#1 Tip to Dealing with Stress in Nursing School

by Cathy Parkes September 30, 2022 Updated: January 18, 2023 2 min read 2 Comments

If nursing school (or your nursing career) has you feeling stressed, you are definitely not alone!

There's class, clinicals, exams, more exams, and a huge amount of material that you are expected to master. And that doesn't even consider the rest of your life where you may be a parent, a spouse, or a primary breadwinner alongside the work you are doing to achieve your dreams.

That's where stress comes in. At the heart of stress is your body's incredible response mechanism that prepares you to survive tough situations. When you are stressed, your body releases cortisol, the fight-or-flight hormone. While cortisol is essential in small amounts, if it sticks around, if your stress levels stay high, you can find yourself anxious, depressed, exhausted, or even with health problems.

So what's to be done? Cathy explains in this quick video how a professor shared a tip with her that has stuck with her, and helped her to keep stress and cortisol in check. (Spoiler Alert: Exercise is key!)

Further reading

Psychiatric Mental Health

Stress and General Adaptation Syndrome, Anxiety

In this article, we cover stress, the stages of general adaptation syndrome, and how to recognize and care for different levels of anxiety. Why does stress make you tired? How can a little bit of anxiety help you perform better on the NCLEX? We'll answer these questions and more!

Defense Mechanisms - Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing

Maybe you've heard, "you're compensating" or "that's projection," in response to something you've said or done before. If that happened, you were being accused of using some of the more commonly-known defense mechanisms! In this article, we'll cover the key defense mechanisms you need to know about, with examples.

Fundamentals

Sleep, Sleep Disorders, and General Adaptation Syndrome

This article covers sleep basics, sleep disorders, and general adaptation syndrome, which is what we call the physiological changes that occur during periods of stress, for example, during nursing school.

Pharmacology

Nursing Pharmacology: Depression Meds to Study

In this article, we cover medications used to treat depression including tricyclic antidepressants, MAOIs and atypical antidepressants.

Pharmacology, part 17: Nervous System Medications for Anxiety

In this article, we cover nervous system medications that are used for mental health disorders.

Med-Surg

Migraine and Cluster Headaches

In this article, we cover migraine headaches vs. cluster headaches, and how caffeine can help.

Resources for Nursing Students

Webinar: How to Stop Incivility & Bullying on a Nursing Unit

The statistics show that incivility and bullying are alarmingly prevalent on nursing units. This has a negative impact on nurses and coworkers as well as patients and hospital systems as a whole. In this webinar we presented real-world, helpful information on how to stop incivility and bullying on a nursing unit. Are you a practicing nurse who wants to get a continuing education credit (contact hour) for this webinar? Check out Incivility in Nursing - Course

Do Grades Matter in Nursing School?

Check out Cathy's thoughts on the matter.

If nursing school (or your nursing career) has you feeling stressed, you are definitely not alone!

There's class, clinicals, exams, more exams, and a huge amount of material that you are expected to master. And that doesn't even consider the rest of your life where you may be a parent, a spouse, or a primary breadwinner alongside the work you are doing to achieve your dreams.

That's where stress comes in. At the heart of stress is your body's incredible response mechanism that prepares you to survive tough situations. When you are stressed, your body releases cortisol, the fight-or-flight hormone. While cortisol is essential in small amounts, if it sticks around, if your stress levels stay high, you can find yourself anxious, depressed, exhausted, or even with health problems.

So what's to be done? Cathy explains in this quick video how a professor shared a tip with her that has stuck with her, and helped her to keep stress and cortisol in check. (Spoiler Alert: Exercise is key!)

Further reading

Psychiatric Mental Health

Stress and General Adaptation Syndrome, Anxiety

In this article, we cover stress, the stages of general adaptation syndrome, and how to recognize and care for different levels of anxiety. Why does stress make you tired? How can a little bit of anxiety help you perform better on the NCLEX? We'll answer these questions and more!

Defense Mechanisms - Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing

Maybe you've heard, "you're compensating" or "that's projection," in response to something you've said or done before. If that happened, you were being accused of using some of the more commonly-known defense mechanisms! In this article, we'll cover the key defense mechanisms you need to know about, with examples.

