Due to the nature of the travel nursing industry, travel nurses learn a lot at an incredibly rapid pace when they start a new assignment and encounter many stressful situations. Between learning new procedures, meeting new co-workers, getting used to a new environment, and furnishing your apartment, even the most seasoned travel nurses will feel some stress. There’s no magic cure for keeping stress levels low as a nurse, but there are steps you can take to make sure you can manage your stress levels while on your travel nursing assignment. Try following these 9 tips for helping travel nurses de-stress.
If you’ve had a tough shift, or are having difficulties with your new assignment, try opening up to a friend or a fellow travel nurse. It’s been proven that being near or talking to a friend lowers your cortisol levels – a chemical that is released while you’re stressed and causes increased heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tension.
Friends can make you laugh as well – and as we all know, laughter is the best medicine! Laughter relaxes your body’s muscles and can lower blood pressure. It releases endorphins (the feel good chemicals) and even burns a few calories.
Friends help your mental wellbeing as well. When you open up to friends, it fosters psychological intimacy, which makes you feel cared for and safe. Try to build up a support system around yourself at your new assignment, so that you can be open about what you’re struggling with and how to work through it. And you’ll be able to help your friends work through their problems as well, which will help you take your mind off things that are stressing you out.
It’s stressful to come home to a list of “to-do’s” after every nursing shift. But the effects of being unorganized could be trapping you in a negative feedback loop that will continue to spike your stress levels. When you’re in a messy house and putting off getting your things organized, it feels like you’ve lost control.
For one, being unorganized makes you make poor eating decisions. If you come home to a messy apartment, you might be tempted to order take out, instead of washing your dishes and preparing food you picked up from the grocery. But by eating out, you’ll be getting fewer nutrients and paying more for each of your meals. Being unorganized could be detrimental to your physical and financial health!
It can be hard to take that first step to get organized. But studies show that being organized improves both your physical and mental health. So next time you have some free time on your travel nursing assignment, spend 30 minutes getting organized! You’ll feel better for it.
SLEEP & EXERCISE
Sleep has been proven to reduce stress levels, but when you’re stressed, sleep can become elusive. However, there are a few steps you can take to make sleep a priority and wake up well-rested and de-stressed.
One of the best methods to ensure you’re getting enough and more sleep is to get into a regular sleep schedule. As a travel nurse, this can be difficult: you’re working long shifts that make a daily routine hard to maintain. But getting in bed at the same time every night (or every morning, for you night shift nurses out there), avoiding screens before trying to sleep, and reading instead of watching Netflix or browsing Facebook can all work wonders on your sleep patterns.
Get out and move
Exercise is not only part of leading a healthy lifestyle, but it’s also a great way to reduce stress while on your assignment. It reduces your cortisol levels, and burns adrenaline that’s remaining in your system after stressful situations. It also creates endorphins, the body’s feel-good drug.
Exercise can also clear your mind. By getting your heart rate up and focusing on your body’s movement, you’ll distract yourself from things that may be worrying you about work or your new assignment. Call it meditation in motion, with the added bonus of getting in shape!
MINDFULNESS & MEDITATION
Sometimes the best way to combat stress after work is to get out of your own head. Meditation accompanied by deep breathing is a great way to alleviate stress and become more mindfully centered and stable.
If you’ve wanted to try meditation, but don’t know where to start, check out meditation apps. There are many apps to download that can take you through a 5-minute session, or an hour-long session. Many apps offer helpful guided meditations, as well as meditation and thoughtfulness practices related to sleep, happiness, productivity, technology use, and more.
Listen to Music
Another great way to reduce stress and get your mind off of things is to listen to music. If your looking to relax, try calmer music like classical or jazz. Or if you’re more in the mood for something upbeat, try alternative or pop music. Participate in activities while listening to music, such as taking a bath, practicing yoga, or walking outside.
Disconnect from your electronics
If you’re feeling stressed by your day-to-day routine, try unplugging and hitting the reset switch for a couple days. Put your phone down and take a walk, spend some time reading at home or a café, or get plan a weekend trip to an area you haven’t explored yet! It’s easy to become overwhelmed and lose track of reality when you’re spending time on the internet or social media. You’ll realize how much extra time you have when you’re not getting sucked down the social media black hole.
INTERACT WITH ANIMALS
Our last tip to relieve stress is an easy one: spend some time with four-legged friends! Interacting with animals can make people feel less lonely, fulfill our need for touch and affection, and make us laugh (which as we mentioned earlier is a huge stress reducer). So if you’re looking for a way to alleviate stress, get out there and find a dog to pet, or a cat’s belly to rub!
Take time off between assignments
If you’re really feeling burnt out and lacking a good work-life balance, it may be a good idea to take a few weeks off between travel assignments. However, since travel nurses don’t get paid if they aren’t on assignment, plan for this in advance. On the other hand, some travel nursing agencies offer paid time off (PTO) accruals and even health insurance between assignments. Ask your recruiter about benefits such as these because you may have them and just aren’t aware. During your time off, stay in communication with your recruiter. Your recruiter can help you search for future travel nurse employment opportunities.
We hope these tips help whatever stress you’re dealing with. But if you’re feeling overwhelmed with your current nursing assignment and want to give something new a try, click below to take a look at our job board. You can look for your dream job, and even save interesting jobs for later. HCTN has experienced recruiters who will work with you to find your next assignment to meet your needs.