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NurChat 06/12/16 - Protecting your mental and physical wellbeing from the effects of stress.

I’ve never met a nurse who hasn’t experienced workplace stress at some time in their career. Indeed many would say it’s just a part of everyday life as a nurse. But have we become too accepting that stress is part of our lives? And is it having a long term effect on our mental and physical wellbeing?

Acute stress, the type that occurs in short bursts, can actually be beneficial because it helps us deal with abnormal situations. A chemical cocktail of adrenaline and norepinephrine get the stress response started seconds after the brain registers the impending situation, causing an increase in heart rate, a burst of energy and clarity of focus. Shortly after this the cortisol will kick in, which will regulate the body’s systems, including blood pressure, to help you survive the impending situation. Stemming from our ‘fight or flight’ responses, your body is making sure you’re prepared to survive.

However, long term exposure to stress can have some dangerous effects on the body and mind. Chronic stress has been linked to health conditions such as heart conditions and arthritis, and there’s a link to an increased risk of stroke. It would seem that not a part of the physical being escapes the effects as the body maintains the enhanced level of fight or flight hormones. A person’s mental state is equally affected; often feelings of anxiety, fear and frustration can lead to anger and depression.

As nurses, our coping behaviours are intrinsically linked with keeping depression and anxiety at bay. Self-blame and avoidance would seem to be on the pathway towards a low mental state, conversely, problem-focused coping and seeking advice could be the way to stay positive. So, if we really are in control of our own stress-responses, how can we use that to our advantage?

In this #NurChat, we’re going to talk about:

  • Mindfulness – how do you stay present and in control?
  • Coping – what are the most successful coping strategies you use?
  • Problem-solving – it’s something we do every minute of every day, but how can we improve?
  • Avoidance and self-blame – how can we use the power of reflection rather than blaming ourselves when things haven’t gone well?

Read back over the discussion here