Fundamentals

Sleep, Sleep Disorders, and General Adaptation Syndrome

This article covers sleep basics, sleep disorders, and general adaptation syndrome, which is what we call the physiological changes that occur during periods of stress, for example, during nursing school.

Pharmacology

Nursing Pharmacology: Depression Meds to Study

In this article, we cover medications used to treat depression including tricyclic antidepressants, MAOIs and atypical antidepressants.

Pharmacology, part 17: Nervous System Medications for Anxiety

In this article, we cover nervous system medications that are used for mental health disorders.

Med-Surg

Migraine and Cluster Headaches

In this article, we cover migraine headaches vs. cluster headaches, and how caffeine can help.

Resources for Nursing Students

Webinar: How to Stop Incivility & Bullying on a Nursing Unit

The statistics show that incivility and bullying are alarmingly prevalent on nursing units. This has a negative impact on nurses and coworkers as well as patients and hospital systems as a whole. In this webinar we presented real-world, helpful information on how to stop incivility and bullying on a nursing unit. Are you a practicing nurse who wants to get a continuing education credit (contact hour) for this webinar? Check out Incivility in Nursing - Course

Do Grades Matter in Nursing School?

Check out Cathy's thoughts on the matter.

Full Transcript

Hey, it's Cathy.

So I am sitting here before you in my exercise clothes with my hair up and sweat all over my body and no makeup, although that's nothing. There's nothing different about that. I never wear makeup.

I want to talk to you about something I felt like you guys could really benefit from, which is stress reduction.

When I was in nursing school, one of the most important things I learned was in my nutrition class taught by Dr. Long. And this class was early on in my program, and he taught us that when you have chronic stress in your body, your body releases cortisol, and that cortisol really makes you feel bad.

Right? You know what it feels like when you're stressed. You're nervous, maybe sick to your stomach. Maybe you're not sleeping well. It doesn't feel good.

And he taught us that the only way to bring those cortisol levels down and feel better is to get exercise, pretty much moderate to vigorous exercise for at least 20 minutes. About an hour ago, I was feeling kind of irritable and I was feeling kind of I wanted to rage on someone, which would have been my husband because he is the only one home.

But instead of doing that, I made myself go out for a run-walk. I'm not a very good runner. What I do is I run pretty fast for a minute and then kind of walk briskly for five minutes and then repeat that. But it gets my heart rate up and I do it for about 30, 40 minutes. And boy do I feel better, 100% better.

Dr. Long was right. Going out for a vigorous exercise like that totally brings the cortisol levels down. I feel way more focused and motivated. I thought of you guys in nursing school with all that chronic stress.

I wanted to urge you to get outside or go to the gym and get your heart rate up if you're feeling really bad. And 9 times out of 10, you're going to come home feeling better, more motivated, and less depressed, and just happier. I know it totally works for me.

And so with all the things I learned in nursing school, that has actually been probably the most important thing I learned because it stays with me years later today, and I definitely use exercise as a way to reduce stress. So I encourage you do the same!


2 Responses

Betty
Betty

October 13, 2021

Thanks Cathy for sharing this information, to me it’s very useful and encouraging, it gives me the energy to keep going. Thanks again for sharing. In my 2nd year 1 semester in nursing school Kenya.

Nina
Nina

April 13, 2021

If I didn’t exercise every day of my at least 1 hour I would have died in nursing school, I suffer from chronic anxiety and cardiovascular exercises and lifting are the only thing that helps, plus meditation, praying, and soothing herbal teas 🍵. My primary doctor prescribed xanax when I started nursing school, I started to sleep better and was more calmed, but at the same I didn’t want to study i was in chronic fatigue all the time and pain in my joints and I have never felt that way before, I did research about the adverse side effects of xanax and stopped taking that. It was no easy it took a lot of mental focus and willpower, but I did and got out that. 🙏🙏🙏
I have one semester left and these videos are being soo helpful because the professors at my university are mediocre and don’t possess the motivation and talent of teaching. Thank you 😊

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