As with any selfless profession, nursing isn’t for the faint-hearted. As a nurse practitioner, you play the role of hero every day, providing critical, life-saving care and leaving lasting impressions on the lives you touch.

But, with the high-intensity and high-performance of this profession, there can be unwanted side effects, like constant stress and low-grade anxiety. If you’ve been in the nurse practitioner role for some time, you know that unchecked stress and anxiety can lead to health problems, burnout, and a decline in job satisfaction and work-life balance.

Because you don’t have time for any of that, here are seven strategies for managing stress and staying positive in your daily nursing practice.

1. Adopt a mindful approach to your day

Mindful living is about staying present. It is said that fear or stress cannot exist in the present; only in the past or future. According to mindfulness.org, “Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”

2. Minimize time with negatively-focused people

You may work with one or two individuals whose focus skews negative. When you’re stuck with one of them, you can practice redirecting the conversation to a more enjoyable subject, or simply leave as soon as you can.

3. Dwell on others’ appreciation of you

If you have “thank you” letters from families, hang on to them and take them out and read them periodically. You can also create a journal, logging memorable events that inspire and uplift you.

4. Make your own needs high priority

Do you remember Maslow’s hierarchy of needs?  Basic needs according to Maslow’s pyramid are the following:

  • Food
  • Water
  • Warmth
  • Rest
  • Security
  • Safety

These are the very basic physical and safety needs that every individual has. Only after fulfilling these needs can you (hypothetically) reach consistently for higher levels of performance, productivity, and creativity. As a nurse practitioner, you’re always focused on the needs of others. So, if you do find that you’re often tired, stressed, dehydrated, or skipping meals, please don’t feel badly!

But, consider giving yourself permission to go the extra mile for your own needs, too. You’re worth it.

5. Visualize a positive outcome

When dealing with morbidity and mortality it can be hard to stay positive. Fortunately, the mind can’t tell the difference between reality and visualization — you can reap the positive benefits of focusing on more preferable outcomes before they even happen, or regardless of whether or not they happen at all.

6. Shrink the inner critic

As a society we’ve gotten into the habit of calling the negative voices inside our heads our “self critic”, and we can blame ourselves for the negativity they generate. In reality, these voices are actually the voices of others in our lives that we have internalized, not the self. Start shrinking this internalized critic with a simple exercise: speaking to yourself like you would a friend. If you have a particularly strong inner critic, the difference might surprise you.

7. Meditate (or just take 3 deep breaths)

Meditation has become the ultimate cliché advice, but only because it really works. Reset your mind with free guided meditations in less than five minutes, or do longer sessions if you have time. On the go? Simply take 3 deep breaths and you’ll feel refreshed.

Try one or more of them to see how they work for you. Maybe even talk about this with some of your friends or coworkers to see what they do to stay positive. But we do hope that at least one of these tips is helpful to you.

Have a mindful practice of your own? Share it in the comments below!

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