The Importance of Healthy Living for Chronic Stress Management: a Guide for Nurses

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Healthy Living for Chronic Stress Management
Healthy Living for Chronic Stress Management

Healthy living has long been lauded as the key to an enriched life. Good health provides a foundation that everything else can be built. Those with chronic health concerns or disabilities either have to constantly readjust their strategy or, in many ways, need to build up additional support in order to enjoy that same foundation.

The fact is you do not need to be living with a genetic or chronic condition in order to be disadvantaged. Poor lifestyle and health choices, especially when those lifestyles are compounded by stress, can also hurt your ability to lead a happy, fulfilled life. Alternatively, the problem may come from external forces. For nurses, burnout has come from long working hours, unsafe working conditions, and the pandemic as a whole.

Being on the front lines of a pandemic has led to massive rates of burnout for essential workers like nurses. Never before has it been more important to uplift your health and prioritize your mental wellbeing than it is today. Additional support and efforts must be made while at the same time governments and organizations must address the source of burnout in order to revitalize the nursing sector and finally make headway on the nursing shortage the world is facing today.

Burnout in Nurses: Statistics for 2022

In the study “Prevalence of and Factors Associated With Nurse Burnout in the US,” 31.5% of a sample of 50,000 US RNs reported that they were leaving their current place of employment due to burnout. This was in 2018. The pandemic has only exacerbated this issue.

Those working more than 20 hours per week as a nurse and those who work in hospital settings are the most likely to experience burnout.

Those leaving or considering leaving cited burnout and a stressful work environment or inadequate staffing as their main reasons to leave. With the upcoming massive number of RNs set to retire by the end of the decade, the issues behind burnout and nurse relocation need to be addressed beyond healthy living and mental health.Health and mental wellbeing are within each nurse’s command, but without the environment and work structure in place to support them, there is little that healthy living and balance can do. More nurses are needed, and better systems are needed.

The Current State of the Nursing Shortage

The world has a global nursing shortage problem. This problem must be seen from a global perspective for one simple reason. For decades now, many western countries have addressed their nursing shortage by hiring foreign-born nurses and sponsoring their relocation. Though every person has a right to move where they wish and especially if the opportunities are better, this policy has resulted in poorer quality of care for less wealthy nations around the country.

There are many reasons for the shortage:

  • Lack of potential nurse educators
  • High turnover in the nursing profession
  • Inequitable workforce distribution
  • An aging population that requires more advanced care
  • A growing population that is growing exponentially
  • High levels of nurse burnout
  • High rates of verbal abuse and aggression

In the United States of America

Nurses make up the largest workforce in the United States, and still, they have a massive shortage. In some areas, there is admittedly a shortage, but inequitable workforce distribution is one of the key challenges that the government will need to address to improve nursing as a whole.

At the moment, the RN workforce is expected to grow from the estimated 3 million today to 3.3 million by 2029. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that each year around 194,500 new job openings will open each year at minimum. With many current RNs set to retire soon, the nurse openings will only increase.

Global Nursing Shortage

The WHO estimates that the world needs 6 million more nurses to reach the SDG health targets. Though the shortage of nurses in the United States is the worst it has ever been, there is an even greater shortage in lower-income countries. This shortage reflects the current need globally, not the projected need by the end of the decade.

Effective Top-Down Strategies to Reduce Burnout and the Shortage

While nurses themselves can take precautions and use many tips and tricks to improve their health and wellbeing and, in turn, reduce burnout and stress and enjoy a more fulfilling work/life balance, they cannot do it all on their own. Greater support and a top-down approach both to nursing burnout and the shortage is essential.

Improved Pay and Benefits

Nurse wages and, more importantly, benefits need to improve. Many nurses are shifting from working full time into working as travel nurses as they enjoy higher daily rates and greater freedom. Employers must improve loyalty and job satisfaction by compensating nurses more appropriately to reduce burnout and encourage more into the nursing profession.

Improved Accessibility

Education options must be accessible, and so too must work options. Decentralizing healthcare and expanding investment into more rural areas can help both nurses and patients alike.

Telehealth

One of the tools that will make it possible to offset the work that many RNs take on while also making work more accessible is telehealth. Many nurses will be needed to help manage a digital collection of patients. As the patients are remote, of course, nurses can also work remotely.

Effective Health and Wellness Tips for Nurses Now

While governments and organizations work out new ways to better support nurses and encourage more people into nurses, there are ways existing nurses can take back their quality of life and improve their day-to-day. Investing in your health and wellbeing are two of the most useful and ubiquitous skills anyone can have. Use them to help progress through your own career as a nurse, or alternatively in whichever new path you take with your career.

