Nursing students face high levels of stress, and a nursing program is demanding, whether it's for a master’s in nursing or a BSN. Stress will most likely follow as a result of those demands, so it’s helpful to know how to deal with elevated stress levels and its effects on academic performance, relationships, and health.
If you're headed to nursing school, or if you're already there, don't just accept that there's nothing you can do about the stress you may experience throughout your program. Here are six tips to surviving and thriving in nursing school that will yield less stress and greater enjoyment.
1. Try to Avoid Big Changes
Getting your RN or MSN is a significant commitment of time, resources, and personal energy, and it's best to avoid adding to that with major life events, like getting married or divorced, having a baby, moving, or buying a house.
Nursing school is quite time-consuming, so keeping things simple is ideal. Of course, life doesn't always let us choose the easy route, and if you find yourself in the midst of a challenging master’s in nursing degree with substantial changes on the horizon, don't despair. By employing the tips that follow, you can keep your stress levels at a manageable level. Remember, when you take an online degree, you have the flexibility to take terms off as well and jump right back in when things settle.
2. Block out Time
Schedule in more time than you think you'll need to memorize, read, and go to study groups, so you won't resort to cramming or skipping meals. When you block out time for every aspect of your nursing program, you won't experience the stress that accompanies being pressed for time.
Be sure to also schedule time to have fun, relax, be alone, and hang out with family. These parts of life are sources of support, and when they are allowed to languish, your stress level will rise.
Sometimes there isn't enough time to give adequate space to everything. Learning to prioritize — and being willing to live with the consequences — is essential in controlling stress and learning to be a better nurse.
On days when your schedule is stretched to the point of breaking, implement a triage approach by skipping whatever can't be immediately improved, setting on the backburner anything that could wait a day or two, and tending to whatever most needs your attention that can also be accomplished in the time you have.
4. Eat a Balanced Diet of Healthy, Fresh, Whole Food
A healthy diet doesn't just keep your physical health on track; it also keeps your mental and emotional health on track, too. By eating a diet of fresh, whole food, you give your body and mind the energy and nutrients they need to stay free of illness — a major by-product of too much stress.
Anytime you put food in your body that is full of toxins, difficult to digest, or otherwise less than optimum (like most pre-packaged and fast foods), your body reacts with a stress response in order to go through the painstaking process of digesting that food and turning it into energy.
On the other hand, when you choose fresh, local, organic fruits and vegetables to build meals and snacks around, your stress level is reduced since this type of food contains the highest levels of nutrients, minerals, and vitamins, which helps the body lower stress.
One of the best ways to manage stress and stay mentally alert, as well as physically strong and healthy, is to exercise regularly. While getting your master’s in nursing can seem so all-consuming that it's inherently at odds with a regular exercise regimen, a nursing program is actually the perfect time to commit to exercise.
After all, because nurses are on the frontlines of care they stand to benefit the most from exercise, which has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety; lower risks of stroke, diabetes, obesity, and heart disease; and improve mental clarity and memory.
6. Get Enough Sleep
How are you supposed to get enough sleep when you have so much to learn and memorize? While it can be tempting to cut back on sleep to accomplish more, the reality is that less sleeps leads to greater stress. This in turn leads to worsening sleep in a vicious cycle that can be hard to break. Increased stress and too little sleep both negatively impact your ability to learn, so skimping on sleep to study won't help you do better in your nursing program.
If stress is already affecting your sleep, practice good sleep hygiene by going to bed and getting up at the same time each day and night. Sleep in a completely dark environment. Cut out all screen time at least an hour before bed — including smartphone and tablet use — and don't drink caffeine after noon.
Nursing school is a challenge, but if you routinely employ these six tips, you can face that challenge with less stress, which will yield greater health and mental sharpness throughout your program. For more information about how to get your MSN online, contact us today.