Nursing Lifestyle

How to De-Stress After a Long Nursing Shift

How to De-Stress After a Long Nursing Shift

Certainly, being a nurse is a matter of vocation (it is not among the highest-paying jobs related to medicine) but it is one of the most beautiful professions of all. Being a nurse means taking care of many different types of patients, sometimes having to work with them day after day. A nurse's job goes beyond giving orders and making sure patients understand medications or treatment plans. Listening to patients is crucial in determining the best way to care for them.

Clinical knowledge, academic writing, time management and leadership are some of the skills required for nursing. It is a job where the appreciation and rewarding attitude of people that benefits from nurses’ service takes place as the best salary possible.

The race is not a path of roses. Nurses have a hard job and therefore need adequate preparation for what is to come. But the challenge begins by entering nursing school. In addition to nursing and care, the career includes statistics, chemistry, physics and, of course, biology. Nurses also need to know how to operate many complex machines made for studies and monitoring patients.

But probably, the most demanding part of a nurse’s job is the long shifts they have to cover. Since there are emergencies happening all the time, day and night, they usually have a changing shift that requires them to stay at the hospital for different parts of the day, usually for 12 hours straight or even longer.

De-stressing Methods for Nurses Leisure Time

In most cases, exhaustion is a problem nurses have to face once they are already free from work. After 12 hours straight taking care of patients, physical and mental exhaustion keep nurses from relaxing. For this reason it is important for nurses relax and take some time to distract themselves.

It is important for nurses to deal with these conditions in order to avoid health problems related to accumulation of stress. A couple of shifts at the same pace can end up in a decompensation or a much worse problem.

These methods can help nurses relieve stress and enjoy their leisure time resting the way they should.


This is a great practice once the week is over but also after a stressful day at work. Writing about anything can be helpful to let the mind distract and can even be a very creative way to end the day. Making a list, writing random thoughts, making up stories, writing about daily experiences, a diary, all these are excellent ways to find peace of mind and it is a simple and riving activity where the body can relax.

Other than writing, just making doodles, drawing or coloring are also great ideas and require less logical concentration than writing.


Meditating is an underestimated practice that is not only a great way to relax for nurses, but also for all professions. After a stressful day it is important to clear one’s mind. This small guide can be helpful for people who are willing to spend some time of the day freeing their mind:

  • First, close your eyes.
  • Take 4 to 5 deep breaths through your nose and let out through your mouth.
  • It is important to focus yourself on each breath, feeling the air entering the organism and then leaving it. It will help relieve the stress and tension from one’s body with each exhale.


Exercising is a healthy way to relieve stress and frustrations along with calories. It also helps to avoid muscular pain, which is very common after 12 hours of straight work. Working out will always end up in one’s mind processing emotions and events from the day that is ending. It is an excellent way to dedicate some time to oneself.

Talking to someone else

Most of the time, expressing emotions and letting out inner thoughts is the best way to relieve stress from a tough day. Talking about a problem or something that happened during working hours is a good way to solve issues and improve day-to-day behavior.

Finding a good listener, like a friend, a relative or partner, who is happy to hear one’s thoughts is a good way to get rid of some thoughts and start focusing on something else.

Beauty treatments

An affordable, simple and useful way to clear one’s mind is by taking a long bubble bath, spending some time in the shower feeling the water, or even going to a spa to get a massage. Self-care is very important and it has been demonstrated that it helps relieve stress quickly.

Also, taking time for oneself is always a good option, some people enjoy spending time alone as it helps them clear their minds more so than anything. Going out to dinner at a fancy restaurant, going to the movies or renting one is a great way to get distracted and forget about work completely.

Shift alternatives to avoid stress

What most hospitals do with nurses’ schedule is divide daily work into morning, afternoon and night, and assign the shifts in a rotating process. In traditional systems, or slow rotation, shifts rotate weekly; that is to say, a week of night work, followed by two weeks of working in the morning/afternoon or one day working in the morning followed by one day working in the afternoon. In the fast rotation system, also called "anti-stress" or "ecological", there is only one, two or at most three consecutive working days on each shift.

There are many different types of variations regarding these anti-stress shifts; nevertheless, the most common one is very simple and is based on the repetition of the following cycle: Morning, Morning, Afternoon, Afternoon, Night, Night, Free day, Free day, Free day, Free day. This may vary but the key concept about anti-stress shifts is to maintain 4 free days one after the other one since it has been demonstrated that it increases the feeling of resting in nurses.

Seeing great results in the use of this type of schedules, many hospitals have adopted this type of rotation. It also helps controlling the biological clockwork since it is less affected when having to work short periods of time at the same part of the day. It is way more affected when nurses have to work entire weeks during only one shift. After testing anti-stress shifts in groups of nurses, most of them wanted to keep having that schedule.