6 Ways to Support Yourself During A Hard Shift

Human first, nurse second. 

That's one of our mantras here at Nurses Inspire Nurses, and that means taking care of yourself as a human before being a nurse. 

We're bound to have bad days at work (that's life for ya) but sometimes as a nurse these bad days can feel really bad. Taking a couple minutes to do something to support yourself can make all the difference in the middle of a hard shift. Here's some of our favorite ways to support yourself!

1. Use affirmations

Write down some affirmations and keep them handy so you can look back at them during a hard shift. You can tape them to your clipboard, save them in your phone, or choose 1-2 that you've memorized and can repeat to yourself when you're having a bad day. 

Some affirmations that we love are: 

  • I can do hard things
  • This too shall pass
  • I am doing the best that I can
  • I am capable and brave
  • I can bring calm with me wherever I go 
  • I am doing important and meaningful work 

2. Ask for a 5-minute break

Unless someone is coding, you have time to take 5 minutes to yourself while a coworker watches your patients. Use this time to go to the break room or somewhere quiet. You can make yourself a cup of coffee or tea, or drink some water. Focus on just this moment: the sound of the coffee pouring, the cool water against the back of your throat, or the smell of your tea steeping. Focusing on these small moments will help ground you. This is especially helpful if your emotions feel out of control - just a few minutes can be all it takes to take a few deep breaths and center yourself.

3. Think of something to look forward to

If you're having a bad day, sometimes looking forward to a joyful thing in the future is the best way to get through the tough stuff. Make sure you have something to look forward to when you get home, whether that's picking up your favorite takeout on the way home, asking your partner to take the kids for an extra 30 minutes so you can take a bath, or planning a night out on the weekend. 

4. Laugh it out

Sometimes, our days as nurses can be laughably bad - what other profession deals with code brown explosions or unmentionable substances getting on their shoes? Instead of being negative about it, choose to find something to laugh about.

Something that can help is taking a couple minutes to look up some of your favorite nursing memes. Laughing about it can help you reframe the situation and make it less terrible. You can check out some of our favorite memes on our Pinterest board or join our Community App and check out our Nurse Humor thread!

5. Get off the unit 

If you can, take your lunch break somewhere off the unit. Even better if you can get outside! Do something during this time that feels supportive to you: whether that's talking it out with a coworker, listening to a meditation, or picking up your favorite coffee from the cafeteria, do whatever makes you feel good. 

Sometimes all we need is a little breather from the unit or office to get us back in a good headspace.

6. Stretch

When we're stressed out, our muscles start to tighten and build tension as a protective response. Doing a few relaxing stretches while you chart can help release this tension and support your body. Here's a few ideas: 

  • Roll your neck in slow small circles, taking extra time on places that feel more tender or stiff 
  • Reach your arms up overhead and reach to both sides, stretching out your side body 
  • Clasp your hands behind your back and open up the muscles across your chest 
  • Interlock your hands in front of you and roll forward through your shoulders, stretching out your mid back
  • Roll your shoulders up, back, and down, to reset your posture

Keep this resource handy so you can reference it when you're having a hard shift. Here at Nurses Inspire Nurses, we're all about being human first, nurse second. That means taking time to support yourself!

How do you support yourself during a hard shift? Leave a comment below so we can learn from each other!

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3 Responses

Trina Shelton
Trina Shelton

November 30, 2022

Hakuna matata

Ramona Haywood
Ramona Haywood

November 18, 2020

Team work is so important during these trying times , keep up the great work !

Tracy Tiller
Tracy Tiller

November 08, 2020

The noise really makes me feel anxious! There is a hallway with no monitors near my unit that has a large window ledge. I sit on that ledge and do my charting….sometimes I only can get through HALF a patient…..u all know what I’m talking about lol! But that quiet moment helps my brain reset.
The breastfeeding room helps also. Sitting in a rocking chair and locking the door….pure peace for just 3 minutes sometimes.
Lastly, if I can’t get away at all…..i take a deep breath allll the way in and blow it out when i feel the tension but I can’t stop to take a breather at that moment. (Or before entering a difficult room)

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