Since I'm not here to sugar coat the truth and make you believe that I and any other grad has not been stressed (a lot), you have to accept the fact that you will be stressed as a grad (just like any new career). Actually, as a Registered Nurse for that matter; this is a pretty stressful job being responsible for other peoples lives. There are ways, however, to deal with this stress so that it doesn't consume you to the point where you don't want to go to work or you burnout completely. I think one of the most important things you can do to manage grad-year related stress is to first recognise when you're stressed.
You know those shifts when you're running around doing task after task after task after task and all of a sudden it's an hour before your shift is over and you're like 'ummmmmm where did the last 6 or so hours go?!'? Well in those hectic moments you should stop, take three deep breaths and just chill. Give yourself 30 seconds to be still, whether thats in the drug room, toilet or while you're waiting for the BP cuff to do its thing, just slow down. And if you're thinking 'I don't have time do that', it's 30 seconds of your life and I promise it won't impede on your time management since it's such a small amount of time. But, this small amount of time will do you a world of good because taking a few slow, controlled, mindful breaths will help your stress levels immensely!
Some people say that they can't remember to practice this mindfulness activity of slowing down and taking a few deep breaths and that's okay, I'm super forgetful sometimes so don't stress (no pun intended). Write it on your planner or try and do it at certain times (for example at midday on AM shifts or at 4pm on PM shifts) or in certain places (for example whenever you go into the med room and no one is in there or when you finally get to go to the loo). This way you will build up a habit and before you know it, you'll be doing some mindful, stress-busting breathing and you'll feel calmer before you know it.
Secondly, if you are stressed about one thing in particular, work out how you can not be stressed about that thing. Is it by asking your nurse in charge for help or by doing a bit of at home research about something so that when you come across it, you have more knowledge about it? Identifying what it is that stresses you will help you nip stress in the bud before it happens. An example of this is on my ward (cardiothoracics) we get day 1 post CABG's patients who have ICC's, pacing wires, catheters insitu plus are almost always in a lot of pain, have Sp02 issues and need very close monitoring. The first time I had a day 1 post CABG's patient I didn't even know I was stressed because my shift went by in about a minute (well, it felt like that) and it wasn't until the end of the shift that I thought 'wow I need to look into the care of these types of patients more for next time because today was f'ed'. It was one of those shifts where I felt like I did nothing but I actually did so much. Plus, I was super stressed all day because I didn't take the time to stop and breath, or to think that just by looking up exactly what to expect with the care of this patient I would have felt more in control of the day. One thing that I did to help myself was as soon as I got handover I paged my grad support nurses to be like 'hey, I'm 100% going to need help today but I don't know what with so can you pls see me at some point'. This was perfect because at one point in the day (I actually couldn't tell you when), one of them came up and did a few things for me, including being there when the doctors came around to flag things that I wouldn't have picked up on which made me feel better about the care I provided, even though it was kinda through someone else.
My third tip may sound a little contradictory but here goes anyway; prepare yourself by studying, but don't study too much. What I mean by this is do some study/research into things you feel you need to work on, but don't spend all of your waking moments studying because that will stress you out before you even get to work to put your new knowledge to work. I sometimes think I'm too good at this, where I don't study nearly enough, but I get past this by always asking questions if I don't understand something, or at work I'll quickly look something up to make sure I have a rough idea on what 'it' is (condition, medication, medical procedure) so that I can care for my patient appropriately and then later when I have time (and brain power) I'll look it up in more depth. If you're finding yourself getting home from work and hitting the books straight away for hours on end, you're putting yourself at such a high risk of burnout because you're bringing your work home and not giving yourself a break.
A few brief things you can do to help de-stress in the stressful times of your grad year can be things like journaling, exercising, yoga, debriefing (aka venting), getting together with other grads to talk about how you're all going (aka venting in a bigger group of people who actually understand the struggles of your life right now) or even just treating yourself on the regular with something like a spa day or a trip to the beach. I'd be lying if I said I haven't had those days where all I want to do to de-stress is have 700 glasses of wine, and trust me, I've used a glass or three to destress after some hectic shifts, but it's important to make your de-stressing/coping mechanisms/practices healthy and not self-destructive so don't turn to things like alcohol too often as a release.
My final words of wisdom on this matter is don't be too hard on yourself. Some days you'll be acing work and other days you won't. Some days you'll destress with some perfect mindful breathing and reflection and other days you'll come home and nap for four hours and eat ice-cream for dinner. That's all totally fine. This year will be full of ups and downs; it will be such a massive learning curve for all of us and it's okay to not have your sh*t together with this new career. Just do your best and remind yourself every day that your best is all that you can do. Everyday is a new day, a new opportunity and a new chance to try new de-stressing until you know what works best for you.
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