Real-Life, Usable Tips To Manage Nurse Practitioner Stress

You need real methods to reduce your stress, beyond mindfulness and meditation. They are wonderful self-care practices and stress relievers, but what are some other day-to-day practices you can adopt and use throughout your day to help keep you how you want to be: clear-headed and confident, in control of your moods, with a high patience level.

Let’s face it, the world today can be, well, is – stressful. And being a nurse practitioner comes with its own set of challenges and stressors. The physical and emotional demands of caring for your patients can cause a range of issues including stress, anxiety, and burnout. The key is to try to pinpoint the triggers and origin of your own personal stress, while adopting some overall best practices to carry you through the hectic times. With some healthful tactics, adopting some mindful practices, and delving into some self-introspection, you can improve your professional mental health and continue to stay content and satisfied with your important work.

Nurse Practitioner Among Best Jobs in the US

Maybe it doesn’t help to hear that nurse practitioners have a below-average stress level rating for job stress. With an almost non-existent unemployment rate, and a projected growth for job prospects of 52% through 2031, being an NP has been named #2 among jobs overall, and within healthcare jobs was rated #1. With all the fanfare, this possibly could be having an opposite effect: “Why then am I so stressed?” Just know that there are things you can do to help your particular situation and feel good about the big picture – your smart career choice.

Avoid Stress by Getting and Staying Organized

It may be a no-brainer but check yourself and your day-today processes and honestly look to see if you could be more organized. Organizing looks different for everyone. It could be setting aside a specific time each day to do your charting tasks, with an aim to have them all completed before you leave work each day, so you can preserve some me-time and not have that hanging over you during your evenings. Or maybe it’s prioritizing and creating lists or making FAQ sheets to hand out to your patients, to alleviate some of the time you spend saying the same things and answering the same routine questions. Look at your workday, figure out the time suckers, and create more efficient ways of accomplishing these areas. And realize that some of the best ideas may take a little front-end work that will pay off greatly in the long run.

Communication is Key in Smoothing Out Your Days

No matter how busy you are, take the time to really listen to your patients and your colleagues – avoid “auto-pilot listening” where you assume you know what someone is going to say so your ears gloss over their words. This will lessen misunderstandings and also create a more relaxed state inside your head. In this same vein, talk more as well – as in discussing situations that arise instead of blowing them off. Perhaps someone, or you, didn’t have all the facts? Or misunderstood something? Take the time to talk out to prevent confusion in the moment, or in the future.

You might just need an unbiased professional to talk to – someone you can vent to and just get it all out, who can also help you work through things and develop tools to help you deal with future stuff. The nature of working in healthcare can increase your susceptibility to mental health challenges. If you think it might help, consider seeking out a therapist or other mental health professional to talk to. According to a recent study on nurse mental health and well-being, nearly 60% of respondents said they were unlikely to share their mental health issues.

Reflect for a Change in Attitude

Sometimes we can think ourselves into a more relaxed state and change perspective by looking at things in a different way, making some considerations, and reminding ourselves of some things. Taking time to reflect on your values and principles and refocusing on why you’re doing what you’re doing can provide an attitude adjustment. Remember why you chose a career in healthcare in the first place – whether you want to make a difference and be there for others in their time of need, or you were drawn to the numerous career paths that the profession offers, or it was a calling and your instinctive nature to help others – reminding yourself and reconnecting with your sense of purpose can be comforting, knowing you are in the place you were meant to be. This will reinforce your sense of purpose and improve the way you feel while you’re working, letting you get deeper satisfaction from it.

Know Your Triggers

One of the greatest tools you have against stress is understanding the core of where your stress comes from and what triggers it in you. Then you can learn to identify where your stresses come from, recognize them, and develop strategies to manage them. An easy way to do this is to keep a journal or notes during your day and jot down the circumstances that brought on the stress. Even if you aren’t sure why it caused tension, write it down. Once you have done this a while you will be able to see patterns of associated events. Just identifying and labelling them will alleviate some stress as you will be able to recognize them and be aware of them during your day. You can then create ways to avoid or deal with these situations when they arise, which can be as small as a mantra you say to yourself or taking a few deep breaths when they occur. Also, by writing them down and organizing them, you will often naturally start devising coping mechanisms and solutions for them.

