Anxiety and Nursing….where do I begin? I am getting anxious thinking about it! LOL! Okay just kidding. So I want you guys to know a little about my struggle with anxiety and depression. The reason I throw in depression is because anxiety IS depressing when you struggle a lot with it! Looking back, I think I struggled with anxiety starting in high school. I remember always having this “impending doom” feeling whenever something would go wrong: I forgot my homework, I got a bad grade, I was late for class….I would start having these mini panic attacks. They would pass with time, but as I got older it became more severe.
(THIS WAS ME!!!)
My freshman year of college, I struggled a lot with body image. I would work out twice a day, and I was a Gold Medal calorie counter! It was an unhealthy pattern, but I was obsessed with it! Even if I had class at 8 am, I was up at 6 am to work out, and if class lasted until 9pm, it was straight to the recreation center after! It got to the point where if I didn’t do it, I would start having terrible anxiety. I would get this hot feeling that came over my body, my heart would start racing, and I just couldn’t sit still or breathe. It was truly so scary! I had no clue how to handle it! I would experience anxiety for many other reasons, but it mostly came from not feeling “in control” of my body. I later discovered that controlling my body was a direct result of controlling my mind. And I now also understand that I’m always going to want to look better than my current state. It’s human nature to never be satisfied with our looks! I just now continue to love my body, eat well, and exercise when I can. I don’t obsess.
Last story about me: I was working at Starbucks in between my college semesters. (BTW, terrible place for someone with anxiety to work! CAFFEINE er’where!) I was preparing tons of drinks in front of me. I looked up to see all of the people standing in line, waiting to order and receive their drinks. I started thinking to myself “Wow, that’s a lot of people. What If I can’t make all of these drinks? Oh my gosh, I’m having anxiety. Oh my gosh, what if I have an anxiety attack in front of ALL of these people?” I quickly had to back away from what I was doing and go sit in a corner. I told my manager I felt like I was going to pass out. He handed me a brown pastry bag? “What the crap am I supposed to do with this?” He told me to breathe into it. In and out….In and out. I was so embarrassed, but I was truly struggling! It was that day that I almost passed out that I KNEW I needed help!
I went back to nursing school in Tallahassee FL, and began my studies. Being an anxious person is no fun for a nurse (or anyone)! By the grace of God I made it through college, and graduated as a Registered Nurse! It was an OVERWHELMING sense of relief because I almost had to drop out a semester because my anxiety was so bad! After graduation, I made a brave and bold decision to get help. I knew that I had creeped by on my own in college, but dodging the real world of nursing brought on a WHOLE other type of anxiety that I can’t even begin to explain!
I’m kind of convinced that many nurses struggle from anxiety because well……we care..A LOT! Not just about our patients, but we care a lot about what people think and ourselves. We are in our nature, emotional people. The anxieties that this job can bring on are brought on by many things including:
- Feeling inadequate or incompetent as a new nurse.
- Being reprimanded by a supervisor or manager about something you did or didn’t do.
- Having a nurse at change of shift make it difficult to give report to.
- Not being able to complete all of your tasks in time.
- Dealing with a declining patient when you have multiple others to take care of.
- Dealing with difficult families that are never pleased.
- Taking care of demanding patients!
- Feeling belittled by your patient or supervisor/manager.
- Bullying within this profession.
- Being afraid to ask questions.
- Dealing with difficult doctors.
- Receiving report on a hard patient!
- Going to bed and dreading going to work the next day because of a negative environment
The List goes on my friends……….
There are a ton of things in this profession that can give us anxiety on a daily basis. We lose sleep over it! I remember my first 6 months of work. I asked SO many questions because I was afraid to do anything wrong! I had the skills and knowledge, my anxiety just overcame me! I experienced this anxiety early on as a nurse, and sought professional counseling. I also learned some really amazing ways to cope and learned to work through these types of things. They have literally saved my life! Anxiety is more common than you may think. I would guess that 70% of this profession is on some sort of medication for their “mind.” What bothers me about this is that we all struggle with anxiety, but we’re given a pill, not skills. The skills and tips that I’m about to share with you are life giving and set you up for success! Anxiety is a result of the fear of the unknown! We anticipate the worse case scenario before it happens. If we can learn to simply capture these thoughts before they turn into this cascade of negativity and anxiety, we WILL overcome!
Your mind. controls. EVERYTHING! Your movements, your thoughts, when you pee, when you poo….when your patients get bored and feel the need to push the call light and ask for something just because….joking….maybe 😉 . We CONTROL OUR THOUGHTS!
What has worked for me:
1.Capture Your Thoughts:
When you start to feel those anxious feelings in a sticky situation, I want you to stop and take a deep breath. Think about what’s making you anxious. Is it reality? Is it happening? Are your current thoughts helping or hurting the situation? Reassure yourself that what you’re thinking about is NOT reality. It hasn’t happened. A lot of us who struggle deeply feel anxiety from thinking about having anxiety. TELL YOURSELF IT’S GOING TO PASS! IT’S JUST ANXIETY! They are JUST feelings, and it’s going to pass. “ I am safe, I am strong, and I am overcoming these feelings.” By practicing….PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE…these thought patterns, I promise in time you will see improvement. It’s a slow progression. I didn’t believe it at first. But then one day, I remember thinking, “ Oh my gosh, here it comes….” and I talked myself out of it! AND I WAS SUCCESSFUL! It was beautiful, yall! It gave me hope!
