How To Stop Feeling Overwhelmed As A Nurse

How To Stop Feeling Overwhelmed

December 21st, 2022   |   Updated on January 23rd, 2023

Nursing is a job that can certainly take its toll. Whether you have just graduated and are working your first job as an RN, or you have been in nursing for many years and are perhaps a nurse leader or have other responsibilities, the physical, emotional, and mental problems that nursing can bring about can be hugely problematic.

That’s not to say that nursing is not an exceptionally rewarding career with many different opportunities. It’s something that many of those who work in nursing will say they love and want to do until they retire.

Yet it’s still important to understand that nursing is hard – harder than you might initially realize – and that means you could find yourself feeling overwhelmed.

Whether this feeling lasts for a short while or is more long-term, you must know how to deal with it and reduce it (or ideally stop it altogether) to stay healthy and do well in your job.

If you have been struggling with overwhelm as a nurse and you’re not sure what to do next, don’t worry because you’re definitely not the only one.

Read on to get some ideas about how to stop feeling overwhelmed as a nurse so you can get back to helping your patient and enjoying the work you do.

1. Pace Yourself

There is a lot to do when you’re a nurse. Although it is crucial that you rest, you’ll be on the go at all times. You’ll have to be alert to your patients’ needs and be ready to spring into action at a moment’s notice.

There will be many different tasks to complete before the end of your shift, and because you are dealing in healthcare and with human beings, not doing these jobs could be harmful – or even worse.

The problem is that when you have a lot to do, you can start to rush and panic. You can begin to try to multitask (which usually results in the jobs being completed, but at a lower standard). Plus, of course, you can get overwhelmed. This is why it’s so important to pace yourself.

In this way, you’ll feel less stressed and under less pressure, and the work you have to do, although still important, won’t cause you as many problems. In fact, by carefully pacing yourself, you’ll likely find that you are more effective and do a better job overall.

This will help to build your confidence, and after a while, that will mean you can take on more tasks and work at a faster pace. However, it is crucial to be aware of when you are starting to feel overwhelmed again and understand when it is time to slow down or even take a break.

2. Go To Work Prepared

Something that can plague many nurses is the fact that they feel unprepared for the day ahead. This can be for various reasons, but they are all perfectly valid and can be dealt with relatively easily.

One issue is a fear of making a mistake. A nurse who is worried their knowledge and experience is not good enough and that they might make an error will quickly become overwhelmed by the responsibilities they have to deal with daily. To overcome this problem, nurses should continue to study.

Completing nursing school and becoming a licensed nurse doesn’t mean you know everything; in fact, it’s just the start. Nurses should continue to learn because new methods, techniques, and even regulations are always being developed for the medical and healthcare sector.

The more you can learn, the more confident you will be to do the work you need to do without making any mistakes.

There is another advantage to learning more; you can progress in your career. By taking on additional formal learning, such as the Rockhurst University online MSN-FNP program, you can gain a recognized qualification that will enable you to move forward with your nursing career goals.

The fact that you can learn online means that you can work at your own pace and do what is necessary to build your confidence and experience at the same time.

3. Don’t Give Up

When you truly feel overwhelmed, the idea of quitting might come to your mind. Sometimes this will be the best thing you can do if you are unhappy in your work and there is something else you want to do or be instead.

However, if you love nursing and know you can succeed at it, don’t let your feelings of being overwhelmed stop you. Don’t let them take you away from an incredibly rewarding career that you could have until you retire.

If you ever feel as though you need to quit, take a moment to reflect. Think about what drives you to become a nurse in the first place. Think about your goals for the future.

Think about your other options. Most importantly, take some time off. If you have vacation days, you can use one or two of these to step back from the situation for a while to reassess. Or you might be able to swap shifts with someone, especially if you let them know how you are feeling and why you need to do it.

Plus, speak to your manager. Give them the details of how overburdened you are feeling. You’re not asking them to change your working pattern, but you are informing them that there is a problem and you need some time to address it. They should be able to help you.

In other words, do everything you can to fix the issue before taking the big step of quitting. Only do this if you are sure it’s what you want.

4. Relax

Stress is a big factor in feeling overwhelmed. If you are stressed, your body is on high alert, and everything can seem a lot more urgent and problematic than it is.

You’ll be irritable and exhausted, and your work can suffer. On top of this, stress can cause physical problems like high blood pressure or heart issues and mental health problems like depression – stress is a mental health problem by itself.

