Recognizing and Managing Symptoms of Stress.


A career as an advanced practice registered nurse offers many rich rewards but also has the potential to cause significant symptoms of stress. As one of the most stressful professions, healthcare finds its professionals in the top ranks of those likely to suffer from burnout, now more than ever.

While some stress is a normal part of life – and can actually be beneficial in helping to keep us alert and motivated – excess stress can lead to physical, mental, and emotional problems. Recognizing the harmful effects of stress and discovering ways to manage them is crucial for healthcare professionals whose daily actions impact the well-being of so many people.

The signs of stress that you should be aware of include physical, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral symptoms. 

Physical signs of stress can include headaches, fatigue, muscle tension, and digestive problems. To manage these symptoms, you can try relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga. Engaging in physical activity such as exercise or sports can also help to reduce physical tension. Daily exercise such as a long walk is a great practice to have as it benefits you, your body, and your mind.

Stress can also cause emotional symptoms, such as irritability, anxiety, and depression. It is important to talk to someone about your feelings, whether it be a friend, family member, or mental health professional. It can be beneficial to create ongoing supportive connections with your colleagues, as well, to help validate and normalize your experiences. You can also try stress-reducing activities such as art therapy, journaling, or listening to calming music.

Significant stress can affect your cognitive abilities, including the ability to concentrate, make decisions, and even remember things. Be sure to take breaks throughout the day to recharge your mind and reduce stress and don’t skimp on your sleep. Whether you work the day shift or night shift or a mix of both, it is important to get a proper amount of sleep. If possible, building a routine of falling asleep and waking up around the same time regularly can be a huge benefit. 

Finally, stress can cause behavioral symptoms that include overeating, substance abuse, or withdrawal from social activities. To manage these symptoms, make healthy lifestyle choices such as eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and limiting alcohol and caffeine intake. Try to stay connected with others, engage in activities you enjoy, and give yourself permission to schedule even a few moments for self-care each day.

As an APRN, it is crucial that you recognize and manage the symptoms of stress to help you maintain your overall health and well-being, which will allow you to continue to care for your patients. Most importantly, be aware that help is available if you are not able to manage the symptoms you are experiencing on your own.