2. Seek External Help:
I had a therapist and I did the Lucinda Basset anxiety program ( Yes, that crazy lady with the sensual voice on the radio)! Both were helpful to me! A lot of people feel insecure about getting professional help or they feel it’s too expensive. DON’T LET THAT BE YOUR REASON! There are resources out there, and therapists who will work with your budget! Mine did!!! My current hospital insurance offers quite a few paid sessions every year, with someone in their network! Do your research with your benefits and search around! Having someone (unbiased) to talk with is so therapeutic and helpful. They can help you work through potential struggles, give you skills, and allow you to vent! I needed that! I LOVE THERAPY! Total advocate of it!
3. Be Careful with Medicine:
I definitely believe there is a time and a place for anxiety and depression medication. It got me over a HUGE hump in my life, and I definitely needed it at the time! What MD’s don’t tell you about these medications (SSRI’s) is that they are VERY hard to come off of! After a year of tapering, I am FINALLY off and feel so FREE! The side effects on and getting off of these medications are crazy! Low-libido, no feeling at all, headaches, nausea, brain zaps, forgetfulness, weight gain, being tired….this list goes on! I think one of the reasons “thoughts of suicide” is a side effect of these medications is because having no feeling towards life IS depressing! Yes, it made me not so “down”, but that’s because it numbed me to ALL emotion! I couldn’t laugh, I couldn’t cry, I just…would “be”. Make sure you get help while on these medications. Use the medication as a tool to stabilize your emotions, but seek help at the same time. Learn to cope, and then get off of them! Otherwise you will be on them forever! They are extremely hard to come off of! I’m 27 and personally don’t want to be on ANY medication if I get pregnant soon. I don’t really buy all that category A, B, C, and X. I think putting anything in your body can be a risk, especially chemicals that affect your brain! Be smart and careful going this route! I firmly believe some people need to be on it, and I support you! But do yourself a favor….don’t just do medicine alone. Learn skills to cope and go talk to someone. It will set you up for success if you decide to get off!
4. Surround yourself with GOOD people:
Make sure the people you are “doing life with” are supporting you and promoting good healthy habits. The people we do life with, day in and day out, have a huge impact on us! Positive people will only bring encouragement and love in your life! If you need to cut off some negative relationships, do it for YOU. Make that change! It can affect you at work and contribute to your anxiety there in more ways than you realize! If the group around you at work is negative, and it’s not a helpful and supportive environment, get out. You can stick around to help it get better if you have the emotional stability, but if a bad unit with unsupportive co-workers is the reason for your anxiety, I would remove yourself.
5.GET SOME EXERCISE AND EAT RIGHT!:
I have mad a pact with myself that after getting off Lexapro, I am going to love my body and my mind well! When you exercise, work out, and FEEL good about yourself, LIFE feels good! I don’t want to fall back into that pattern of anxiety and depression ever again! I am going to treat my body and soul well! Exercise is truly my medicine. I don’t obsess about it, I just make sure that I do SOMETHING every day. I’ve cut sugar our significantly, and eat lots or greens. I only drink water now (mostly with lemon, as it is a natural detoxifier). It truly has made a difference! I’ve lost 8lbs since tapering and it’s because I adopted these habits while doing so! I look better and FEEL better! I also take my natural supplements DAILY! I SWEAR by these 2 products! I started taking them as I was tapering off of my medication a year ago, and they truly helped lessen the side effects of withdrawal! The Zembrin totally helps with anxiety and depression (and happens to suppress appetite too)! It just makes your mind more clear and relaxed. The Daily Advantage is just a convenient pack of multivitamins. I get laughed at because I take them all in one swig. You just have to when its that many! I swear by Dr. David Williams Products: Zembrin and Daily Advantage! I’ve gotten a ton of co-workers on them and they agree! I also love my diffuser and essential oils! These things ALL keep my soul calm!
6. Last but not least….PRAY (or something like it….:))
I always like to start my days off with something inspirational. Whether is be listening to some good worship music on the way to work, or reading an online devotional, it helps prepare my mind. Sometimes I’m able to think back on it during hard parts of my day. I reassure myself that I’m going to struggle, but it’s okay. I have strong faith in God, and clinging to scripture in some situations can be extremely comforting! I write a nursing inspiration EVERY day on my facebook site! It’s always a story that inspires or encourages! I would love for you to follow and benefit from it!
Listen guys, Nursing is HARD work! This job is not only physically demanding, but it is EMOTIONALLY demanding as well! I encourage all of you who struggle with anxiety and/or depression, to have a plan! Get support! Set yourself up for success! I can confidently sit here today and say that I HAVE OVERCOME ANXIETY! It does not rule me and I won’t let it ever again! IT IS A PROCESS! It comes with time! Make sure you are communicating with your boss if anxiety is interfering with your job performance. They should be supportive and guide you to get help! Let your close co-workers or friends know, so they can support and help you as well! Anxiety is consuming. It completely STINKS, but it doesn’t have to rule you!
Your Heart is Mine,