If you are feeling stressed (and therefore overwhelmed), one of the best things you can do is to relax. Taking time off is crucial, but you don’t have to go on vacation or do anything expensive.

You could stay at home and do nothing. You could read a book, listen to music, go for long walks in nature, or do anything else that you enjoy that will reduce your stress levels and allow you to breathe freely again.

Even if you only have a few hours – or a few minutes – to relax, you can do so if you think about it beforehand. Anything will help, and it could be just what’s needed when it comes to feeling overwhelmed.

5. Find Your Passion For Nursing

Finding Support As A Student Nurse

You will have heard it said that nursing is a calling or vocation rather than just a profession. If this is not how you feel, this could be why you’re feeling overwhelmed; you don’t have the motivation or passion to keep pushing forward, and you can’t see any reason to do so. In this case, finding a new career could be the ideal solution, and you need to think carefully about this.

However, if you love nursing and know it is a vocation for you, then it’s worth trying to come up with your reasons for becoming a nurse in the first place.

What made you realize this was for you? What is your passion when it comes to nursing? If you can rediscover this, it will help you even when things are challenging, and it will ensure you can distance yourself from feelings of overwhelm or at least tamper them to a point where you can manage.

Of course, even the smallest amount of stress and overwhelm can be detrimental to your career and health, so it’s still worth finding some help or taking some time out. However, if you can also find your passion and use that to guide you, you may be able to make yourself feel better.

6. Develop Strong Relationships

If there is one thing it’s important to remember about nursing; it’s that teamwork is at the heart of everything you do.

You’ll need to work well in a team because you’ll have to rely on your colleagues to help you in emergencies, and you’ll need to work together to solve problems.

Although teamwork is crucial in many different professions, it’s not an exaggeration to say that in nursing, it is vital, and no nurse can truly work alone, even if their task is a solo one.

This is why it’s a good idea not just to work with your colleagues but to develop strong relationships with them.

If you can do this, you’ll find teamwork much easier – you’ll know people better and understand their strengths and weaknesses. Plus, you’ll have support when you need it.

Whether it’s a shoulder to cry on, someone to rant to, or someone to find the joy in your job with, having them there to help you – and to help them when they need it – can make all the difference.

As well as this, on a purely practical level, when you have good relationships at work, you can ask people to lessen your workload. They can take on some of your tasks if you need them to, ensuring you can feel less pressure and reset your mind and body before moving on with your job.

7. Have Good Boundaries

One reason you might feel overwhelmed as a nurse is that you feel as though you always have something to do – and very often, more than one thing at a time.

Your mind will be racing, and your body will always be on the go. Even when you’re taking a break, you’ll be anxious to get on to the next task. This will have an impact on your health, including your mental health, and it could contribute to burnout if you’re not careful.

So why is there always so much to do? Once this issue is solved, it might be easier to prioritize tasks and ensure you do what you’re meant to do in the right way.

One problem could be that there are no boundaries between your work and personal life. Everyone seeps over into everything else, so even when you’re at home, you’re worrying about work, and when you’re at work, you’re thinking about what you need to do at home. Your mind is a lot busier than it needs to be, and this, as we’ve said, can be problematic.

Therefore, you need to set good boundaries between your work and personal life. It will be hard to get into this mindset, especially if you’re used to thinking about everything, but it is worth doing, no matter how hard.

Something that many nurses find works for them is that they spend time with their friends and loved ones as much as possible. When they do this, they don’t have the opportunity to think about work.

8. Get Enough Sleep

Nurses should know how important sleep is to someone’s overall mental and physical health, and yet ironically, nurses don’t always get the sleep they need.

This could be due to their shift patterns or because they are overwhelmed and can’t seem to get their minds to be quiet enough to allow them to sleep.

The problem is that the longer this goes on, the harder even the simplest tasks will be, leading to more and more overwhelm until it reaches the stage of complete burnout. This has the potential to be a never-ending cycle if you let it.

The key is, then, not to let it, and to get enough sleep right from the start. Since the average amount of sleep each adult needs per night is around eight hours, work backward from the time you need to get up to understand when you need to go to bed.

This might not give you much time to do other things on some days – particularly days when your shift changes – but sleep has to have priority if you want to stop feeling overwhelmed.

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Health Disclaimer :

Information provided by does in no way substitute for a qualified medical opinion. Any text, videos, or any other material provided by us should be considered general information only. Any health-related information may vary from person to person, hence we advise you to consult specialists for more information.

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