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How to cope with stress as a student nurse

A little bit of stress can be healthy, but a lot is damaging. If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed by the pressure and anxiety of work, here are some tips to help you cope

Stress is something we all deal with at one point or another. That nagging feeling of pressure and that little burst of adrenaline can often be exactly the push into action that we need. It’s when you start to feel overwhelmed by the stress that it begins to become a problem. Different people react differently under pressure. Some thrive, some break. It’s important to learn how you personally handle stress, and how to cope when it becomes too overwhelming.

How to cope

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the things you have to do, make a plan. Start by making a list of tasks and prioritising them. Seeing a to-do list on paper will give you a checklist to keep track of and a sense of accomplishment every time you get to tick something off. Keep a notepad by your bed so if you lay awake worrying about things you have to remember, you can sit up, write it down and then forget about it.

Know what time you feel at your best and the time you can be most productive, and plan to get work done during that time. You will feel less stressed once you feel you’re being productive and not struggling to focus on the task.

Make sure you see a task through to the end. Leaving work half finished and putting it off until later will only increase your stress over it. Instead of trying to work on several things at once, focus on one at time. That way, once you finish you will be able to put it out of your mind and move on to the next task ahead.

Be proud of the things you have done rather than worry over the things you haven’t. At the end of the day, focus on your accomplishments rather than stress over the things you still have to do. You’ll get to them eventually.

Yes, it’s important to work, but it’s just as important to relax. Make sure you’re setting aside time to get away from the stress, to unwind your mind and your body. Take breaks from your work to do something you enjoy. This will help clear your head and you’ll be refreshed once you head back to work.

And if you do feel that you are being given too much responsibility or not getting enough support, talk to someone - your mentor, tutor or someone senior at work. Everyone has to cope with pressure, but when it becomes full-on stress that dictates your life and you can’t get it out of your mind, it’s time to tell someone and seek help.

Quick tips to reduce stress

  • Talk it out – Talking with a friend or family member about your stress can help give you a release for your worries and a new perspective on the situation.
  • Be flexible – Nobody’s perfect, and nobody is able to do everything. Give yourself a break when you screw up or when things don’t go according to plan. It happens to us all.
  • Say “no” – It’s ok to say “no” to something if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the work you already have. Focus on what you have to do first before agreeing to take on more work.
  • Set goals – Set small, achievable goals for yourself, and recognise every time you achieve one. It will give you a sense of accomplishment.  
  • Exercise – Regular exercise will help you feel better physically and mentally. In addition to releasing positive endorphins in your body, exercise is a productive way to get some downtime away from your job.
  • Play – Take breaks from work by doing something you enjoy. Whether it’s alone or with a friend or family, stepping away from your work for a bit of fun will help take your mind off your stress.
  • Laugh – A good laugh can always help relieve stress. Watch a favourite movie, listen to a comic or phone up a funny friend.
  • Keep a diary – Writing down worries and fears is a great way to get them out of your head and to work through those thoughts. Once it’s down on paper, it’s easier to get it out of your mind.

Everyone deals with stress differently. Knowing how you react to stressful situations, and developing good habits for coping with that pressure will help you approach your work with much more confidence.

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