Finding the Right Fit

The first step is to understand that no amount of health and wellness will make a difference if you do not enjoy the work that you do. The good news is that, as a nurse, you can do so much with your skills. Your specialization is human health, and with that specialty, you can work anywhere, depending on the budget of the organization. Work privately, work publicly, work for someone else, or work for yourself. With so many options and so many different fields that you can specialize in, you really do have a lot of options ahead of you.

That is why the first and arguably most important piece of advice is to really invest in understanding where your passion in nursing lies. Shadow different departments, learn on your own time and ask questions.

Finding the right fit is also a matter of choosing the right path for you. This starts with education. The Wilkes Passan School of Nursing offers multiple routes through your education. You can start a nursing career with an Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing. You can take your Associate’s Degree in Nursing and complete an integrated degree and come out with an MSN and APRN qualification.

Furthering your education is the single best way to customize your career, but you don’t need to do it all at once. Working directly with patients may work when you are young, and then you may want to move into nursing technology later on in life, and finally go and earn a DNP to become a nurse leader or alternatively a PhD and start teaching the next generation of nurses.

Working with Your Needs and Strengths

Some need challenging workdays, or they grow bored and restless. Others need calm and stability to thrive. There is no right or wrong way to need your workday to be, just how you personally work best. Understanding your needs and your strengths is essential when it comes to finding a working environment that helps you support your health and mental wellbeing. Finding the right fit that is less stressful and a better fit is why many hospital employees leave their jobs and find work elsewhere.

Enriching Your Personal Life

An enriched life is not one that begins and ends with your career. Commit time to your friends and family, to a hobby or two, and of course, to your health and mental wellbeing. It can be so easy to spend your free time scrolling through social media or mindlessly watching a show. There is no reason to outright stop these activities, either. The only thing you owe to yourself is to commit more time and energy to the activities that make you feel good. Sometimes having a routine for what you enjoy can ensure you spend more time doing it.

Improving Your Diet

When it comes to actually improving your health, always start with your diet. Most people, especially nurses, are familiar with what they should eat to lead healthy lives. It isn’t a lack of knowledge that inhibits healthy eating, but rather time.

Prepping meals can be a great way to eat healthier throughout the week. If you don’t have the time or energy to prep meals, you should instead look into meal services that send you recipes to your door. You may be surprised at how affordable those services can be.While maintaining your healthy weight is important, what should always take precedence is the vitamins and nutrients you consume. Drinking enough water and staying hydrated is equally as important. If you need help sticking with new routines, there are apps, or you can simply set an alarm to remind yourself.

Building Strength and Flexibility

Working on your feet all day is a natural way to exercise, but you owe it to yourself to build up stamina, strength, and flexibility. Getting this kind of exercise can also be social. You can join a dancing class, for example, and work on all three while also meeting others. You can join a local team or commit to playing a game with a friend on a day off on the regular.

Getting a Better Night’s Rest

Caffeine, drinking water, and healthy eating can only give you so much energy. Nothing will be able to fully replace a good night’s rest.To sleep better, you need to build a routine. Start first by being consistent with your routine in the mornings and before bed. Your morning routine should always include a big breakfast, water, and stretching to get your body up and ready for the day.

To get your circadian rhythm on your side, you will want to ideally avoid artificial and especially blue-white light after sunset. This does happen to be the most common type of lighting in hospitals, so at the very least, refrain from using it at home. Choose warm-white light bulbs for the home and set night move on your phone to match sunrise and sunset.

As for your bedtime routine, try to wind down. While reading can be relaxing, it can actually be thrilling, so aim to read something calming before bed that doesn’t keep you up in anticipation. Alternatively, you can try to meditate, simply listen to music while you work on a hobby that engages your hands, and so on.

More than anything, however, you will want to aim to go to sleep at the same time and wake up either at the same time every morning or naturally every morning. This way, you can get your circadian rhythm to work on your schedule.

If you are still having trouble, aim to block out light and as much sound as you can in your bedroom, as these can partially wake us up at night and prevent deep sleep.

Supporting Your Mental Health

A healthy body will certainly help your brain, but it isn’t the only tool available. If you suffer from a mental illness, then healthy living can help set a foundation, but it is far from a cure. Exploring your mental health resources, working on what lifestyle changes help, and most of all, finding the right medication (if necessary) is the right fit for you will all make a massive difference for your mental health.

If your goal is to improve mental wellbeing, then improving your health and committing more time to your hobbies, interests, and loved ones will make a significant difference in your quality of life.

Look to others, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

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I'm NOT a doctor! I'm just passionate about health and healthy leaving. The information on this website, such as graphics, images, text and all other materials, is provided for reference and educational purposes only and is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or other medical professional. The content is not intended to be complete or exhaustive or to apply to any specific individual's medical condition.

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