nurse wellnessYou are certainly aware that stress in nursing is one of the major medical problems of our times. How? Studies show that nurses are the single sickest group of workers in the workforce.

Ouch! This is appalling. When I worked nights in the PCU, I noticed that there were many more obese nurses working nights than days. What have you observed? In my experience, I have noticed that without exception, obese nurses apply to work nights. They want to work nights.

These dedicated, long-term night shift nurses also are on multiple meds. They often discuss how many meds they are on, compare them, etc. What strikes me is that they speak about it in such a way as if it’s the most natural thing in the world.

Please understand, I am writing this out of compassion for my fellow nurses, not as a critique. I am telling the truth, and yes, sometimes the truth hurts. We all know by now that working nights increases your risk for disease, ultimately affecting your health.

A nurse is the classic poster child for, “Is this job making me sick?”

We often talk about, “the patient complained of pain on a scale of….” But we fail to see that many nurses consistently complain of pain. As a nurse working in the HR department of my hospital, shockingly, I have researched that stress-related disability claims are estimated to increase by 50% in the next decade.

Stress in nursing wreaks havoc with the circulatory, immune and digestive systems, to name a few.  Stress is a killer, literally. Constant and chronic anxiety, worrying, and over-doing is literally burning brain cells, and releasing toxic hormones into the blood stream. It causes harmful sleep deprivation, wrinkles our skin, de-calcifies our bones and wreaks havoc with our insulin levels, which then causes weight gain.

Hence, stress makes you sick, fat and old.  

The people who will have these disabilities will have used, knowingly or unknowingly, negative coping behaviors such as:

  • Avoidance: Procrastination, withdrawal, sleeping too much
  • Distractions: TV, video games, shopping—all in excess
  • Violence: Hurting others or themselves, throwing things, yelling, hitting
  • Chemicals: Smoking, sugar, caffeine, and even drugs

Employees come to see me every week and take fifteen or twenty minutes to discuss stress management in nursing. They reconnect to that place deep inside in each one of us where there is nothing upsetting. And nurses need to learn these methods to experience deep, healing peace. These will help them emerge rejuvenated and ready to return to their service at the hospital with greater focus, clarity and peace.

The foundation for abiding in the heart of nursing wellness, happiness, and peace can be found by learning how to “be still.” This is realized through the practice of ancient yogic breathing techniques and meditation. These tools transform and realign all the systems in the body/mind which have separated us from the very source of peace. It is not the body/mind, but the consciousness, pure awareness, and spirit which is not at the effect of the struggles of daily life. I encourage all nurses to return to the source, to “know thyself.” This is the oldest and surest method to wellness and happiness now.

So if you are feeling overwhelmed with work, consider trying yoga as a therapeutic method for reducing that stress in nursing and improving your health.