chest tightness, chest pain, rapid heart rate •    reduced sex drive, and •    frequent colds or flu. Behavioural signs that you are stressed include: • eating more or less •    sleeping too much or too little •    withdrawing from others •    procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities •    using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax, and •    nervous habits (e.g. rapid speech, nail biting, pacing). Emotional signs of stress include: • loneliness and social isolation •    frequently feeling overwhelmed •    irritability, moodiness, anger •    anxiety and agitation, and •    depression. Cognitive signs of stress include: •    inability to concentrate •    memory problems •    poor judgement •    negative feelings, racing thoughts, and •    constant worrying. Chronic stress Ongoing and prolonged stress can lead to serious health problems. Chronic stress can increase the risk of:

  • heart disease leading to heart attack and stroke
  • poor gastrointestinal function
  • reduced immune function
  • skin conditions such as eczema
  • impairment of the reproductive system
  • acceleration of ageing, and
  • rewiring your brain leaving you more susceptible to mood disorders, depression, anxiety, panic attacks and other mental health problems.

Managing stress Individual strategies to avoid and manage stress include:

  • identify your stress triggers
  • improved self-awareness eg. understanding your triggers for unhealthy stress
  • implement stress management strategies early
  • effective communication
  • management of work/life balance
  • strong personal and social connections
  • motivation to learn and grow professionally and emotionally
  • use of reflective practices such as meditation, mindfulness and yoga.
  • exercise
  • diet, and
  • rest.

What can I do next? Nurse & Midwife Support is here to talk you if you are experiencing stress at work. Our service provides free and confidential support 24/7, to nurses, midwives and students Australia-wide.

 If you would like to speak to someone call 1800 667 877, or you can request support via email. If you would like to know a bit more about the service before getting in contact — take a look through accessing support.

Other links and resources

ON THIS SITE Nurse & Midwife Support Wellness Plan (889KB PDF) The Nurse & Midwife Support Wellness Plan may assist you to plan your health and wellbeing.

ON OTHER SITES When does nursing burnout begin? An investigation of the fatigue experience of Australian nursing students. By Rella S, Winwood PC, Lushington K, 2009

The Rise of Burnout An emerging challenge facing nurses and midwives By Fedele R

Identify stress and vicarious, secondary, indirect trauma in nurses By James Graham – freelance medical writer with a PHD in neuroscience.

This article provides good insights into the risks for nurses and how to look after yourself. NM Support provides brief intervention counselling and referral to further support as required. The interactive website offers self-help resources, tools, education materials, a directory of referral services and outlines the professional responsibilities for nurses and midwives with health related issues.

Access our service any time 1800 677 877 https://www.nmsupport.org.au/ You look after others; let us look after you! Your health matters.

The thoughts of this blog are of the individual writer and not necessarily those of the Nursing CPD Institute. To read our full disclaimer click here >>