Everyone knows that nursing is a stressful job. Sure, there are plenty of rewarding and enjoyable experiences, but there are also a lot of difficult situations. From dealing with difficult people to coping with the loss of colleagues and patients, nurses could experience several types of trauma on the job. And while we may think of them as the superheroes of the healthcare system, they are, at the end of the day, regular humans. They have bad days and, sometimes, they need to have a good cry just like anyone else.
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Nursing is built on empathy, personal sacrifice and dedication. Nurses devote themselves to their jobs and are extremely passionate about what they do. They also have feelings, and the emotional and mental strain of traumatic situations can take a serious toll.
So, how do nurses lace up their men’s nursing shoes and continue performing at their best after a traumatic event? Keep reading to find out and discover a few ways nurses can cope with job-related trauma.
- Remember Why You Decided to Become a Nurse
When you are struggling to make it through your shift and can’t even begin to fathom how you’ll wake up and do it all over again tomorrow, think about what led you to a career in nursing. Figuring out why you decided to become a nurse won’t take away the trauma, but it will help you make it through your most difficult days.
- Get Up and Move …
If you’ve had a traumatic experience like losing a patient or co-worker, you probably want nothing more than to crawl into your bed and hide under your covers. It’s okay to do this for a little while, but it’s not a long-term solution. After you’ve had a good cry, get up and move. Take a hot shower and go for a walk or spend some time basking in the sun. Spending time outdoors improves your mood and is good for your mental health. While it’s not an instant solution, it’s much more effective than hiding away under the blankets.
Exercising is a good option too. You might not feel like hitting the gym, going to a yoga class or even taking a bike ride around your neighborhood, but doing so boosts endorphins and other feel-good hormones. Intense workouts are also great for healthily releasing pent-up anger and frustration.
- … But Make Sure You’re Getting Enough Rest
Getting enough sleep is just as important as getting up and moving. Post-traumatic stress often makes falling asleep difficult and causes nightmares. If you are finding it impossible to get a good night’s sleep, try limiting your caffeine intake and establishing a consistent bedtime routine. Writing your thoughts and feelings in a journal could help, too. If you try these simple solutions and still can’t get enough shuteye, schedule an appointment with your physician or mental health professional.
- Talk It Out
Don’t keep your thoughts and emotions bottled up inside. Instead, share them with coworkers, friends or family members. Venting is an effective way to combat stress and work through difficult feelings. Talking with other nurses is especially helpful since they know what you are going through better than anyone else. Depending on the situation, they may even be working through the same trauma.
When talking to other people doesn’t work, consider seeking professional mental health care. Asking for help isn’t always easy, but doing so is the best way to get yourself back on track so you can move forward. These services are available for a reason, and there is no reason to feel ashamed about using them.
- Avoid Negative Coping Mechanisms
It’s easy to fall into negative coping mechanisms after suffering a traumatic event. Let’s face it: Picking up a bottle or overeating is way less challenging than facing your feelings head-on and working through them. Unfortunately, alcohol, food, cigarettes, drugs, etc. provide no real solution.
Rather than helping you get through difficult times, these things merely act as a bandage to hide your symptoms. If you don’t deal with the trauma that makes you want to drink/smoke/eat/etc., you’re never going to get past it. And embracing negative coping mechanisms will only lead to further problems like addiction or obesity.
- Make Time for Enjoyable Activities
When you need a healthy way to distract yourself from your pain and memories of the experience, engage in an activity you love. Busying yourself with positive distractions and surrounding yourself with positive people takes your mind off the trauma and makes you feel better.
There are plenty of healthy ways to ease your mind. If you enjoy cooking, prepare a healthy meal. Enroll in an art class (or check out some online tutorials) if you’ve ever wanted to become more artsy. Sign up for an exercise class. Spend time volunteering at a local animal shelter. Get lost in the pages of a great book. Watch a funny movie. Treat yourself to a new video game. The options are endless. As long as you enjoy it and it’s not an unhealthy coping mechanism, go for it!
- Treat Yourself
Sometimes, a bit of retail therapy is extremely helpful. Just be sure not to go overboard and let it turn into a shopping addiction! If you need a pick-me-up and a renewed desire to go to work, treat yourself to some new workwear. Ditch your old, faded scrubs and buy yourself cute and comfy new scrub tops for women (or men). This seemingly insignificant act of self-care can make a huge difference.
Nearly every nurse faces traumatic situations from time to time. The key to moving on is knowing how to care for yourself as you heal. Take some personal time if you need it, and focus on the strategies above rather than wallowing in misery or developing negative coping strategies. Be gentle with yourself during this time. And if you feel unable to get past the trauma despite your best efforts, talk to a professional. Coping with trauma isn’t easy, but there is always hope.