Battling Anxiety for Nurses
Updated: Nov 19, 2018
Nurses are people, human beings that have similar faults and weaknesses just like everybody else. Just because nurses are working in healthcare doesn't mean that nurses don't have anxiety, and sometimes to an unhealthy level. Being motivated to be a good nurse can be hard when you have anxiety, but there are ways that will help you become a better nurse if you are actively working on your weaknesses on a daily basis. Here are three ways a nurse battling anxiety can become an even better nurse.
#1. Understand your weakness.
Nurses work with a lot of people. Nurses understand anxiety, and know the medications that treat it. Nurses need to understand their anxiety, and how it is affecting their work and personal life. If you have a little anxiety, that is actually good. Anxiety will help push you to be a great nurse. In nursing school you had teachers that put a heavy load on your back with the hopes that the stress and anxiety would push you to study and work hard to pass your program. The problem is when the anxiety level is too high and your productivity goes down.
If your productivity goes down at your work, you need to start evaluating why you have anxiety. Is it a coworker stressing you out? Your patient load? Nursing in general? Taking an in depth look at yourself, and figuring out what is stressing you out will help you take steps in controlling your anxiety.
#2. Focus on you.
The instructions for an emergency landing on a plane help illustrate this point. When the airbags come down, you are instructed to first put the mask around your own mouth, and then assist others if they can't do so. Some "giving" type of people might think that they would rather get the oxygen on their child or loved one first, out of fear that if they don't do it right away the loved one will suffocate. The problem with this is that if you don't have oxygen, and you pass out before getting the oxygen on the other person then you both will need somebody else who did the process right to take care of you.
Nurses are giving people, and it is natural to think that if you lose yourself in your work, your anxiety will naturally go away. This may be true to a point, but if you can first understand where your anxiety is coming from, and then work on helping yourself avoid anxiety, you will be a better nurse to all of your patients. Taking time out for yourself is key. Whether you are an introverted person who is able to recharge by being alone, or an extroverted person who finds strength in numbers, you need to recharge and focus on you.
Being healthy, getting enough sleep, and taking time out for you will help with your anxiety. Being a nurse will cause you to work long shifts, possibly nights and weekends, making it harder to eat healthy, and get an appropriate amount of sleep. Regardless of your current work situation, however, there are opportunities in every bodies day to spend at least a little bit of time taking care of yourself.
Battling anxiety will be a mindless and useless effort if you are not taking care of you. Get enough sleep, eat healthy, exercise, and do the things that help you relax. Whether you read, watch movies or TV, having a good balance of being able to relax and enjoy your life will help you have the energy you need when you have a difficult shift that gives you anxiety, or you have other personal stressors causing you to not be productive.
#3. Don't be afraid to ask for help.
Howie Mandel, the comedian most known for his performance on America's Got Talent, is an outspoken advocate for mental illness. One point that Howie makes is that admitting you have any type of mental illness is viewed disgracefully in our society. Howie mentions that it is culturally acceptable and respected to mention that you go to the dentist. Going to the dentist shows you have money to take care of your teeth and shows you care about your health. If a person mentions that they go to a therapist, or a psychiatrist, it is not viewed the same.
Being a nurse, a healthcare professional that is trained for helping others, even mental illness, it may seem awkward for nurses to seek help from other healthcare professionals. If you have anxiety that is causing you to have low productivity, making your life difficult, and possibly hurting your success in your career, you owe it to yourself to seek help. Being afraid to ask for help is common, but don't let fear of what others think affect your mindset to a point where you can't progress. It is OK to have negative emotions, you are a human being after all, just don't let negative emotions hurt your progress. Remember that anxiety is good when it is helping you with your performance. When you notice that the anxiety is hurting your progress, this is when you need to take a step back, and reevaluate your situation.
#1. Understand Your Weakness.
#2. Focus on You.
#3. Don't be Afraid To Seek Help.