Also think about what makes you upset and why. This can take some real soul searching and being very honest with yourself, as some stress and anxiety can be coming from within us. Do you feel inadequate in your job or in parts of your job? Or around a colleague? Are you too competitive? Do you have imposter syndrome? Do you always have to be right? These are just some examples of issues we could have within us that can create stress and anxiety, and once identified, can bring about the powerful tool of self-awareness.

Nurse Practitioner Compassion Fatigue

Have your feelings of sensitivity or empathy decreased? Do you feel numb or detached from your work as an HCP, or feel overwhelming powerlessness about your patients? Are you disinterested in things that once interested you? You’ve heard the term before, but have you considered if you have compassion fatigue? It stems from being overwhelmed by being around the trauma of others and builds over time. Some people are more susceptible to it than others – perhaps if you were raised to always help others before helping yourself. You could have built up feelings of guilt, masking itself in disinterest, of your own needs. Self-care and being proactive in tending to your own needs are the answers to managing compassion fatigue and adding some approaches to your routine can start to help quicker than you might think. Mindfulness training, talk therapy, exercise, making sure to take personal time, and setting boundaries all can help.

Take Breaks – If Only Mini Ones – It Matters!

You can’t always take a break, and sometimes that’s okay and you can power through until the end of your day. But if you are feeling overwhelmed and feeling the effects of a too-busy practice or patient overload, it’s imperative that you take regular breaks throughout your day, even just short microbreaks, to center yourself. Get outside if you possible can, or take a lap around the hallways, or find a dark room or corner where you can sit and practice deep breathing, journal for a few minutes, do some stretches, a crossword puzzle, anything that is self-focused and alone with your thoughts to refresh your mind. It may not seem like it matters, but these breaks add up exponentially and replenish your mental fuel and will help to prevent stress buildup, retain focus, and boost resiliency.

Foods That Help Battle Stress and Anxiety

Cortisol is the chief hormone responsible for stress, and too much of it causes inflammation in your body. To control cortisol, eat foods that have an anti-inflammatory affect. Many of these foods are proteins and can be the most helpful when consumed in the morning and in the afternoon. So start your days with some yogurt or eggs, and in the afternoon when you need a boost, a cup of coffee or some sugar will sound good of course, but reach for nuts, almonds, yogurt, or a hard-boiled egg paired with a carb for some stress-reduction. Protein also makes you feel full so try cheese and crackers or yogurt and granola for a longer-lasting snack. The recommended daily intake of protein is 0.36 grams per pound – so for example that means a 140-pound person needs about 50 grams of protein daily. Do the math and make sure you’re getting enough to stay healthy and happy.

Limit Your Media Exposure and News Intake

While you do need to stay up on current events, that doesn’t mean you have to watch the news every day if it is stressing you out. You may not even be aware of it. If you find yourself getting caught up in the world’s issues and it’s bringing you down, it’s okay to take a break or curb the amount of news you’re taking in. Keep reasonably updated but focus on what you can control.

Know That You Can Only Control What You Can

Ultimately you really can only control one thing – yourself. You know that, but until you accept it, this knowledge won’t do any good. Come to terms with the fact that you can’t control your work environment, or how a colleague acts, what your patients do, or really anything except what you can change within yourself or your own situation, and how you deal and react to the things that happen throughout the day. Focus on the things you can control. Remember, in the long run what happens to you matters far less than how you react to it. Say this to yourself every time you are triggered to stress.

There are some low-stress job options for Nurse Practitioners to consider, check out our post on some options here. Look, no one ever said that being an NP would be a super low stress career – it’s an important and challenging role and you know that stress on the job can help you grow as a nurse practitioner. But too much nurse practitioner stress can lead to mental health issues and burnout, and you need to find ways to manage it that work for you and practice smart strategies to stay ahead of it. What advice would you give a patient?